Today I will address the second, or possibly third, most divisive issue currently facing the citizens of Webster Groves. I’m talking, of course, about the female belly button.
For those of you who don’t live in Webster, let me quickly recap the situation: Some people — including some female students at Webster Groves High School — would like to be able to display theirs in the classroom. Other people — including those responsible for enforcing the school dress code —would rather they didn’t.
To complicate matters, still OTHER people — such as certain Olympic female beach volleyball players — favor unexposed belly buttons. Female runners and gymnasts have expressed similar reservations about the public display of their bikini- and/or leotard-clad derrieres on prime-time TV — especially when their male counterparts’ derrieres are fully covered. In other words, it’s complicated.
With the possible exception of the dress code committee, all parties agree on at least one thing — they don’t like being told what to wear.
I understand the frustration. That’s how most girls feel growing up. For example, back in my day, all girls — even those of us attending public school — had to wear dresses every day. Slacks were only allowed on “Casual Day,” a once-per-quarter occasion when gum-chewing was also permitted.
I take that back. During the winter, girls were also allowed to wear stirrup pants if the temperature fell below zero. But few took advantage. Rule-followers like me lived in fear that we’d be sent home if it warmed up to five degrees Fahrenheit during the day. That is the truth.
Still, we had it better than our grandmothers, who not only had to wear dresses, but also uncomfortable wool stockings, no matter what the weather.
Yes, our foremothers smashed the stocking barrier so that my mother’s generation could wear anklets, which begat my generation’s knee socks. Our freezing bare legs paved the way for girls to demand pants year-round. That is how progress happens. Each generation builds on the dress code violations of the one before.
It’s a mistake, however, to think boys got a free ride. To play on my grade school basketball team, for example, boys were required to have a crew cut or, if you were a risk taker like my brother Jim, a flat top.
We girls faced fewer hair restrictions. We also didn’t have girls’ sports. So, there was that.
By the time I got to high school in the mid-1970s, times were changing. Suddenly, girls could both wear pants AND play basketball. If you think we were going to push for belly button exposure rights, you do not understand how history works.
My point is, the arc of the dress code is long, but it bends toward banning the latest fashion trend. To today’s young women, I say: You are part of history. Study it, and choose your battles wisely.
To the grownups: Winter is coming. Crop tops, too, shall pass.