Toward Fairer School Dress Codes

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Toward Fairer School Dress Codes

School Dress Codes: What do you think?

Lots of people are getting mad about school dress codes, especially the ones that seem primarily aimed at female students. From kindergartners being humiliated for wearing sundresses, to high school honor students being sent home for wearing long baggy shirts over leggings, there’s been a steady and increasing practice of singling out women for what they wear and how they look.

Schools say they’re just trying to maintain a “distraction-free” learning environment. They want students to be dressed “appropriately” as is befitting a serious education institution.

Ahhh…distraction free and appropriate. Well, that makes it all okay, then! We certainly don’t want to be inappropriate or distract anyone from learning. And bare shoulders on a five year old could certainly be distracting–not sure for whom, or if those people should be allowed to work with children, but you know, we’ll just go with it.

However, the current school dress codes only address the problem of straight male students and teachers being distracted by female students. I mean, yes, of course lesbians could also be distracted, but apparently no school believes they have lesbian students to worry about.

What about the straight women and gay men, or bi- and pan-sexual students and faculty? We deserve to be protected from distractions and being driven to lust by the male form as well.

So in an effort to help make school dress codes more fair for everyone, here are my suggestions for how we can keep young men from distracting others in the classroom:

School Dress Codes for Boys:

  • Shirts that reveal or emphasize muscle definition are not appropriate for a classroom learning environment and could distract female students and teachers. Shirts that are deemed too revealing, especially across the shoulders or pectorals must be covered by a sweatshirt or jacket. Students without a sweatshirt or jacket will either be sent home or be provided with an orange plastic rain poncho to wear for the remainder of the school day.
  • All shirts must have sleeves that extend to no more than two finger-widths above the elbow and must not cling to or reveal the bicep muscles. “Muscle” shirts are strictly forbidden. School administrators will pin pink sleeve extensions to any male shirt deemed too short.
  • Button-down shirts must be buttoned all the way to the top collar button. Leaving the top button open to reveal the throat and any part of the clavicle is unacceptable.
  • Trousers and jeans must not cling to the curve of the buttocks. All pants must be of sufficient looseness so that the shape and size of the buttocks is not discernible as the student walks. Tie-on ruffled bustles in school colors will be provided to any male whose pants are deemed too tight across the posterior.
  • Trousers, jeans, and pants must not show or emphasize bulges in the groin area. Students with visible groin bulges will be sent home to change or required to wear a loose fitting floral skirt provided by the school.
  • Hair must not be thick or wavy. Male students with such hair shall be required to keep it cut to 1/4″ or shorter so as to avoid distracting other students.
  • Eyelashes must not extend more than 7 mm in length. Eyelashes longer than 7 mm must be trimmed to an appropriate length or covered by sunglasses.
  • Sunglasses must not be worn inside the school. Not only is this for safety reasons, but also to prevent others from being distracted.
  • Facial hair must be worn as a full beard with mustache or as handlebar mustache with long chin puff. Clean-shaven, stubble, chin-straps, and other well-maintained facial hair styles are inappropriate as they may distract students and detract from the learning environment.
  • Male students with long fingers will be required to wear mittens at all times so as to avoid distracting other students with speculation of how finger length corresponds to groin bulge length.

Implementing these sensible school dress codes will teach young men to have self-respect as well as contributing to a serious school environment focused on learning and promoting professional behavior.

Scroll through some visual examples here:

man in t-shirt
How dare this man flaunt his fine pecs and shoulders like this? Plus, those sleeves are definitely too short. He should be looking down–in shame. 😉
Hint of throat and too fitted across the chest. Button up and buy a bigger size, sir! Plus, see above about that neatly-kept facial hair. Tsk, tsk.
Bulge alert! Give this guy a floral skirt, please–for the good of the children! (And the drill he’s holding isn’t Freudian at all…nope…)
Stick a bustle on this butt, STAT!
Terrible shame to make him cut such gorgeous curls, but we must NOT subject students to this kind of visual distraction in the classroom. So…snip-snip!
Indecently long lashes! Have some self-respect, dude! Think of what you’re doing to your fellow students, parading those things around in public! Geez… *fans self*
Couple issues here–first the shades. Second, the slight scruff. Way too cool for school, buddy.
So remember, guys, when you’re deciding what to wear to school…um…I forgot what I was saying…too distracted…

Let’s hear it for fair school dress codes for all!


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Hot Boys in YA Fiction: Just Fun or Unfair?

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Hot Boys in YA Fiction: Just Fun or Unfair?

