Undressing


by Leah Peterson
© 2003 Leah Peterson
All Rights Reserved
Originally published on Writer’s Monthly

Words overheard in Target while waiting in line for popcorn at the food court:

15ish year old girl, clad in low-waist jeans and a red T-shirt short enough to leave about 6 inches of bare skin showing around her waist, to her mom, ‘Mom, do I look like that girl?’ The daughter is looking at another teen walking past that is wearing cargo pants and a tank top cut off at the waist. ‘Oh no honey.’ Her mother says, ‘You’re much bigger up front. And your top is just a bit shorter.’ And I can tell by the way she says it that it’s a good thing.

Who IS this mom? I was speechless. Which really means I giggled, which is what I do when I’m uncomfortable or in shock. It’s terrible. It’s a nervous habit. It happens at the worst times. And this was the worst thing I’d heard a mother say in quite awhile. It’s one thing to hear girls talking to their peers and hearing comments like that, but I expect more from the moms.

Once in the dressing room, I heard two girls in the next stall talking. The one girl asked her friend, ‘When I lift my arms this high, does my bra show?’ to which the other girl said, ‘Yes. A little.’ And the first girl said, ‘Ok. Good.’

I don’t know when clothes became more about style than covering the body, but I imagine it was about the same time that Adam and Eve’s kids got tired of wearing the same brown animal pelt. (Can I have one with stripes instead of plain? No fair, Mom! I want one with dots!) It’s a purely human thing. Animals don’t wear clothes. They get to be ‘naked’ for their entire lives. Unless they are humanized in a children’s story and then they are forced to be an elephant in a green suit for the rest of civilization. But I think this short shirt style has gone a little whacko.

Speaking of elephants in green suits, I’ve hung out in the Harley crowd before. I’ve seen men and women with tattoos all over there bodies. But I have never seen a proliferation of body art as I have lately. It’s like a walking art gallery downtown. And they are so young. It could be that clothes are designed now so that girls can show off their tats. Everyone has one, don’t they? Sixty years from now, there are going to be entire geriatric buildings where all the old ladies wearing mid-riff bearing clothes have wrinkled and faded body art and large, gaping and stretched out holes in fifteen places on their body. I suppose the men will, too. (Have you seen a size 0 piercing? You could fit an acorn through that hole.) No longer will National Geographic have to go to Africa to find strange and exotic photos. Which means the next generation will be plain skinned and un-holed if they want to rebel. And have shirts that cover their entire stomach and back and can tuck into their pants.

And let’s face it. Not everyone should be wearing these short shirts. The moms that let their daughters wear them more often than not are wearing them as well. If we have to put up with the half naked girls, can’t there be an age limit when you buy the clothes? Let’s make them show their I.D.’s. or have a sign at the counter, ‘If you were born before this date in the year 1975, you are too old to purchase these clothes.’ Let’s make it a fine-able offence. Let’s make them wish they had bought a whole, entire shirt with enough fabric to cover their mid sections.

Maybe there is a shortage of fabric in America. It makes a good explanation. Or I guess somewhere in Asia is where the shortage is coming from. Isn’t that where they actually make the fabrics? Maybe it’s an act of insolence or a snub. We could be the butt of a world-wide joke and we just don’t get it. They only send us enough fabric to make half the shirt.

Somewhere, there are some kids wasting their clothes and their parents are saying, ‘Don’t you dare! There are girls with only half a shirt in the US!’

Let’s hold a telethon. We could raise money for those girls missing fabric. The less fortunate. The sad girls in epidemic proportions that will be freezing their bellies and lower ribs as fall turns to winter. Please, have pity.

I guess Jerry Lewis wouldn’t want to do it. He’s kind of committed to the real illnesses. But perhaps we could get someone like those people on the TV shopping channels. They can sell anything to anyone. Sometimes I watch because I can’t believe that the way I remember it is really as bad as it is. I’m never disappointed. Shirla and Lonny are always coming up with intelligent things to say.

Shirla: Lonny. You aren’t going to believe our next product. (dead serious and looking into the camera)

Lonny: I really can’t believe it, Shirla. This is so much more important than the Indoor S’more maker we did last night. And that was a great product. (look of concern followed by a flash of startling white teeth)

Shirla: Oh, I know. It was. It is!

Lonny: (looks at Shirla and then back to the camera) Did you know you can train yourself to stop snoring? Just think about that for a minute. You can train yourself to stop snoring. (with major hand emphasis)

Shirla: Lonny, there are people out there right now. Listening. To us. And they need this product. They are suffering. (pause) And so are their families.

Lonny: (bobbing his head in agreement) You can wear this device on your wrist while you sleep.

Shirla: While you sleep! (practically yelling) There are two settings. (hold up three fingers then tucks one away) A normal setting that works for most people…

Wait. Can I stop you right there? Who doesn’t want to be in that first ‘normal’ group? Who’s going to say, ok, good! There’s a normal setting and then a setting for the abnormal like me! Quite a few, I guess. Shirla said they were almost sold out and the snores-stopper wouldn’t be back for months. Months!

There’s also a mirror with a ‘handy hook’ on it to hook around your neck. It makes putting on makeup easy. And you could do it in the car and leave the rearview mirror alone to be used the way it was meant to be used….for safety.

I think my absolutely favorite stupid product was the ‘pedometer that talks to you.’ It includes a talking alarm that encourages you to get up and start your day with a good walk or jog. Any voice early in the morning waking me up and encouraging me to exercise is going to get thrown against the wall. But if I exercised more, maybe I’d want to wear short shirts and show off my lower back tattoo. No. I like to save my money and buy a whole shirt all at once. Besides, I was born before 1975.

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