A visit to the neighborhood mall the other day with hubby and my toddler son for lunch at our favorite eatery had me in quite a tizzy. Mind you, being a seasoned journo, there is not much that gets my goat, so to speak. But after a long, long time, there was something that had begun to distinctly bother me. For want of sounding prudish or even (heaven forbid!) puritanical I just needed to share this.
Now, I am no fashionista. Far from it. But when I see gawky ten something -year-olds wearing 3-inch wedge heels, or seven-year-olds in sequined halter dresses (looking decidedly uncomfortable), or a twenty something year olds in blingy chiffon/velvet gowns and five-inch heels to a mall (or rather, any public space) it makes me cringe.
The way I see it, there are two sides to it. One is about an inherent sartorial sense, or the apparent lack of it, leading to a blatant disregard for propriety. There, I’ve said it. The dreaded word, I know. Most of my teen years were spent questioning it. But today, ironically, it makes perfect sense. We are all an intrinsic part of a society. And where there is a society there are codes, sartorial ones notwithstanding. Take the mall, for instance. A mall is a mall is a mall. Let’s face it. It serves the basic function of catering to your shopping and at times, entertainment needs (with a movie hall, a kids play area, or a skating rink thrown in). Period. It is NOT a clubhouse, or a discotheque, or an exclusive eatery (even these have a fine, albeit unwritten dress code) or the imaginary red carpet even.
Living in a city (Gurgaon) that has been in the news for all the wrong reasons in the recent past this blatant disregard for propriety is a cause for concern. Why, even alpha-woman Kim Cattrall (as Samantha) in the sassy Sex and the City 2 was forced to cover up her bare arms and back in public places in Abu Dhabi. It was, as her friend Cynthia Nixon (as Miranda) kept reminding her, the proper thing to do, out of sheer respect for the customs of the land. But Samantha’s subsequent disregard for propriety eventually landed her in big trouble, when she and her friends were evicted from the hotel. That of course, was reel life. No doubt, the message was real enough.
The other side is what has me far more worried. WHY would a ten-year old wear three-inch wedge heels in the first place, and WHY to a mall at all? WHY dress up an eight-year-old in a halter dress? WHY paint a sixteen-year-old ‘s face to make her look twenty? Or is that it? Are we in a hurry to push our children into adulthood? Are we so worried about competition that we are willing to go to any lengths to parade our daughters, hoping that somebody will notice? Or are we so caught up in the frenzy of being hip, and trendy that anything goes? Even worse, are we mindlessly aping celebs in the hope having some of the stardust fall on our children?
Maybe it is none of my business. I am all for girls having their bit of fun, living it up a little. Dressing like grown-ups, experimenting with make-up; we’ve all done it. But not as public display. After all, the moment we dress up and step out of our homes, we become socially responsible for what we say, how we behave, and what we wear. In the public realm, it DOES become my business.
As I couldn’t help but stare at this ten-something year old in her wedge heels, and loud make-up, (who was accompanied by her mother by the way) it dawned on me. If the idea was to grab as many eyeballs as possible, the girl (and many others like her) was doing a very good job, indeed. And that was worrisome. It was not that she was dressed inappropriately in as much the attention she was drawing. Was she even capable of handling the attention?
Call me paranoid. Call me archaic even. (Yes, yes, I know all the feminists will be waiting to rip me apart on this one; what with all their talk of ‘what I wear is no one’s business’) But it’s the brutal truth. Look around. And then, take a good, hard look at the mirror. Do you see your little girl? Don’t be in such a hurry to make her a woman.
I’m fifteen for a moment
Caught between ten and twenty….
Fifteen there’s still time for you
Time to buy and time to lose
Fifteen, there’s never a wish better than this
When you only got hundred years to live
–Lyrics of ‘100 years’ by Five for Fighting