Lions and tigers and bears, oh my! If you thought venturing into the woods of Oz was a frightening proposition, try spending some time on the playground during fourth grade recess. I hadn’t really paid much attention to what other fourth grade girls were wearing until the morning fashion wars between Nicole and I started to escalate to a daily screaming and crying battle where she insisted on wearing – no matter what the weather – short shorts with UGG boots. In defense of the glaringly age inappropriate outfit she said, “All the other girls wear it!” That morning I looked around on the playground, and she was right, they were all sporting the look. I bit my tongue to keep from saying, “Yeah, but if the other girls jumped off a cliff, would you do that, too?” I knew she would ignore me anyway, and clearly I was channeling my own mother.
I tried to convince Nicole not to wear the outfit, without giving too much detail as to why I think the look is trashy and wrong for someone whose hormones haven’t even kicked in yet to be running around with half their butt hanging out. I simply said that they weren’t appropriate clothes for school and that short shorts are best for summertime, the beach and playing at home and that winter boots are best for wearing - big surprise – in winter. Short shorts and UGG boots worn together…please explain to me when the “dressing like a hooker on Hollywood Boulevard” look became fashionable with the under ten set.
Trust me, back in the day, but that day being college not elementary school, we would dress in provocative ways to go out to parties and clubs. Mini skirts, thigh high boots, lingerie cami tops that flashed both belly and cleavage were mandatory. Hell, we’d even wear some craziness like that to class on occasion. But we knew what we were doing and clearly the objective was to attract attention from the opposite sex. But when fourth graders start dressing in similarly provocative fashion, what is the objective? What image of themselves are they projecting to the world and particularly to the hormone raging, just-on-the-cusp-of-puberty fourth grade boys? And in a society where we already have issues with the objectification of women, I don't think it is a good idea to allow them to dress in a way which screams, “It’s all about the booty, forget I have brain!”
At drop off the other day, I was explaining my frustration to a mother of 2 boys when another woman leaned in and joined our conversation. Her daughter lives in short shorts and UGG boots and the mom immediately became defensive about her daughter’s fashion choice. “It’s a cute look,” she said, forcing a smile. “They’re so innocent they don’t attach any sexuality to it.” I tried not to laugh. They aren’t so innocent and they know exactly what the look says. (Once you’ve heard your seven year old refer to a shirtless guy on a basketball court as “hot,” you will never again question their awareness of the opposite sex.) The mother went on to say how her nine year old doesn’t even know where babies come from yet, that they are naïve and this is just their way of being in style. Later, Nicole told me that the girl knows the facts of life – her father told her because he said her mother would be too freaked out about it. I wonder if the parents who let their young girls wear short shorts, UGG boots and other provocative looks are the ones who are denying that their kids are blossoming from babies into young people, with all the associated body awareness, sexual curiosity and a desperate need to be guided through this incredibly confusing, awkward and exciting life change.
The girls aren’t the only ones engaged in this pre-adolescent social preening and interest in the opposite sex. A mom with a fourth grade son told me he came home and asked his parents what a blow job was. He said the boys in the bathroom – why do these conversations always go on in the bathroom??? – were talking about how they wanted Megan Fox to “do one” on them. I don’t remember at nine ever having sexual conversation like that with my peers. Now, granted, I was never a nine year old boy and maybe the conversations in their bathroom were significantly more advanced than the ones in ours. When I was growing up, for the girls, the big thing was playing truth or dare to get you to admit who you liked, playing spin the bottle but then being too frightened to give anything more than a kiss on the cheek, and running into the boys’ bathroom to see what the only heard of but never seen urinal looked like. Talking about sex acts with celebrities was so beyond anything we considered at that age. It worries me because it shows that this generation of kids is so accelerated in everything they are exposed to, say and eventually, will do. We need to put the brakes on their childhood, let them slow down and not race through every stage of life. There will be time for short shorts and UGG boots – when you’re at least a teen or old enough to hang out at a bar, not when you’re still sipping juice boxes at elementary school.