I must have been fast asleep when it become acceptable, indeed fashionable, to dress your little girl like a miniature hooker.
The wedding I attended this past weekend came well-stocked with little girls in fancy dress who clearly believed this was a giant two-day fashion event organized for their sole benefit. I kept the “awww”s ready as every five minutes revealed yet another little cutie proudly showing off her shiny new dress.
I always forget how shiny girls’ childhoods can be until I walk into a wedding and find myself confronted by a colorful array of little ones in frills, net, bows, spangles, and other breathtaking stuff that Mommy secretly wishes she could wear but can’t because she doesn’t want to be mistaken for a giant replica of the wedding cake. Taking center-stage, for example, was the daughter of one of my oldest friends in bright blue, polka dot-flecked leggings coupled with a stylish shrug fashioned out of some spaceman-type silver material and worn with a big silver belt. She walked the length of the room in her little silver ballet flats, preening as she waited for the invisible applause to die down before she resumed her prowl. My ovaries did a little happy dance every time I laid eyes on her.
By no means was she the only pint-sized star either. Mixed in with the usual bells and ruffles, there were little ones in backless cholis, sundresses with spaghetti straps, and a couple of the slightly older ones were even tottering about in one-inch heels with which they were clearly madly in love. All very cute.
And then came the fashionista with her two mini-mes.
I’m not a great one for guessing the age of little children but neither one could have been older than four – the way the younger one was walking, in fact, made me wonder if it was a fairly recent activity for her. They were both beautiful little babies and the older one already looked like a proper little person with hair halfway down her back. But what really grabbed my attention was the way they were dressed.
Both wore ruffled mini skirts in bright colors; the four year old paired it with a ruffled boob tube while the two year old’s baby paunch peeked out of a tiny vest that ended somewhere north of her ribcage. The older one’s look took it one step further to popstar princessdom and was accessorized with fake Uggs.
Frankly, my first reaction was laughter. They were lovely children, a little shy with the (presumably) unaccustomed crowd of strangers and the loud band and so on; but there was something about their unselfconscious pleasure in their ridiculous new clothes that was as charming as such occasions always are. Just as I would have found a baby dressed from top to toe in pink ruffles hilariously sweet as she twirled around the dance floor, I thought these babies with their peekaboo outfits were just as cute.
My second reaction was discomfort. In a room full of children tastefully (or even ambitiously as the sad case might be) attired in age appropriate clothing, the two miniature Britney Spears stood out a mile. I was reminded of a previous post of mine about children who like to run around naked – I felt I would have been far less bothered by a child who abruptly took off all her clothes in the middle of the dinner dance because she really couldn’t be bothered by them than these two girls with their popstar-princess-two-years-removed-from-a-trip-to-rehab look. Nudity in little children is one thing, watching them trundle about in clothes meant to seductively frame said nudity is entirely another.
As the night wore on, I began to feel uncomfortable for other reasons. Those kids have a mother and she was clearly okay with dressing her kids in this particular fashion – who the hell am I to argue? I didn’t go through labor, I didn’t carry them for months in my body, and it’s not like she’s beating those kids or that they looked miserable. Indeed, she appeared to have taken considerable pains with those kids and must have really put in some thought to the whole look. She clearly cared. Also, some kids are just naturally shy and there could have been any number of reasons why they spent their evening clinging to their mother instead of taking part in the Great Balloon Flirtation of the Younger Crowd like the other babies at the party. I couldn’t automatically presume that they disliked their outfits.
By next morning, as I got ready to attend the wedding, I had convinced myself that I was creating a grand fuss about nothing. So a woman had decided that she wanted to dress her little girls like pop princesses. Well, Cinderella can just learn to move over. No skin off my nose.
And then I arrived at the wedding and found the two of them dressed like something out of Mandi. I swear to God. They were wearing ghaghra cholis of the kind you see in risque Hindi music videos. You know – cut down to here and pushed up to there. It looked particularly awful because they had such little girl bodies that it immediately converted the kids into something out of a pedo dream.The mother, in what I can only hope was a species of fever-inspired flash of genius, had even handed the older one the kind of jewelry that went perfectly with some madam on the make. Should I give her points that the look was ultimately more Smita Patil / Neena Gupta arthouse prostitute than Rakhi Sawant / Mallika Sherawat jiggle-my-bits hooker?
It was immensely disturbing. Long time readers will understand that this sentiment doesn’t emerge out of a prudish mindset nor am I inherently against little kids playing dress up. I don’t relish the thought of taking part in the public shaming of mothers either for that matter.
But as I watched those kids wander about in their wildly inappropriate finery, I tried to imagine what people’s reactions would have been if that had been a little boy dressed in a bondage outfit, which is the closest approximation I can conjure up because pop princes like the Jonas Bros don’t have to show their T&A to sell tickets, do they? I’m sure their hormone-addled fan base would love to tear it all off them, but they don’t have to do it on their own.
When Dora the Explorer got her much reviled makeover earlier this year, it sparked a storm of protest from concerned parents. But what nobody seemed to mention is that there is no way in hell a giant brand like Dora goes in for a makeover without extensive research. We have to presume that at some point the data began to come in that children these days react more strongly to stick figures in sexy outfits rather than adorably chubby little girls in active wear.
And we all know kids don’t come marching out of their mothers’ wombs festooned in little feather boas, holding out miniature martini glasses for their lunch – this is learned behavior.
I’m Team Prude on this one.