YA Fiction: All the Boys are HOT

In the Guardian today is this interesting article: Is teen romantic fiction bad for boys? | Childrens books |

Boy with glassesThe gorgeous guys of young adult romantic fiction do a disservice to real life teen boys, with their acne and braces, says blogger Millie Woodrow-Hill

I have to admit–I can see the author’s point. YA fiction is full of hot boys, bad boys, impossibly-mature-for-their-age boys. Girls love it (and what’s not to love?), but it does send the message to boys that hotness is to be found in one’s muscles, dreamy eyes, low voice, beautiful face, and rebel devil-may-care attitude. Is this unfair or damaging to boys who don’t fit the criteria?

Boy with red hairMaybe. And maybe it’s damaging to girls, too, who could possibly overlook wonderful, but not hot boys who haven’t filled out yet, or who have bad skin and high voices.

On the other hand, Ms. Woodrow-Hill should remember that every time we are in the point of view of a book character, that person is an “unreliable narrator.” We only see the story from their perspective–and so we are fenced in by their biases, their personal tastes, their thoughts, their interests, and their desires.

And when it comes to romance, finding the other person incredibly attractive is kind of key, right? I mean, it wouldn’t be a romance if the heroine thought, “Gee, this guy is nice, but butt-ugly and I can’t imagine ever wanting to kiss him.” Maybe she might start out feeling that way, but there’s going to be something about the boy that makes her change her mind. Otherwise, we might have an amazing story, but it’s not going to be a romance. The literary genre “romance” always includes physical attraction in addition to the growth of a romantic relationship.

Boy with capSo of course our unreliable (i.e. biased) heroine is going to find her hero attractive. And in YA fiction, those feelings are always heightened, as they tend to be for teens and young adults. So the boy is not just “attractive,” he is insanely hot–to that particular character. 

Could we write more stories where the heroine finds a conventionally-unattractive boy hot? Probably. Would readers accept it? I don’t know.

But there’s another element to this–the imagination of the reader. When the heroine says “this boy is hot” the reader creates an image in their own minds of what that means. It may be influenced somewhat by the description in the book, but I guarantee that the reader’s own mental picture is going to outweigh even the book description. The reader is going to create that character into what the reader finds hot, and that will be quite different for each reader.

Boy 4So there’s a lot going on here–experiencing a story is a joint effort between the author and the reader. And I will be the first to admit that as authors, we need to try to bring more diversity into YA fiction. It’s not just not-so-hot boys being left out of our stories. What about gay teens, or disabled characters, or main characters that aren’t Caucasian? The people we present as interesting story characters are very limited, and I do think we can and should do better on this.

I do disagree with the author of the article when she suggests that YA fiction heroines are generally “awkward,” “clumsy,” or “out-of-place.” YA fiction heroines tend to fit conventional ideas of beauty and they always discover that they have amazing skills or talents they never dreamed of.

What Ms. Woodrow-Hill is forgetting is that concept of the “unreliable narrator” again. The heroine of YA fiction may see herself as clumsy or awkward or unattractive. But that usually turns out to be a matter of her own warped self-image and not actually the unbiased truth about her.

Boy kissing girlAnd I think that’s the point of a lot of YA fiction and why it is so popular with girls. Being a teenager (of any gender) is hell on the self-image. The appeal of these books is not so much the hot boys, though hot boys are fun. It’s the idea that no matter how insecure and doubtful I feel about myself, something is going to happen to prove me wrong, something that will show me that I am desirable, that I have potential, that I am so much more than I thought I could ever be.

I highly doubt that YA romance is causing vast numbers of young girls to expect fantasy hot boys instead of real-life flawed boys. Girls already do that, with or without books, just as boys do. We are all shaped by our culture’s definitions of beauty and attractiveness. Those expectations leave scars on our self-image, no matter what gender we are.

People have expressed the same fear about adult romance warping women’s views of men. But the vast majority of women are perfectly able to separate fantasy and reality, and that goes for young women as well.

I think a more important question to ask is whether our emphasis on hot boys is showing that women still have a tendency to measure their own value by the cultural value of the man they are with. If the point of most YA fiction is the heroine discovering her own true value and self-worth, are we saying that happens because a hot boy falls for her? Would she still have incredible value and importance if the boy who loves her was unattractive?

Or maybe we’re just overanalyzing all this. Maybe it’s as simple as this: teen girls have strong sex drives and vivid sexual fantasies, just like boys do. They are fully as capable of objectifying boys’ bodies as boys are of girls’ bodies. And while part of growing up and becoming mature is the ability to love and appreciate another person in spite of their imperfections, the fun of a good novel is the chance to indulge in a wildly unattainable fantasy.

