Cracking the Code

If there is one thing that’s certain, besides death and taxes, it’s that teenagers will do what they can to vex their parents. Hey, I did it in my day, and my girls are certainly doing their part.

For example, in my day, we wouldn’t be seen dead in public with an umbrella – it was much cooler to have dripping wet hair than to carry a stupid umbrella, which my parents couldn’t understand. There were days when I left the house with an umbrella in hand, then ditched it in the bushes as soon as I was out of sight. And we didn’t use backpacks then – only hippies and actual backpackers had them, so we just carried our books and binders in our arms, and ran back and forth to our lockers between classes.

Another fashion was to wear pantyhose under our gym shorts, so you’d look tan. Yes, I know this is a particularly stupid fad, but it was the style, and girls wore pantyhose every single day under their jeans so that they would look tan in PE.

We were careful not to let our bra straps show, and my mother would squawk if by chance she could see anything that resembled underwear where it shouldn’t be seen. If she’d gone to my PE class, she would have seen the boys in their (short) gym shorts with their (long) boxers hanging out below. In those days only farmers and stoners wore boxers, and they were graded on the same social curve as everyone else – no self-respecting girl would go with a guy like that.

It strikes me as amusing now when I see my daughters and their friends with their visible bra straps as ubiquitous as the saggy-pants look of their male counterparts. My daughters go through backpacks like we went through purses, and their hair is a full-time obsession – should they straighten it today, wear it up in a ponytail, down in two? They ask how it looks every morning, and I’ve learned to always say it looks fine.

There is no right answer, because the questions are rhetorical – the amount of time they spend preparing for school (or a formal dance, there’s no difference) and then come out in jeans and a T-shirt (but just the right jeans, the right T-shirt), is mind-boggling. I love that they are now going through a 1970s and 1980s revival and are actively seeking my fashion advice about what “people” wore “back then.” Hey, I still have a few of those items right here…

So what vexes me these days? I wish there was a nicer way to say it, but – well, that’s it. The cleavage of the derriere. Their low-rise jeans leave nothing to the imagination. When they’re sitting on the floor watching TV with their friends, it’s a veritable sea of moons, as it were, an intimate peek at their backsides that even I, who gladly diapered those same bottoms in my day, am just tired of seeing quite so often.

The moon, as it were, was once the sole territory of the repairman or the plumber, and his mighty, furry rump was a great source of amusement to all of us who witnessed it. I mean, come on. No matter how you look at it, fannies are funny.

Until it’s your teenager’s that’s hanging out.

I could very easily go on a postmodern feminist rant about the usurpation of our bodies and co-option by Madison Avenue and low self-esteem coupled with the disintegrating family and ever-increasing peer pressure, but why bother? Everybody knows all that. It’s all true. Our daughters hang their pants low for the same reasons we did the stupid things we did: it’s the fashion, everyone’s doing it, it looks good, it doesn’t matter what you (the parent) think, it’s not a sex thing, it’s just the style and leave me alone, you just don’t want me to have any fun, you’re ruining my life and I hate you. That’s all true, too, at least once or twice a week.

You know, there are days when I don’t want them to have any fun, when I do want to ruin their lives, just a little. Just a little, tiny bit. But mostly it’s my life I don’t want to ruin, and I’m not sure how much more of the butt cleavage I can stand to see. “Crack kills,” as my man says.

Maybe I should take my father’s fix-it advice and just get out the spackle. He never met a crack he couldn’t repair.

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