By Michelle Martin
Published April 22, 2011
For children, it can seem like the world is divided into two categories: appropriate (for you) and inappropriate (not for you). Children will even use the word "inappropriate" to describe transgressive behaviour.
Who among us hasn't heard a four year-old attempt to get the word out correctly when tattling on someone who has just called him a stupid-head: "Mommy, Suzy is being unappropriate."
Heaven forbid that parents should worry childish heads with terms like "right" and "wrong." I'm afraid I'm not so delicate, and do
holler , "It is wrong to call your brother names." They can sue me for the therapy bills later.
That's not to say that the word "inappropriate" doesn't have its uses. For example, there is nothing wrong with wearing an evening gown. However, most of us agree that, unless a person models for a couturier or works the undercover security beat at the Academy Awards, it is inappropriate attire for work.
What if the evening gown is on a little girl of, say, seven years old? Is that appropriate or inappropriate? Does it depend on the gown?
Many of us parents go with our guts on this one, and avoid attiring our daughters to look inappropriately older than their years, based on what we know about the basest impulses of human nature.
Nevertheless, many parents don't.
On the CNN website, writer L. Z. Granderson laments the fact.
After I read Granderson's article it occurred to me to google Shirley Temple.
I discovered that her mother had to design the black lace bra and panties worn by Shirley in the Baby Burlesk reel called "Polly Tix in Washington," such items not being readily available, because there was no Abercrombie and Fitch back then.
What's a parent to do when many other parents have capitulated to the whims of envelope-pushing, even misogynistic, fashion? Just say "No," of course.
But it is discouraging to me, as someone who has daughters, to realize that it is not universally accepted that children's sweatpants with the word "juicy" across the bottom are just wrong.
"Why is it wrong, mommy?" Do I launch into an explanation of the predilections of some registered sex offenders with my seven year-old? Of course not.
That would be inappropriate for a seven-year old to hear. So I use the weasel word on my daughter: "Sweetie, those are inappropriate."
And she gets that, because the world is divided into two categories.