Yesterday Evie, Evie’s Auntie and I visited a store at the mall called Forever 21.  If you’re not familiar, Forever 21 is a store that features clothing aimed mainly at high school girls.  The prices are cheap, and the clothes are of the sort seen covering those misguided souls standing in line for the recent Twilight premiere.  Okay, okay.  So I’ve bought several pieces of jewelry there while under the influence of the pounding house music and sparkly flooring.  Also, you can buy, like, 10 t-shirts at Forever 21 for twenty bucks.  I had to do this, however, while navigating around sullen teenagers wearing oversized blouses with ripped necklines, suede jeggings, approximately 421 bracelets on each arm and half a stick of blackest black eyeliner on each eye.  It’s not really a place I visit often.

But there we were.  While we waited in line for Auntie to buy a t-shirt for fifty cents, I saw one of said teenagers come out of a dressing room.  She was a beautiful girl — tall, with long brown hair, heart-shaped face and long, tanned legs.  What she was wearing, however, shocked me.  It was a green, off the shoulder tube dress, cut low in the bust and high on the legs.  It hardly covered anything.  She had also slipped on a pair of platform shoes with three-inch heels and covered in rhinestones.  I couldn’t help staring at her.  She walked to the three-way mirror, tossed her hair and spun around to look at herself from the back.  As she faced forward again to take herself in, so did I.  She looked like a hooker.  A high-class hooker, but a hooker nonetheless.

And who was there with her?  Who smiled at her and said she looked “fantastic”?  Her mother.

I wanted to grab this woman by the shoulders and shake her.  How could she approve of this?  Why didn’t she throw her jacket over her daughter, swiftly usher her back into the dressing room and demand her daughter immediately remove everything she had on?  How could this mother not only let her daughter dress like a prostitute but also buy the dress and shoes for her?  What the friggedy-frack was she teaching her daughter?

When a sixteen-year-old girl puts on a dress like this girl had on, she does not fully understand the message she’s sending.  She thinks she does, but she does not.  In fact, a sixteen-year-old girl is only beginning to understand her body, her sexuality and how and how not to express it in ways that develop her self-respect, character and dignity.  And whose job is it to teach her these things?  Her mother’s.  To me, one of a mother’s biggest responsibilities is to guide her daughter through adolescence.  The things her mother teaches her during this time will affect how a daughter interacts with the opposite sex for the rest of her life.  Her mother can teach her that her body is special, the only thing she truly owns.  That the way she presents her body to others says a lot about how she feels about herself and how she’ll allow herself to be treated.  A mother can also tell her daughter that her brain, personality and spirit are infinitely more valuable than her boobs and butt, and that a guy must get to know one very well before he’ll be allowed to get to  know the other.

Or, a mother can buy her daughter a hooker dress.

Look, I know.  Your body will never look again like it did at sixteen.  Who wants to wear full-length denim skirts and turtlenecks with cat pictures on them?  Young girls want to feel young, and they want to wear fun, young clothes.  But are the choices available to young girls only prude or hooker?  Isn’t there some middle ground?  Isn’t it a mother’s responsibility to help her daughter find that middle ground? 

I also know that the media plays a big part in this.  Teenagers want to emulate celebrities, and celebrities aren’t exactly bastions of dignity and discretion.  Clothing designers are at fault, too.  Judging by what’s available at Forever 21, all young girls should look like hookers.  But they don’t.  I do see teenagers dressed appropriately in clothing I would approve for my own daughter were she sixteen.  Where are they shopping?  

There is another sad part of my Forever 21 tale.  The mother also had a teenaged son.  What was he learning as he watched his pseudo-stripper sister preen in front that mirror?