Boy sitting




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Losing Myself In You

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Losing Myself In You

He was actually a good guy. We’d been friends for years. We had dated in high school but it turned out a bit like a reverse Jane Austen’s Persuasion, where he was the one who rejected me at the advice of his mother who thought he could do better.

He regretted it later, after I’d moved on, but we renewed a friendship that in many ways meant more to me than our high school romance ever could. In college, he was there for me, albeit long distance, when my first serious relationship fell apart after three years.

We talked on the phone for hours, and he could make me laugh even when I was down. He wrote me letters (real letters!) and he thought my dreams of becoming a writer were something to celebrate and encourage.

We went together my final year of college to a dance that was sort of the college equivalent to prom. That night, on the porch of my parents’ house, he whispered the question I’d longed to hear in high school and thought I never would:

Can I kiss you?

This second romance seemed so much deeper and more mature than our first try as high schoolers, and I suppose in many ways it was. We were heading into our careers, we were looking seriously at whether or not we might have a future together.

He was my Gilbert Blythe, come to life–the childhood friend I grew to love. That friendship meant so much to me. He was really the first, and only, close male friend I’d had growing up. His return into my life had been an unexpected gift, and I cherished it.

Fading Rose 2But he made it very clear that if we messed up this second chance, I would lose him forever this time. He didn’t think our friendship could survive another break-up. I agreed–because it all seemed so romantic at the moment, and anyway, I wasn’t brave enough to tell him “I don’t like that.”

So I became careful. Very sensitive to everything he said. And it wasn’t until later that I realized I started losing pieces of myself, trying to make sure I became what I thought he wanted, so I would never lose him.

He didn’t like me calling him too much, so I tried not to bother him. I didn’t talk to him too much about the things I was thinking about and interested in because he was always rushed for time and I didn’t want him to think I was clingy.

He studied hard and was in college to become a physician’s assistant. His classes and even his other friends were off limits to me because he needed his “space,” and I always accommodated that without telling him that it made me feel second-rate and unimportant.

Despite that first kiss, he didn’t seem to like too much affection. When I tried to cuddle, he asked if I was “starved for affection.” So I pulled away, even though my nature is to touch and hold.

I worried about my weight, even though I didn’t need to, because he had made offhand comments about never wanting a fat wife. Since we had agreed we were no longer dating “just for fun” but with marriage in mind, I feared becoming what he scorned.

I never told him I thought some of his jokes about other people were rude. Or that I needed to know he loved me. I hid a lot of what I really thought and didn’t say what I wanted because I didn’t trust that my truest self would be safe with him.

Fading Rose 3I avoided any kind of conflict because I wasn’t convinced we could make it through a fight.  He carried grudges, and I knew forgiveness was not his strength. I had heard his biting disdain for other people who had disappointed or disagreed with him. I always feared he would leave. Or worse, that he would stay, but never really forget.

In a burst of poetic justice, I was the one who left. I went away for a summer, and found a man who loved me the way I was, who would go without sleep just to stay up all night talking to me, who couldn’t keep his hands and lips off me, and who didn’t mind if the whole world knew how he felt about me. He let me into his world, expanding and adjusting it so that I fit, instead of expecting me to change.

A man who, when it was time to part, said he’d rather I be happy even if it meant saying goodbye to me forever.

I didn’t know I’d lost myself until that summer. This summer fling, which is never supposed to work out, showed me that it is possible to fall deeply in love, but still keep my own identity. It’s possible to be friends and lovers without fearing conflict. I don’t have to change when I’m with someone who accepts me and loves me the way I am.

Over those brief, heated weeks, I put myself back together piece by piece, rediscovering who I am and realizing what I had given up. When I came home, back to the one I’d thought was my Gilbert, I finally saw in full how colorless and shallow our relationship really was because there was no lasting trust or unconditional love.

Fading Rose 4How deep is a friendship really if it’s built on a mutual understanding that there will be no more second chances? How can a love survive if it revolves only around one person’s schedules and whims and desires?

I left him. He was angry, of course. Truth is, I was not the only one damaged by our relationship. I hurt him, even though I never intended to. I had hurt him, even before I had fallen in love with someone else, by pretending to be someone I wasn’t. He thought he was getting the woman he’d always wanted, and when she turned out not to be real, he felt betrayed. Love and deception cannot co-exist. Psyche and Cupid taught us that thousands of years ago.

