While poking around the interwebs for an idea, I came across this guest opinion piece by a pastor, Dr. Timothy Paul Jones. He’s writing about the challenge of dressing one’s kids appropriately in an age of low slung jeans and baby T’s that may as well have “Look at my TITS” written on them, and how clothes can reflect more than personal style:
The clothes that our children wear do not merely cover the nakedness of their flesh; they shape and reflect the contours of our children’s souls.
I have to admit, I really like that line. He also makes some good points about the messages emblazoned on the merchandise – linking love to material goods and self-worth to fame and fortune. Instant gratification, what I want is most important, it’s okay to be bossy, etc. If the message winds up internalized, it’s going to affect the person’s entire life.
For him, of course, the problem with all these bad clothes choices is that the body is supposed to be God’s temple and shouldn’t be advertised as if it’s a vessel for the Devil’s slut, although that’s not how he puts it. What he does say is that what we wear ultimately reflects our values and since Jones lives his life for God, he guides his daughter’s clothing choices to reflect those values even if it means saying no to buying some of the more popular styles.
I don’t recall having many clothing wars. I wasn’t slim enough to fit most of what was popular anyway, and I think I had a natural aversion to spandex shorts. There were just some bodies that never should have tried squeezing into them. My mother bought me a shirt that had a duck on it once and the message on the front of the shirt said something like Duck off or Duck you. I forget which. But, I actually wore it to school once. And only after a teacher made me turn it inside out did I realize I’d totally misunderstood it. I was so mortified I called Mom to bring me something else and never wore the shirt again, even at home. I also seem to recall getting some flack for a Bart Simpson “Underachiever and proud of it, man” shirt once but since I was getting 80s I just wore it for the irony.
“But my child has to dress this way to fit in at school.” In the first place, such a statement implies that the authority of the peer group matters more than the wisdom of the parents or the Word of God. In the second place, this implies that you would want your offspring to “fit” into a group that evidently bases its valuation of a child on that child’s clothing. Yet, even if we bypass these faulty foundational principles, there’s still a problem with this line of thinking: The idea that this type of peer popularity is necessary for healthy development is a recent phenomenon, rooted more in the social function of the American school system than in any perennial truths about human nature. In fact, despite decades of family fragmentation, the way that a child is accepted in his or her family remains far more important for the child’s development than acceptance or rejection at school. I’m not suggesting here that you should work to make your child unpopular with peers—but such acceptance is far less crucial than we’ve been led to believe.
Now that’s interesting. I didn’t fit in at school. I don’t think changing my wardrobe would have made me more popular, either. I didn’t really know how to relate to people, save the few friends I sat with at lunch and before classes. Sometimes I felt like I didn’t fit in with them either. They’d say, “We’re going to 7-11,” and I rarely felt that “we” included me for some reason. It usually did, I guess, but there was always a little feeling in the back of my mind that I was fifth wheeling. A tag along. And, my folks rarely let me do anything with them on weekends. They’d invite me out some Friday nights but I knew my folks wouldn’t let me go so I’d turn them down. Amusing twist – they were going to Christian Youth Fellowship at a church. Either they didn’t want to waste gas schlepping me back and forth to town or they didn’t want me hanging out too much the godlies. Overall, I still think it’s the latter. I never kept in touch with any of them after high school. No idea what they’re doing now.
I had a pretty good relationship with my family growing up, though, and I still do now. Rarely miss a family function either — mostly because Mom usually hosts them. Holidays were never to anywhere exotic, it was to Winnipeg, where we had family, or Medicine Hat, where we had family, or down to the East coast, where we had family. We only had to use motels in Quebec. I still hang out with family more often than I get together with friends. We’ve hosted three big reunions in our yard (213 people last time) and every Christmas we get together with as much family as is around. There were 23 of us this year. My aunt and uncle in Winnipeg had their first full family Christmas party in over a dozen years this year, and every one of their kids and grandkids lives in the same city they do. How sad is that? Sadder still is the fact that nobody thought to bring a camera…
I’ll also point out that I grew up with a solid value set independent of god-belief. I learned by example that honesty and other sensible, decent behaviours are practical and worth doing. It’s nice to be nice. It’s good to be good. It helps to be a helper. It’s a pain in the ass to be a pain in the ass. Simple things, but they make the world spin a little smoother all the same.
Well-written and interesting response from a different perspective!
Thanks. I liked what you wrote, too. I don’t understand half of what makes fashion so fashionable, especially when it comes at the cost of a person’s self respect. It’s quite strange, actually. I don’t know how they can market the stuff as capable of improving self esteem when all it actually does is objectify the body.