Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Agreement/Disagreement (01/19/12)
TITLE: Dress Code Stress
By Dannie Hawley
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“But, Mom, why can’t girls wear pants to school? It just isn’t fair.” It was an argument my mother and I had a lot that ninth year of my life. For as many years as I was in school, the dress code for girls was always skirts or dresses and there were no exceptions. Now, you’ve got to know that in Montana’s extraordinarily bitter winter cold spells where the temperatures would plummet to forty degrees below zero with a wind-chill factor making it a minus-ninety-eight degrees, this was a dumb rule! Oh, we girls could wear pants under our skirts as long as we took them off when on the school grounds but, still, at nine years of age it just didn’t make any sense to me. (In fact the same was true even at seventeen.)
“Girls will act like girls if they are dressed like girls,” my mother said, as she always did, parroting the School Board, no doubt.
“But, they don’t forbid girls from playing baseball at recess or staying off the monkey bars so is a dress supposed to keep us from playing at recess or what? I mean, adults are forever telling us to ‘act like ladies’ and ‘keep your skirt down so your underwear doesn’t show’ but how can we do that and still play? Don’t you see how much better it would be if we could wear pants like the boys?”
“It doesn’t matter what I think; the rule is that you have to wear a dress so you will wear a dress. Now, stop arguing with me and go change out of those pants right now.” Obviously the tone of my mother’s response let me know I would just not win this time any more than any of the other battles on this subject. I kept thinking I could wear her down but, when it came to rules that others had imposed on us—well, rules were rules with my mother and that was that.
In later years we would see Laura Ingalls hike up those long skirts and thick petticoats when she ran around the bases or needed to get some place in a hurry; but, let me tell you, what worked on “Little House on the Prairie” just did not work with our “no petticoat and knee-length skirt” little girl fashions of the mid-fifties and sixties. Plus, the boys could wear tennis shoes, while we had to wear saddle shoes. No idea what saddle shoes are? Well, they have nothing to do with saddles and horses or I would have loved them! They were a heavy, leather oxford type shoe, black and white or brown and white, with laces to tie. It was obvious to me that the people who made them did not know much about kids because the toes of the shoes were white—or, at least, they were right after my mother finished polishing them but not much longer. I just didn’t see the point of this rule.
I never, ever made any headway in this disagreement with my mother, of course; but, I imagine she was just hanging in there, waiting for those pre-adolescent hormones to kick in. She figured when I saw boys in a light other than the recipient of my spiraling football or the one running full-out to catch the baseball speeding high over his head, I would begin to change my mind as to what I wore in his presence.
Not long before the onset of summer vacation, I turned ten and with the added numeral to my age came changes I had never anticipated. The three months passed in the usual active way: If it was a ball of any size or shape, I was interested. However, as the fall season approached, I began to look at things a little differently. I did not grumble about needing to wear the skirt and blouse or the saddle shoes. Truly, what I was looking forward to most was the new dress I knew my mother had purchased for that first day of school.
“Hi! My name is Ronny. I like the color yellow, too.” Looking down at my dress, I confirmed, in stunned amazement, that it was actually me Ronny was addressing. Funny, but I did not ask him if he had a baseball or anything. I just smiled and, for the first time in my whole life, I didn’t know what to say.
Turns out Mom was exactly right.
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