Good news! While my daughter takes her ballet class, I can now take a “strip-hop” class. I read the announcement at my daughter’s dance studio:
Unleash your inner seductress. Come join the fun!
Really? Gyrating and peeling off my clothes in front of other women…fun? “Let me be clear,” I told my husband, when he looked a little too keen on the idea, “the only way I’m unbuttoning my blouse for another woman is if she’s administering a mammogram. The sexiest thing I’ve got going is staying alive to help you raise these kids.”
Just when you think it can’t get worse than selling thongs to eight year olds, it does. What used to be a “skill set” for working at a “strip joint” — universally seen as a desperate place for desperate men and women– is now called an “exercise class” and held in studio B at Little Dancers. I guess it’s never too early to expose your daughter to pole dancing and to normalize it for her by doing it yourself.
Lest I sound strident, or puritanical, I’m neither. Though my address is not quite 90210, it’s close. I live just outside of Beverly Hills, in West Los Angeles. I can assure you that no one who leans toward puritanism purposely resides in L.A. It would be like moving to Seattle and hoping to not get wet. By L.A. standards, my family is pretty normal.
In part because of the weather, and in part because of the entertainment industry, Los Angeles supports a body-conscious, even provocative, culture. And too often, the line between what is acceptable for adults and what is acceptable for children is blurred. In this case, a “strip-hop” class—even in L.A.—ought not to be offered or advertised at a children’s dance studio.
And yet, a culture of false modesty isn’t the answer either. Some years ago, I knew a family who forbade their daughters to wear jeans…ever. They claimed it was immodest. The girls, who loved and respected their parents, acquiesced. Some years later, however, the parents’ dictum had unforeseen consequences. The girls went away to college, met other very conservative, very faith-filled young women and discovered that everyone else wore jeans. As simple as it might seem, this lead to questioning much else of what their parents had taught them. They suffered a crisis of faith because of an incomplete understanding of modesty.
We have to be careful. Clothes and image are extremely important to teenagers. We must be sensitive to their biological and psychological need to be pretty and to fit in. We must draw a line, of course, but we must draw it thoughtfully. Our Catholic faith enjoins us to be free in the spirit of God. There is no prescriptive dress code to follow. Rather, we are called to follow a properly developed conscience, and if that fails, to fall back on common sense—which would seem to dictate against G-strings for eight year olds and pole dancing for mothers.
Finally, if a religious upbringing, a well-developed conscience, and common sense all fail, there exists one last defense against total moral abdication—vanity. To that end, let me just say that I’ve seen myself naked and I’d rather die than take a strip-hop class. You can call it morality. You can call it modesty. You can call it meekness. If the choice is between a pole or my pride, I’m gonna cling to what’s left of my pride. Thanks anyway.