As I stand over the sink of oatmeal-crusted breakfast dishes, the water siphoning out the sounds in the background, I hear a little voice asking me a question. I hear it, yet I don’t want to even acknowledge it, even though I’m sending mixed messages by ignoring, the very thing I tell my kids not to do. I know I can’t avoid it, but I want to buy myself a little more time before answering.
“Mommy, I’m asking you a question. Why aren’t you answering me? When can I wear a crop top?”
Oh dear. Here we go.
“A crop top?” I ask, like I’m hearing this question for the first time. “Not for quite awhile, sweet girl.” (In my head, I’m thinking the exact words my parents used to say that drove me bonkers, “Um, not while you are under my roof!”)
I know what’s coming next, of course, as there is no amount of time to be bought here. The unscrupulous three-letter question that toddlers and kids of all ages incessantly ask until their parent shrugs their shoulders in defeat.
I can probably think of one hundred reasons why, and granted, maybe all of the reasons aren’t even logical, but it really doesn’t matter because to a nine year old, not one of those will likely make sense. Sure, I can say “Because I said so.” What good will that do though? None.
How do I tell this self-assured, confident, sweet being that some forms of expression cause unwanted negative attention that is harmful?
There is a fine line between protecting yet wanting her to embrace her individuality and express who she is. Does a crop top express who she is? Not at all, but maybe it is more about me asking her the question back. “Why do you want to wear a crop top?”
For as long as time, women’s clothing has long been a subject of contention. We can debate about it all we want, but it’s not about whether it should or shouldn’t be that way because sadly, that is just the way it is. Now, that doesn’t make it right, nor does it mean I will just sit by and accept “that’s just the way it is.” I don’t accept that and the time is up to change that discourse.
At some point in every woman’s life, we have all fallen prey to judging another woman for their choice in clothing. Whether it is a skimpy bikini, a skirt too short to even be labeled a skirt, or the much loved garment of my nine year old, the crop top, the thoughts are: Is she just wearing that for attention seeking purposes? And then, what kind of attention is it that is being sought after? Not all attention is good or done without harm.
Girls, women, are constantly being objectified and taken advantage of. Clothing choice and freedom of expression in the form of clothing is not an invitation to cat-call, touch, or behave inappropriately. I know this and many other people know this, but not everyone abides by this, so although my feminist side wants to say you can wear whatever the F*!K you want and high-five my girl, the mom in me can’t get behind that clothing choice right now.
So, my sweet girl, for you, it is not appropriate to wear a crop top at this age. At what age will it be acceptable? I don’t have the answer. Today my answer is not right now.