Before your teenage daughter sighs, rolls her eyes and tells you she’ll only wear Hollister, you will be in charge of making clothing choices.
Treasure this time of sartorial lack-of-autonomy, because it is fleeting.
As the parent of a girl, one of the first decisions you’ll get to make is “Do I care whether people think my newborn infant is a boy or a girl or a genderless loaf of bread?” Welcome to…
The First Circle of Hell: Infant Implements of Discomfort
If you bristle at the thought of someone confusing your XX infant for an XY infant, you will begin your daughter’s gender assignment by accessorizing her head with an elastic lace band covered with silk rosebuds; you will squeeze your princess into ruffle-butt tights and petite frocks with chiffon shirts.
You will then wonder why your baby is gassy and cranky.
It will dawn on you: If your head were being squeezed by one elastic band and your tummy was being squished by another elastic band, all while layers of scratchy chiffon kept riding up to strangle your non-existent neck, you’d be cranky and gassy, too.
The Second Circle – The Tyranny of PInk
You’ve given up caring whether other people think your daughter wearing enough itchy, ruffled clothing.
Now, imagine sending your girl-child to preschool dressed in olive, camouflage-pattern pants and a black t-shirt. And imagine that this outfit is not embellished with frou-frou—no pink kitty applique on the sleeve or the words “Too Cute” written in sparkle-glitter across her camouflaged backside.
I have nothing against the color pink. But know this: If you choose to dress your 3-year-old daughter in black or brown instead of pink and lilac, you will—at best—be suspected of being colorblind.
At worst, you will be pinned as some kind of radical who is trying to prove a point.
Third Circle – Little Hoochie Mamas
No one should shame a second grader for her clothing choices. However, as children move farther from kindergarten and closer to middle school, the clothing options for girls become increasingly scant. Or rather, scanty.
Shorts are maxi-short and low-rider waistbands fall off prepubescent hips. It’s difficult to find fun, fashionable t-shirts that aren’t cut for Dolly Parton’s front acreage or made from a thin, cotton fabric better suited to bathroom tissues.
If you want well-made girls’ clothing that doesn’t attract the attention of creepy dudes who call themselves “Uncle Santy Claus,” you’ll need to shop at specialty stores or raid the box of 1970’s hand-me-downs in your mom’s attic.
Fourth Circle – Thighs, Shoulders and Chesticles
Should a girl be able to wear a miniskirt without getting hassled by creeps? Yes, of course.
Do I worry that some dude might view a belly shirt as an invitation to give my adolescent daughter the kinds of attention she is not ready to handle? Yes—sadly—of course.
“She was asking for it” is a call to battle. I’m hopeful that, someday, every woman will be able to safely walk down a dark alley while wearing a bikini. Until then, I’m cautious when it comes to putting my young daughters on the front line of a war they should never have to fight in the first place.
Fifth Circle – A Plague of Ponytails
Under the sofa cushions. Inside the lint trap. Hundreds hide in dusty corners where, occasionally, a cat will flush one out and bat it across the kitchen floor like a dead rodent.
I’m talking, of course, about hair elastics.
You can never find one when you need one. Otherwise, they are everywhere, lurking and plotting.
Have you considered the “pixie” haircut for your daughter? Think about it.
Sixth Circle – From Orthopedic Practicality to Foot Binding
After reading hundreds of peer-reviewed studies on foot development and the lifelong effects of footwear on balance, gait and posture, you will carefully select your toddler’s first pair of shoes.
You will purchase your sixth-grader’s first pair of shoes after consulting back-to-school shopping photos that Kelsey, Shreya and Monique posted to Instagram.
Seventh Circle – Stanky Sports and Dance Gear
If you think teenage boys are the only children capable of producing sweaty activewear that smells like something a skunk peed on before being left to rot in a compost bin in the Sahara desert, you are mistaken.
Very, very mistaken.
Eighth Circle – You’re Putting on a Dress to Go Visit Aunt Tilly
You love your teenage daughter’s sense of style, and you support her expression of individuality by allowing her to dye her hair magenta.
However, your talk about social etiquette, cultural norms and not pissing off Granny at her 85th birthday party did not go over well. At best, you settled on a compromise.
Your daughter harrumphs into the minivan wearing a J.Crew sheath dress and Chuck Taylor high-top sneakers.
Ninth Circle – Prom Gowns and the Real Cinderella
I don’t care whether you daughter buys her prom gown at Nordstrom, Walmart or a thrift shop. It doesn’t matter if she sews a dress or crafts a gown from duct tape. Heck, you tell me your daughter wore a tux to the prom—or didn’t go to the prom at all—and I’ll tell you the same thing:
In spite of the frustrations with fashion and endless arguments over hemlines or stinky soccer cleats, someday, a magical moment will happen. Maybe it will happen while getting ready for the prom. Maybe it will happen after your daughter runs hurdles at a track meet. Maybe you’ll see it one evening at home after you call everyone to dinner.
You’ll turn to find your little kid, and suddenly, she’s a young woman. She’s the one wearing the clothing, not vice versa. And she’s beautiful, inside and out. The epic journey is over. Welcome back from the underworld.
And I’m not talking Filene’s Basement.