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Auntie SparkNotes: My Mom Won't Let Me Wear Trendy Clothes

Auntie SparkNotes: My Mom Won't Let Me Wear Trendy Clothes

Kat Rosenfield

Hey Auntie,
I need advice with my mom. I've been wanting to wear short shorts and just the regular style of a teenager since I was in 6th grade. I'm now almost 16 and she still makes me go to my room and change into clothes that she likes. My shorts have to be literally touching my knees and I can't wear dresses that often because they always hitch up in the back because of my butt. I like crop-tops because they are super cute and at the moment I have a flat stomach.

Is it wrong to want to show off my figure? Because whenever I try I feel like a sl*t. I'm confident in my body and I love it and I want to show it off. My mom says that wearing those types of things makes her look like a bad parent and it ruins her name. She says that I look like I belong on a corner and that I'm a defiant child.

I just want to be like any other teen and be able to dress the way I like. She won't even let me get a boyfriend and let me remind you I'm almost 16! I'm a respectful child who never gets in trouble, I make good grades, I'm in all advance classes, I keep my room clean and I do my chores. I am trustworthy, and I have never disrespected an adult on purpose. Can you please give me some advice?

Off the top of my head, Sparkler, it might be time for you to get acquainted with a very particular form of fashion espionage known as the Giant Sweatshirt Technique. Here's how it works:

Step 1: Put on whatever you want to wear to school.

Step 2: Before leaving your bedroom, put on an additional larger garment (like, say, a giant sweatshirt) that your mother finds unobjectionable.

Step 3: Once you're safely out of sight, peel off the giant sweatshirt and put it in your bag/in your locker/on the neighbor's cat.

Step 4: Celebrate your successful act of subterfuge with a short, tasteful victory dance.

...That is, if wearing what you want behind your mom's back would be a victory for you, and if it's important enough that you're willing to break certain rules and accept certain risks in order to do it. Because here's the thing, darling: Auntie SparkNotes would be the first to agree that your mom's dictates surrounding your sartorial choices sound unreasonable, not to mention aesthetically criminal (knee-length shorts are flattering on virtually nobody) and indefensibly nasty (telling your 15-year-old kid that she looks like a prostitute is a punishment salmon-worthy offense 'round these parts.) But apart from assuring you that there is nothing wrong with wanting to wear clothes that flatter or even flaunt your figure—particularly when nature has blessed you with the kind of figure that's worth flaunting!—what I think just doesn't matter much. Certainly, your mom isn't going to rethink her stance vis-a-vis how your clothes reflect on her quality as a parent just because some random broad on the internet thinks she's totally wrong and mean about it. (Particularly not a random broad who owns several pairs of daisy dukes herself.)

And as long as she's dictating your household dress code based exclusively on her own hang-ups over how your crop-top might make her look, your options are pretty much limited to a) following that code, or b) flouting it. (Unless a compromise is possible, of course, but considering how much ground your mom would have to give up to even get that conversation started, I'm guessing it's not an option.)

The bad news is, this leaves you with a tough choice to make—as is always the case when a near-adult finds herself in fundamental disagreement with her parents in matters of personal autonomy. It's what makes the no-man's-land of teenagehood such a terrible drag. You're old enough to know your own mind (or in this case, your own style aesthetic), and to sense the unfairness of being shamed for it; alas, you're also still young enough that you can be punished for trying to assert your independence if your parents don't like the form it takes. And considering that your mom's horror of crop-tops and short-shorts seems to stem from a larger, deeper discomfort with your progress toward adulthood and everything that entails (e.g. sex and boyfriends), there's a good chance that this won't be the last time you'll ask yourself whether Mom's disapproval is a price you're willing to pay in order to make your own choices.

But that's why I'd like you to use this moment and this conflict to get used to the idea of having choices. Practice considering your options, and the consequences thereof. Learn to recognize the boundaries of what's personal and private to you; what are the areas of your life in which you feel capable of acting autonomously? Where do you draw the lines when it comes to what you keep private, or even secret? How high can you cuff those dang knee-length shorts, anyway?

Your answers to these questions can be anything, and you'll probably revisit them many times between now and adulthood (at which point you'll likely find that your mom's disapproval carries a lot less weight than it does right now.) But this is a perfect time to start considering, in this finite and limited way, where your need for approval ends and your desire for autonomy begins—especially since all that hangs in the balance is the length of a hemline, and not, say, your relationship with another human being. And if what you decide is that you're ready to take the reins on your choices, at least for a test drive? Let's just say that you wouldn't be the first kid to have a rotating supply of tiny, trendy tops hidden in a secret compartment in her backpack.

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Topics: Life
Tags: auntie sparknotes, advice, personal style, controlling parents, slut-shaming, being an adult, breaking the rules

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About the Author

Kat Rosenfield is a writer, illustrator, advice columnist, YA author, and enthusiastic licker of that plastic liner that comes inside a box of Cheez-Its. She loves zombies and cats. She hates zombie cats. Follow her on Twitter or Tumblr @katrosenfield.

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