Friday, March 29, 2019

When Moms Attack

Somebody's Mom wrote this open letter to the women at Notre Dame about their attire. There was the inevitable backlash in the form of a student protest wherein the women on campus wore the offending item and it garnered international media attention. I saw all of this and decided to write about the matter because I feel the need to take a definitive stand on an issue that has bothered me for quite some time. So here goes:
Leggings are not pants.

But (and of course, that is the issue...butts on display), leggings are increasingly worn as such, so whether I declare them to be pants or not, I'm guessing no one cares what I or that good Catholic Mom of four sons thinks.

And that could be the end of the entire matter, because in the past when I first made that statement and even went so far as to declare my love for the older lady derivative of leggings (yoga pants, which essentially are leggings that flare below the knees), people were only just beginning to bring leggings back from the 90s. People were also wearing pajamas in public and basketball jerseys as dresses. Who knew?

I certainly didn't know that I would get pregnant in a few years and would need to wear leggings and/or maternity jeans practically everyday. I also did not foresee how afterwards, my wardrobe would lean heavily in the athleisure direction because of its versatility. Workout clothes are preferable to bulky sweats and are easier to clean (trust me on that point). And once one realizes that baby vomit and poop are going to become central to one's life for the next few years, then one reconsiders past declarations about clothing that one finds herself living and sleeping in on a daily basis.

This past Christmas, I wandered into a store at my local mall called Its All Leggings. I looked around at the offerings and considered whether I wanted to own a pair of leggings with a reindeer pattern or with "ho ho ho" written along the side. The time I spent in that store was brief because that imaginary head pop that I have been getting from my mother lately came at me, so I ducked and bolted out of there. A few days later I was in DSW trying on a pair of Uggs, but that time, my mother's imaginary hand smacked me back into reality.

My mother, who because of her illness now lives in athleisure (because it is versatile and comfortable and easy to clean) would NEVER, EVER have been seen in leggings or Ugg boots in public. This was a woman who rarely wore sneakers, so it is no surprise that her opinions on appropriate public attire have physically haunted me. I've written about that before too, which is why I clearly heard her voice telling me to back away from the tacky leggings and to put those ugly furry boots back in the box. 'That is NOT how I raised you!'

'But Ma', I countered, 'leggings are so comfortable and these boots are so warm, and in the winter when I need to take the Kid to school, it would be so much easier in the mornings.' But her voice was unrelenting. 'You heard me. Walk away!'

I share that not to offer an opinion on the pairing of patterned leggings and Uggs, but to point out that mothers can be vicious.

In all seriousness, I refuse to cosign with the Notre Dame mom for the same reason why I refuse to believe that men cannot take responsibility for their own behavior. As the mother of a daughter whose entire wardrobe consists of leggings (because that is what every store sells for young girls), I expect that her attitude will be much different than mine. For her, leggings are pants, which is why we fight on those mornings when she would rather wear a dress. Yet for the sake of modesty, her school requires that she wears leggings or shorts underneath her dresses. (Ironic, right?)

Now I heeded the voice of my mother for a different reason: leggings paired with Uggs denote a certain fashion that despite the obvious comfort and convenience, is not a look that I need to adopt at this stage of my life. That is not a criticism, just an acknowledgment that the Notre Dame Mom, in her sideways attempt at preaching women's empowerment, is correct in suggesting that how we choose to dress communicates certain messages.

However, leggings worn by college students on campus (and the Basilica is located on the campus of Catholic University), are not assertions of sexuality. Nor are the leggings worn by half-awake moms during school drop off. Nor are the leggings worn by women on jogging trails, at spin class, or in Zumba. Nor are the leggings I've worn to sit outside of my daughter's dance class. Because of the ubiquity of athleisure generally, I would argue that leggings worn in most daily settings are the absolute opposite of sexy. They are basic...

Thus, to all of the Catholic mothers and anyone else who feels assaulted by the sight of young women dressed in leggings, here is some advice from my Baptist mother: 'Walk away.'

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