He was not a bad man. He had many moments of kindness, and we did have a lot of good times. But he needed to grow up in many ways, and so did I. No matter how I sentimentalized our childhood friendship, he wasn’t my Gilbert after all. And I could never be his Anne.

I should never have tried–everyone, including me, is much happier when I am simply myself.

How do you date someone without losing your own identity? This article from offers some good starting points: He Loves Me, I Love Me Not: How to Date Without Losing Yourself : EcoSalon | Conscious Culture and Fashion.

Fading Rose 5

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Home from College For The First Time

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Home from College For The First Time

Home For the Holidays: Going Home from College for the First Time

I pulled into the driveway, a thin layer of snow crunching under the tires. Christmas lights, just visible in the quickly-dimming twilight outlined the windows of the house I’d grown up in.

I was home from college for the first time. Sure, I’d been back a few weekends, and over Thanksgiving, but it had only been for a few days here and there, and we’d been busy. Now, it would be the better part of a month, and I was looking forward to sleeping in my own room, seeing my family, spending time with friends I hadn’t seen since the summer.

My parents were happy to see me, but I noticed as I loaded in my stuff that it felt…different. Nothing major, just a few things rearranged in the living room. And my mother’s sewing machine and project table had taken up residence in my room. It was a very large room, so it wasn’t a problem, but it was different.

I wasn’t a social butterfly, but I did already have plans with some friends from high school. After dinner, I got my coat on and breezily told my parents, “I’m going out–see you later.”

My mom was like, “Hey, not so fast. Where are you going?”

“Um…I don’t know. I’m meeting some people at the mall and then we’ll decide from there.”

My mom stared at me, a frown beginning to crease her mouth. “You can’t just take off without us knowing where you’ll be.” (I admit this was before everyone had cell phones.)

“Well, we don’t KNOW where we’ll be, so I can’t tell you.” I was confused–had she known where I was going to be while I was at school? No she did not. So why was it a big deal now?

“How late will you be out?”

“I don’t know that either.”

Now she really did look upset. “You can’t just come and go as you please. We need to know where you are, who you’re with, and you need to be home by a certain time.”

Them’s fighting words for a college freshman. “I’m not in high school anymore, mom. I don’t need to tell you my every move. I’ll be home when I get home.”

I’ll save you the tedious fight that ensued. Suffice to say that We. Had. Words. It definitely dampened the mood of my visit.

I didn’t realize going home from college for the first time would be so difficult. I thought everything would be the same as it was, except that I’d have the same level of freedom I had acquired that semester at college.

My parents thought everything would be the same as it was, too. We had totally different expectations for my visit.

Going home from college for the first time can be stressful–for everyone.

What I Wish I Had Known When I Went Home From College For the First Time

If someone had told me a few of these things below, I probably could have avoided the ugly argument with my mom.

1) You might be home, but in a very real way, you’re now a guest there. 

This is something that I don’t think parents or college students really think about. But it’s true. The time of you zipping home from high school, grabbing a snack, and rushing off to play rehearsal or basketball practice is over. This isn’t your full-time home any more. Your room might belong to someone else now, and your family’s daily routine has definitely changed while you’ve been away. They’ve moved on, just like you have. And while that’s a little painful, it’s also good. It’s as it should be.

It doesn’t mean you’re not welcome. You are a deeply welcomed, special guest. But…a guest, all the same.

That has lots of implications for both you and your parents. First, let’s talk about you. If you were visiting your college roommate’s family for the first time, how would you behave? Hopefully, you’d be on your best behavior–picking up after yourself, polite, considerate. You would probably at least let your hosts know your general schedule, and whether or not to expect you for meals. You’d hopefully find out from them what their preferences are for guests coming in late at night, and you’d try to do things like help out with dishes or meal prep. (Please tell me you’d do these things!)

Okay, so apply that same set of considerate-guest behaviors to your parents’ house. Ask before you raid the fridge. Find out if it’s a convenient time for you to use the washing machine. Don’t leave your stuff strewn all over. Communicate about your schedule with your parents–at least in enough detail so that they know whether to expect you or not for meals or other activities. Hang up your wet towels after a shower.

Double check about schedules and routines because they’ve probably changed the past few months. Don’t assume everything is exactly the way it used to be. Communicate. Ask.

In other words, be POLITE.

2) Be an adult about the curfew issue. 

As far as the curfew issue goes, be proactive and bring it up first. Find out what your parents prefer (you bringing it up and asking their preference also communicates that you’re dealing with this as an adult instead of as a kid.) Let them know you don’t expect them to wait up, but that you don’t want to disturb them either.

