I could tell straight away by the smug tone of my daughter’s voice that she was going to tell me something I wasn’t going to like.
The tween had been staying a few nights at grandpa’s place during the holidays which inevitably meant the she ruled the roost, particularly when it came to tapping into his wallet.
“Grandpa took me shopping,” she announced.
“And I bought a couple of t-shirts, a dress …. and some black shorts.”
Black was the word which she knew placed her on very dangerous ground with her mother.
“But I’m allowed to wear them.”
My 12-year-old’s response at the moment to anything she suspects is dodgy in her mother’s world is to jump in with a resounding “But I’m allowed to ..” buy/wear/eat/do whatever.
I think she believes if she gets in first I’ll change the rules as we go along – a bit like the government.
My problem with black is probably very old fashioned. And yes, like most mothers, it’s a hang up somehow intraveniously injected into my genes by my own mother.
Mum was from old-fashioned country stock, someone who rolled with the punches and a popular favourite among my friends. But like all of us she had her quirks and one was her aversion to girls wearing black.
Even as a teenager whenever I gravitated towards anything darker than battleship grey on the hangers mum’s nose would start to twitch and the lips would purse. I knew what was coming.
“Only prostitutes and Italians wear black,” she’d inform me.
On reflection there must have been an unwritten communicado between all mums of teenage girls in the 70s, because none of us wore black. I remember the ballroom at our school formal being a sea of riotous colour, the only black being the boys’ tuxedos. Unlike today when the colour scheme resembles more of a wake.
So needless to say, even though she died a decade ago, the things that drove me mad about my mother are now driving my daughter mad.
When the tween and I searched for a dress for her to wear to her Year 6 graduation I learned that black was the least of our problems. Today we’re also challenged by plunging necklines, tight fits and side splits.
It’s impossible to find something age appropriate, something which doesn’t make her look like Laura out of Little House On The Prairie or a strumpet from Underbelly.
And now of course parents of even younger girls – the tweenie age between 5 and 8 – have been slugged another fashion hurdle; the ridiculous marketing ploy by underwear giant Bonds to sell bras for six-year-olds.
These ‘bralettes’ are brightly coloured and appealing, a bit like the Bonds padded bras for eight-year-olds which have triggered howls of protests. Psychologists are screaming adultification of children, while parents are stressing over how they’ll cope with the peer pressure when Missy throws a tanty because she’s the only one in class without one.
I was witness to this pressure just recently at a Warringah Mall bra shop where I saw a mother purchasing a black lacy push up number for her 12-year-old. The saleslady told me it wasn’t uncommon.
My mother would have agreed, but she would have said it differently.
“Common. It’s absolutely common.”
As for my daughter’s shorts? She won that round, they actually look quite smart with a coloured top, coloured shoes and coloured hairband. And I’m sure they’ll fade in the wash.