As I reviewed the daily news through my website server, a headline caught my eye: “Student Banned From Yearbook Over Racy Photo.” Having two teenage daughters, one who will be posing for her senior pictures this summer, I was curious to see what the buzz was all about.
I clicked on the article which revealed a photo of a beautiful blonde haired teenage girl. She was wearing what looked to be a tube top and a mini skirt, posing for the camera on a set of stairs. Suffice to say, although the attire she wore provided coverage, her shoulders, back, belly and legs were displayed quite clearly.
This story made the news because the girl’s high school yearbook committee refused to publish the picture stating that the student’s choice of attire did not meet the school’s dress code.
And so the fight began.
Girl likes photo. Girl wants photo in yearbook. Mother likes photo. Mother feels girl’s freedom of expression is being violated. Yearbook committee is not comfortable with the pose and/or the “lack of coverage”. Mother decides to fight for issue. Girl decides to pay for an advertisement in the yearbook which will display a full-page view of her Senior Portrait despite the opposition she faces.
Now I would bet if you filled a room with parents and high school students and asked them their opinions of this issue, you would definitely create a stir of convictions from both sides. There will be those who will think that the girl should have a right to print the photo she chooses. After all, she is beautiful and this photo is an example of self- expression at its finest. I can hear them now:
“Why should she have to cover up?”
“Why is it wrong to show some skin? After all, the fashion industry markets this clothing style. Take a look in a magazine and see for yourself- SKIN IS IN!”
"It’s her picture. She should be able to do what she wants to do!”
Then of course you have the opposition.
Here it goes;
“She is barely covered. “
“Her pose looks provocative.”
“What kind of message is she trying to send?”
And so on.
I am going to be honest, I don’t think this is a case of freedom of self-expression — I think it’s a case of modesty, self-respect and the messages we send through our conduct and attire. Call me old-fashioned, but I struggle with the styles of today. You already know I struggle with skirt lengths and low necklines. I also struggle with shorts that barely cover my daughters’ buttocks and bikinis that are made of more string then fabric.
Okay, I struggle with SKIN. There! I said it! I think that there is a time and place to show skin (like at a beach, the pool side or in the sprinkler) and a time to stay covered (like the rest of the time). Dress codes were created for a reason and I can guarantee it’s not because school administrators wanted to aggravate the students or squelch their freedom of expression. Less skin= higher rate of focus on academics, more skin = higher rate of focus on “other things."
Bottom line: it’s a lovely picture and she is a beautiful girl, but to her, I say enjoy your favorite picture on the mantel of your home. Hand it out to your friends. That’s your personal choice. But when it comes to the yearbook, pick a different proof. One that shows your beautiful face without the need to flaunt your assets. Simply stated: Cover up.
We had an event at school this week and my daughter needed to find an outfit to wear. We had to agree on something appropriate as she would be in the presence of not only other students but faculty and parents as well. Naturally, the items in her closet would not suffice unless she planned on wearing sweatpants, yoga pants, or ripped jeans.
We ventured out to the plaza buy a few new things and I found myself visualizing her perfect outfit. Her flat shoes are not only comfortable but safe to walk in as well.
Her legs are modestly displayed, covered lightly with a plain sheer stocking. A loose skirt flatters her as its hem rests slightly above her knees. The blouse she is wearing flows elegantly off of her shoulders and tastefully accentuates her femininity. There are several buttons below her neckline yet her cleavage remains masked as she conservatively buttons all but the top one. She looks perfectly lovely; polished, sophisticated and refined.
Suffice to say, that my idea of something “appropriate” is vastly different than hers. Although I consider myself somewhat “trendy” (for a middle-aged mother of three), according to my daughter, I am a Pilgrim without fashion sense. It would be a miracle if I had a hand in selecting an outfit my daughter actually ended up wearing. Aside from supplying the necessary financial support for the purchase, my input and suggestions are not needed or accepted, thank you very much.
