Saturday, November 11, 2006

The Question

The sight of the horse and buggy on the country road awakened the interests of my kids that the ninety-minute car ride had deadened.
"What is that?" my (then) six-year-old was the first to notice and question.
I smiled at the sight that I had seen many times before when visiting my grandparents in Belle Center, Ohio. "There are Amish people who live up here and that is the way they travel."
"Cool!" came the response from the backseat.
The closer we got to the slow moving mode of transportation, the more the questions arose about the Amish life style. To kids who had just been complaining about not having a cell phone, the idea of such a simple lack of modern day conveniences seemed not only unheard of, but downright antiquated.
"Do they know what they're missing?" my son questioned as we slowly made our way past the buggy. The plainly dressed gentleman smiled as he nodded and waved while holding onto the reigns.
We returned his courteousness and waved, continuing on our way to Grandma's house.
I couldn't help but to think of that scene when I was awakened to the news of another school shooting last week. This time the shooting took place in the humble dwelling of a one room Amish school house in Pennsylvania .
It breaks our hearts anytime we hear of a school shooting ---and there have been more times lately than we can wrap our broken hearts around. But there was something even more sinister in this choice of victims: a community that is known for such simple-God fearing ways; a people that remind us of a time so long ago. Hostage situations and multiple murders here seem even more of a deplorable violation to the rest of the world.
But now the rest of the world is sitting back with a sense of awe in what happened next in the community.
The afternoon of the murder, the families involved led a walk to the house of the murderer to show forgiveness to the family he left behind.
When asked about this, an Amish gentleman answered, "It's just our way of life."
One mother who lost her daughter was overheard saying it was a horrible tragedy that should never happen. But if it had to happen, " was probably best that it happened in our community, where we are prepared to leave this world for the next."
The simple people with the plain clothes have spoken so profoundly.
We do tend to look at their way of life as being antiquated, almost backward in thought. It appears, though, they are better futuristic thinkers than most.
To answer my son's question, they indeed, appear to know what it is they are missing in their chosen lifestyle.
The better question, though, just might be: Do we?

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Halloween fright

Walking through the creepy isles of the Halloween store, I had to stifle the urge to let out a blood-curdling scream. No, it was not the disembodied head hanging from one of the displays that frightened me; it was actually the costume selections my 16-year-old daughter was considering.
We had entered the store in search of a costume for her to wear to a big Halloween party on Saturday night. Having gone a few years since her last trick-or-treat trek, we hadn’t had the need to look for costumes for her in awhile. Thus, I was unprepared for what I found.
My daughter had informed me of some of her friends’ selections: Little Red Riding Hood, Dorothy, and a policewoman.
So far so good, right?
What she had forgotten to mention was the adjective used to describe each of these outfits: Sexy Little Red Riding Hood, Naughty Dorothy, and Arresting Policewoman. Each costume was built around one foundation garment: a bustier. If I hadn’t known better, I would have thought we were all picking out costumes for a Victoria Secret fashion show, and not a teenager’s Halloween Party.
My teenager tried her best to “shush” my vocal objections, but I could not stay muted for long. Corsets, and garters, and stockings--- oh my! The only thing missing seemed to be edible underwear.
I understand that Halloween took on a whole new slant after the movie Mean Girls came out a few years ago. In this film, the main character, arrives at a Halloween party in—of all things –a ghoulish Halloween costume. She is mortified to find all the other girls dressed in little more than lingerie. And faster than one can say, “peer pressure,” teenage girls across America ditched all potential Halloween costumes that actually covered skin and once again, allowed themselves to be treated as sex objects by Hollywood and everyone else.
Somewhere, years ago, in the ancient civilization known as my youth, I, too, attended Halloween parties. One year, I went as Miss Piggy—wearing a bed sheet and a nose I cut out of a toilet paper role. Yet another year, I went as a bag of trash. Each of those costumes showed off my ample creativity, not cleavage.
Is it simply that we parents today are too willing to buy these overpriced costumes—which range from $49-$129? And by affording these costumes, are we affording our daughters a lesson we really don’t want them to learn?
I know my teenager would love any of those costumes –they are a great fantasy. But, a fantasy for whom?
When I wore my self made costumes all those years ago, I had an entire night of people affirming my creativity. That helped me grow into who I am today. But just what grows and develops in you from the basic affirmation that at 16, you nicely fill out a bustier?
My daughter is used to her “old fashioned” mom. She knew the compromise would end up being a home-made costume that is similar to the coveted ones, but slightly more modest ---and, yes, way more grown-up than her mom would like it to be.
But still, the backwards double-standard that society puts on our daughters bothers me. While I know without a doubt what the boys at that party will be seeing, I have to wonder what they will be wearing. I fully doubt that any of the boys will be buying any costumes that show off their bodies and sexuality. And still, we all buy into the sexing up of our daughters --- allowing, and thereby encouraging them to be defined by their bodies—all in the name of Halloween.
And frankly, that scares me most of all.