Try to have some idea of what nights you might be wanting to stay out, and then you can (hopefully) find a time to be home that will be acceptable to you and your parents. Show them consideration and try to be flexible. It’s only for a few weeks.

By the same token, you being a guest means that your parents really should not dictate to you a curfew (when was the last time they put a curfew on any of their other houseguests, huh?) You are, after all, legally an adult, and you’ve been pretty much on your own for the last few months. If you broach the subject carefully and respectfully, it’s reasonable to ask to be given some consideration as an adult.

But if you act like one, it will certainly help.

3) Make your family feel like a priority. 

It’s tempting when you get home from college for the first time to fill up your time visiting friends, going to holiday parties, and catching up on all the stuff you’ve missed while you’ve been gone. You probably want to sleep in late, and after surviving finals, you probably just want to veg a bit too.

All these things are great, but don’t take your family for granted. Even though they’ve adjusted to you being gone, that doesn’t mean that they haven’t missed you. Chances are, they’ve been looking forward for weeks to having you home again.

If you are always running off to some event or to meet up with friends, that may really disappoint your parents, who were hoping to spend time with you, too. If you have younger siblings, they have probably missed you as well and would love to spend time hanging out with their cool college sibling.

Friends are important, but they can’t replace family. Not entirely. You’ve got the chance to build really great memories and experiences with your family. Don’t waste it.

You know, I don’t even remember which friends I was off to meet that night. I don’t really remember what we did or anything. It must have been pretty inconsequential.

What I do remember is that fight with my mom. I used to get so upset at her for wanting me to call and let her know I got home safely, for worrying about me, for all those things that make teens and young adults so mad.

My mom isn’t alive anymore. I miss her every day. Those memories of her–good and bad–are precious to me. I would give anything to have her still here, worrying about whether I got home safely or not. It meant she loved me.

Not trying to get too emotional here, but I do hope you get the point: this time with your family is special. It’s never going to come again. You don’t want to let it slip through your fingers or be littered with conflict.

So when you go home from college for the first time this December, hug your parent(s) and your siblings (if you have them) a little tighter. Be an adult and be a good guest. Make this holiday something you’ll look back on with joy–not regret.

May your holidays be beautiful and memorable! 

Christmas Village 2

The photos on this page are of my mother’s lighted Christmas Village collection. It was a tradition she started after I went off to college. It also became tradition for me to help set it up and decorate it when I came home to visit over the holidays. Special memories!


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I Heart Mary Lambert's "I Know Girls"

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I Heart Mary Lambert's "I Know Girls"

This is Mary Lambert–you know, the beautiful voice of the chorus in Macklemore’s “Same Love”? She’s a writer and performs spoken word and poetry. Below is a video of her poem “I Know Girls.” It is heartbreaking and profound and makes me want to give all the girls in the world a big hug.

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Teens Help Each Other Spot Dating Violence

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Teens Help Each Other Spot Dating Violence

Am I alone in being horrified by the slew of stories in the last year about teens being killed, assaulted, or committing suicide because of violent dating relationships? I didn’t think so. Every new story about dating violence breaks my heart.

It won’t be the first time I say this, I’m sure:  No one deserves to be hurt, abused, or assaulted by a romantic partner. NO. ONE. Doesn’t matter your gender, sexual orientation, race, or age. You deserve to be treated like the priceless treasure you are.

If your boyfriend or girlfriend is trying to control you, or seems suspicious of everything you do, or if they are threatening you, trying to cut you off from other friends, pressuring you into doing things you don’t want to do (sexual or otherwise), and especially if they’re hurting you–with words, physically, emotionally, or sexually–GET OUT. This is called dating violence, my friends. Don’t wait. Don’t think you can change them. Don’t be so in love with having a relationship that you put your own dignity, freedom, health and safety at risk.

There will be other, better relationships. I know it may not seem that way right now. It may seem like you’ll be single forever if you give up this person. But trust me–there are good people out there waiting to meet you. And even if you are single for awhile (even a long while), it’s better than being in a damaging, abusive relationship.

That said (and I promise I’ll say it again), there are some teens who are doing fantastic, creative things to get the word out on dating violence, dating safety, and how to spot trouble before it starts. I think these teens are doing really important work, and I wanted you to know about them.

Things you can do: know the facts about teen dating violence, find a way to get involved in making changes, and know where to turn for help. is a great resource.

Stay safe, Wildchilds, and make a positive difference!

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