As school gets back in session my seven year old daughter is very aware and involved in the selection of outfits she wears everyday. The other day, for the first time, I found myself objecting to the short length of the skirt she was wearing to school. I thought it was too short and I did not want to let her out of the house. I was kind of surprised at my reaction that consisted of a gut feeling more than anything else and I stopped to wonder what was really bothering me about that skirt. Did I think that she was putting herself out there for the little boys? No, that did not much threaten me as I doubted most of the prepubescent boys had any opinion whatsoever on the legs of my daughter. No, what I actually worried about was an older man getting lascivious ideas about my daughter in her short skirt. Thinking about that made me feel totally icky and my temptation to cover her grew out of that feeling of wanting to protect her from anyone’s lustful thoughts. Naturally, it really freaks me out just to think about it. If she asked me why I thought her skirt was too short I would not want to tell her this. Should I even mention it and introduce the whole notion of sexuality to my seven year old? Maybe I should just stay quiet and let her wear the skirt.
My daughter has always been into clothes and making herself up to look pretty. She loves to play ‘salon’ with her friends and she has even been known to give a mani-pedi to her brothers from time to time as is evidenced by their secretly purple toenails. She and her friends often disappear into her bedroom for an hour trying on different dresses and outfits to parade in front of each other or anyone else who may be interested. She has gone through all my wife’s dresses and shoes as well, she makes sure to put it all back when she is done so that mommy won’t mind too much. My sons seem equally fixed by their own reflection in the mirror as my daughter but she takes it to another level by applying makeup the best way she knows how and combing her hair just so. Some may say that society has placed undue expectations on her appearance and she is already trying to live up to those expectations, but at the same time I can see she is doing something that she enjoys and she has been doing it since she was barely more than a baby. As crazy as it may seem to me, she enjoys clothes, she enjoys doing her hair, she enjoys dolling herself up. Who am I to put a crimp in her style?
In this case though, I must stop her. I can’t help it. I just can’t let my daughter go to school like that. I realize that I am also worried what other fathers might think about our family if they see my daughter in a short skirt. It’s like I have to defend the honor of the family in some medieval way by preventing her from wearing that skirt.
“Adelina, it looks like that skirt is too small, I’m not sure it’s a good idea to wear that to school,” I tell her.
“It’s size 7!”
“It doesn’t matter what size it is, it looks small.”
“But it doesn’t feel small,” she says.
“Well, it looks tight, and really, the main thing is that it is too short – are you wearing shorts?”
“Yes!” she yells, sensing that she is going to have to go upstairs and start over from square one picking out an outfit. She shows me the biker shorts underneath the skirt which makes me feel a little better. But then I realize it’s not so much whether she is wearing shorts underneath the skirt or not, it is just the appearance of not wearing them that makes the skirt look entirely too short. I tell her again that she has to take it off.
“Daddy!” She is full on crying now.
“Look, Adelina, your skirts need to come up to just above your knee, that’s the rule we are going to go by, especially when you are going to school.”
I guess she saw in my eyes that I was not going to change my mind because she went upstairs to take off the skirt without further protest. When she came back down she did not seem too excited about the outfit she was wearing and she gave me a cold look. She walked over to her mother to give her a good morning hug and tell her how her mean old dad made her change her outfit at the last minute when she stopped short, looked her mom up and down, and told her she better go upstairs and take that short skirt off, daddy is not going to like it!