When my daughter Laura walks into church—or anywhere, for that matter—heads definitely turn. At 16, she's into wearing black: black fingernail polish, long black skirts, clunky black boots, black stockings, black shirts. If it's cold outside, a black sweatshirt. Her accessories are simple: a ring on every finger, a choker around her neck made of miniature handcuffs, assorted rings in her ears … and a diamond stud in her nose. For variety, she pairs a purple Willy Wonka T-shirt with whatever pants or skirt she happens to step on in her closet. When she's "retro," her footwear of choice is orange suede sneakers. A Crayola Crayon backpack, triangle bandana, and a pair of '50s-style sunglasses complete the outfit.
The best thing I can say about this incarnation of my daughter is that at least she's out of her grunge phase with t-shirts down to her knees, khaki pants big enough for three sumo wrestlers, and two-toned hair. She'd wanted one of the tones to be blue, but after much discussion, she compromised with blond stripes in her dark brown hair. She looked like a skunk, but at least it wasn't blue.
The first time she wore her new look to church, several older ladies took me aside. I froze, terrified at what they might say. One of them patted my arm and told me, "Don't worry, honey. It could be worse." I took great comfort in those words.
It's hard, isn't it? One day you're presented with a naked newborn and for the next 10 years or so you get to dress her however you like. I always loved putting Laura in dresses with big white collars and puffy sleeves. That's part of the fun of being a mom. But then your child grows up and exerts her individuality by dressing like everyone else her age. You have conversations in which she yells, "People have a right to be who they are!" To which you answer, "I agree, but why do you have to be who you are dressed like that?!"1