Scarier and scarier
I'm spending tonight in Salem, Massachusetts - the ur center of American Halloween.
I won't be with the thousands of costumed crazies - the twenty-somethings who flock to Salem each Halloween. I'll be at my sister's.
But since Trish and her family live near downtown, just around the corner from the Witch Museum, it will be hard to avoid the costumed crazies.
If past years are any predictor, a lot of the grown-up costumes will be Goth, monster, blood, and gore. With a bit of sexed up thrown in.
I'm more interested in seeing what the kiddies are wearing. Hundreds of them will be ringing Trish's bell: it's a Friday, nice weather is forecast, and this is, after all Salem. I'm sure it will be the usual assortment of princesses, witches, football players, super heroes, Harry Potters, pirates, kitty cats, scary monsters. Maybe not all that much has changed (other than the Harry Potters) since I was a kid.
But one thing has changed, and that's the sexed up nature of the commercially available costumes for little girls.
This came up today when I asked my friend George what his three little girls were going out as.
"Cheerleader, angel, and Minnie Mouse," he tod me. "But you should see what's out there. It's really disgusting."
A French maid costume!
What parent puts their little girl in a character straight out of a soft core porn fantasy?
And isn't Halloween about a kid's fantasy?
We want to be angels, princesses, gypsies, brides.
What little girl fantasizes about being a French maid?
Have at a google - there are plenty of these costumes on line - in sizes as small as 4. Feather duster, extra. The picture I've grabbed here is relatively benign - if you can get past the idea of a little girl in a French maid's costume.
There's an article about it on MSNBC, complete with video of all sorts of "innocent" costumes - cheerleader, witch, princess - with tight bodice, bare midriff, and full cleavage. The little girls pictured on the packaging are mostly in come-hither poses, straight out of the unfortunate (and ultimately tragic) Jon-Benet Ramsey playbook. (She's on my mind because I'm reading Joyce Carol Oates' excellent fictional imagining of that poor child's life, My Sister My Love.)
All part of the detritus left behind as our culture continues to over-sexualize everything - most disgustingly, our little girls.
What's wrong with any parent who'd let their daughter go out as a French maid?
My mother - a prude if there ever was one - had all kinds of clothing rules that she was more or less able to enforce with her daughters until we were in our late teens. Part of the enforcement "just happened": we wore uniforms to school. Another part was that clothing, for the most part, was just less sexy. Even the mini skirts weren't all that micro-mini quite yet. (At least when Kath and I were in high school, that was the case. A decade later, when Trish was in high school, things had loosened up a bit: bikini-bikinis - not two piece bathing suits, hot pants...)
My mother's rules (channeling, to some extent, my father's wishes) were you couldn't wear anything that was too short, too tight, too plunging, or - weirdly - black. (She didn't believe that anyone under the age of 40 wearing black.)
For the most part, by the time we started wearing things that were short, tight, plunging, and black, we were in college, when - let's face it - 99% of the time, I was wearing jeans and workshirts. If on a trip home, we appeared in something that she didn't like, my mother was free to make her opinion known. And we were free to ignore her. (In particular, I'm remembering a purple jersey dress I had that was pretty short that she really disapproved of.)
My sisters and I still use our shorthand on occasion, laughing about whether something is TS, TT, TP, or TB. (I tried on a walking skirt last summer that I instantly decided was TS. Maybe if I had tanned legs....)
Anyway, I think of my mother, and what she would be making of a French maid costume on a 4 year old.
Prude that she was, she probably wouldn't be making of it anything much different than I am.
Over on Opinionated last year, I had a Trick or Treat post that might be a fun read for you.