In addition to our opposing opinions, our shopping trip is made difficult by something far more challenging: available clothing from which to choose. I am convinced that representatives from the fashion industry and retail stores are secretly conspiring with teens in the underground to abolish all modest and/or tasteful clothing.
Have you been clothes shopping with a teenager lately? It is not something I would recommend for the faint of heart. Forget knee length skirts — you’re lucky if the hem covers a thigh’s highest point. Pants are unheard of unless you are willing to place shorts into the slacks category. Blouses have been tossed to the wayside as tight sweaters and tank tops hog the shelf space.
Sheer stockings have been replaced with fake tans and floral lace. Even the infamous fishnet has resurfaced. Hooray! And shoes… well sit down for this news. Comfort and safety are no longer the rage. In order to look your best, the latest shoe style requires you to cram your feet into small vices and walk gracefully atop thin, narrowing pillars at least five inches high. We’re talking style AND skill here.
I did survive the shopping trip with my daughter. I grit my teeth, I bit my tongue, and I even held back a few tears. However, after four hours scouring the clothing department of several stores, we had reached a compromise. I felt confident that she would look like the lovely young lady she is, and she felt relieved knowing that she wouldn’t be dressed looking ready to re-board the Mayflower.
I beamed proudly as I watched her walk into the auditorium wearing her pretty loose sweater and almost knee-length skirt. Her thighs were fully covered! As for the shoes, remember, I said we made a compromise. I had to shut my eyes and cross my fingers as she walked across the stage on her stilts. I am happy to say she made it without breaking an ankle. And when she tires of sore feet and blisters, the black flats we bought for “back-up” will be waiting. .
I had a very nice conversation with my daughter yesterday while we were in the car. This may not sound like an oddity to all parents but if you live with a teenager, chances are you’ll understand.
Conversation is hard to come by. Not because my daughter doesn’t have anything to say. She has tons to say about everything…. friends, boys, school, shopping, facebook, and more. It’s just that getting her to put down her cell phone and talk to me, without distraction, requires effort beyond measure.
That is because she is never without her cell phone. She sleeps near it, she wakes to it and it accompanies her everywhere. In fact, if I didn’t know better, I would think it was a permanent appendage fused to the skin of her palm.
Although I realize it serves as a significant vice through which she connects to her teenage world, it clearly distracts, and often prevents, her from participating in uninterrupted verbal conversation with me. Come to think of it, it’s not just me she ignores. It’s any other human who may occupy the same space in which she breathes.
Try as you might to maintain eye contact with her, the beep of an incoming text message will snatch her away every time.
Perhaps you are wondering how I managed to sustain a focused and actually productive conversation with my daughter despite her cell phone addiction. One would assume the cell phone battery was dead, or better yet, the phone itself was misplaced or broken.
On the contrary! The phone was functioning and along for the ride. The secret is that I asked her to put it away. Not really asked, more like insisted. You see, being the adult and the parent in charge, I feel it is my right and privilege to set rules and expectations once in awhile (wink).
My rule is simple. It is one of many that help me live with teenagers: No cell phones in the car. They may have it with them, but it has to be turned off and out of sight. This assures me that our car rides, regardless of length, guarantee us an opportunity to talk.
Strangely enough, when the cell phone is out of the picture, real conversation takes place. In fact, on rare occasions, she even initiates them! Miracle of all miracles, we are speaking to one another. We converse with purpose and a steady exchange of thoughts and ideas. Who knew it was possible?
Sure, she fights me on the rule. Often, I have to remind her to turn off her phone upon entering the car. No, she doesn’t love the idea. Don’t forget, I am dealing with a teenager here. However, it works. It helps me stay connected to my daughter’s mind and ideas in a time when a text is far more important to her. For me, gaining conversation in exchange for a car ride is worth the price of gas!
Jolita Fornuto is a certified teacher, freelance writer and mother of three. She lives with her husband and children in Webster, N.Y.