by Whoever, age 14, from central Texas
Okay, I give up. I just don't get why
guys dress like they do. I mean, do
they think that we girls LIKE baggy,
shapeless T-shirts over sagging jeans
that puddle around their feet? Do
they think it makes them look cool?
Or are they just too lazy to do any
In my high school's cafeteria the
other day, I took a good look at
some of the stuff these slobs were
wearing. I was floored by some of
the weird combos they had on. Try
this on for size (but not literally): an
oversized pink T paired with saggin'
blue, green, white, and gray shorts
(plaid); white socks worn all the way
up to the knees; and the most
torn-up sneakers I've ever seen!
Another guy had on your basic
worn-out, knee-length, plaid shirt;
and a pair of the usual kind of shorts
-- but what was really bizarre, was
that he had on a pair of bright red
sneakers with white stripes! I am not
kidding! I would have gotten
pictures, but I don't have a way to
get them over the Internet, and I sure
don't want to keep `em.
While I was looking at guys, I
compared them to the girls. Now, I
can see why guys spend so much
time "scoping" girls. Almost every
girl in my school ranges from "okay"
to "WOW," while the general guy
population ranges from "okay" to
"not-even", with the occasional
"decent" to "majorly fine" guy here
and there. Of course, there are
probably people reading this and
going, "Ex-cuse me! Nobody can
help what they look like!", but just
chill for a minute. See, a lot of these
ugly guys could raise themselves into
at least the "okay" category if they
would like, change their hair style,
and while they're at it, dye it back to
its natural color, or at least one that
looks natural. In other words,
something besides orange, blue, pink,
As for clothes, most of the girls were
wearing really cool dresses that
probably cost a fortune, or mini-Ts
with fitted jeans, or at the very least,
semi-loose t-shirts tucked into
regular-fit jeans. A lot of the girls'
clothes, I'd be willing to bet, were
way expensive. Like, my last trip to
the mall cost me (correction: my
mom) about $200. But I know this
guy who told me that he gets his
shirts at this discount store where
you can get three shirts for $5! Does
this seem a little unfair to you?
And I've only talked about clothes so
far. What about the other things
women have to do that guys got out
of somewhere along the line? Stuff
like...shaving legs and 'pits, putting
on make-up, carefully treating and
perming and styling what hair we
aren't expected to shave off. I would
just like to know when, where, and
by whom these rules were decided,
you know. I mean, what, did
somebody just sit down and say,
"Okay, here's how it's gonna be from
now on: all women have to shave off
leg and 'pit hair when it becomes
easy to spot, any hair that isn't
shaved has to be changed in some
way from how it would be
naturally... and hey! why don't they
put goo on their faces too?" I'm not
saying that women everywhere
should unite against make-up and
hair-care/removal. But I do want to
make a point: if guys expect us to go
out of our way to look beautiful (or
should I say, "even more beautiful
than we already are?") then I think
they should at least try to do the
My son Jonathan was about 13 when I began to notice a decided shift in
our relationship. Once there had been easy conversation about subjects
like He-Man and soccer, as he built Lego skyscrapers in his room. Now,
his door was always closed, allowing only strains of a rap song to seep
We would still talk. But our conversations tended toward the monosyllabic.
"How was school?" I'd ask. "Fine," he'd say.
Any inquiry of a more detailed nature would be met with a withering glance.
Once, he looked me in the eye and suggested that I get my own life. I
despaired of ever communicating with him again. Then we went shopping
It was after Jonathan's birthday and I owed him a present. We made a date
to go to this store in Noho that used to be called retrogrunge but now is
so cutting-edge it evades all classification. In this cavernous emporium
reminiscent of a crater on the moon, the clothes have a certain cachet.
They look like they've been worn and thrown out.
As Jon opened the door, a blast of pulsing music, punctuated by yelps,
hit us like a wail. Once through the metal detectors, Jon rushed past
the counter crowded with nose rings and chain-link chokers and headed
straight for a shelf beside a rat's nest of purposely peeked, peeling
He was looking for pants-very large pants, of the breadth that used to be
associated with Big and Husky stores. To determine acceptability, Jon had
devised a test. The pants were wide enough only if his head could fit
through the bottom of one leg. The pants were wide enough only if his
head could tit through the bottom of one leg.
Pulling out a pair of black jeans with enough material to cover a sofa,
Jon headed for a dressing cubicle, reappearing with pants legs trailing
like the train of a mournful wedding dress. Then he shuffled to the mirror,
clutching the bunched-up waist "Cool" Jon said before turning to me with
an inquiring eye. I wanted to yell, "They look like they've fallen off
Hakeem Olajuwon." Instead, I murmured something about the bottoms needing
"No problem he said, "I'll staple them."
My eyes hardened into marbles. Was there something politically incorrect
about a needle and thread? Maybe he should just forget about fibers
altogether and wear a cardboard box to school. But I didn't say a word.
Instead, I followed him up the escalator, repeating silently a silly
mantra: "He is he and I am me and that is the way that it should be."
I watched snatches of an old movie playing in my head. It is 1957. My
mother and I are on the escalator in Alexander's Department Store on the
Grand Concourse in the Bronx. I am dreaming of a navy topper like the one
Jessica Morley has and a pleated skirt, that falls just above the knees. But my mother has other ideas. She says a princess-style dress with a Peter Pan collar would be smart. Or how about a pinafore with a sailor motif?
At 13, the last thing I want is to look like is a Chatty Cathy doll. But
once off the moving staircase she heads for the "Just Arrived. New for
Spring" section and emerges with a pair of toreador pants in puce and a
jumper with ruffles on the skirt, something the cha-cha teacher at Arthur
Murray would wear.
I am mortified, I pray no one in the next aisle has laid eyes on this
display. "I hate it," I say my voice a low growl. In a wheedling tone,
she implores me to "just try it on." In between the racks, we argue.
As we step off the moving staircase, the bass from the speakers located
near the check-out counter bludgeons the Alexander's Muzak still floating
in my head. The group that is singing seems to be having a nervous
breakdown. Their distorted voices repeat the refrain "I'm close to the
edge. I can hardly breathe." The beat is so insistent that the cashier's
fingers vibrate as she removes the thick plastic band from the pants and
stuffs them into a bag. Once back on the street, before clamping his
headphones in place, my .son kisses me on the cheek and pronounces the
We agree to do it again sometime; then we head back to Brooklyn.
Carole Zimmer, April 3, 1998
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