The Courage to Cover Up

2015-10-10 20:16

I am worried. Without having realized it, the global recession seems to have snuck up on us and has hit us very badly. My Facebook newsfeed has confirmed my worst fears. It’s matric dance week all around South Africa and so many of us don’t seem to have enough money to buy full dresses for our girls. It seems that most families only have enough money to purchase fabric to cover the most essential bits, and even then, it’s only just.

Parents stand next to their daughters looking brave, but I can only imagine what they are thinking. Their super bleached white teeth smiles and recently touched up Botox mask the shame they feel having not saved enough to clothe their offspring. They support their daughters who teeter on their Chistian Louboutin heels, no doubt pilfered from mom’s “Too excruciating to wear” section of her colour coded closet, and they look proud. But deep down they wish that they had paid for just a little bit more of that imported chiffon.

Either that or there is a shortage of textile in the country.

Many of the dresses have cut out pieces so large that a fair number of bottles of self-tan might be required to cover up the nakedness. Extra waxes are needed because, well, it just is, and because apparently no one lasers that region. At least not yet. I am told that the fabric crises has spurned an infantry of waxing experts who specialise in different nether regions, each more eye watering than the next. And as one might consult an orthopedic specialist for ones gammy knee, one needs to not consult him for one’s asthma. So one needs to be quite certain who one asks to wax what. If you know what I mean.

So desperate is that need to draw attention away from the dress that eye brow ladies are requires to pluck and shape, hairdressers to highlight and to curl and nail spas to apply the “Gelish” to all 20 nails and in the stunningly perfect shade of perfect.

And the result, although beautiful and flawless, is just a little sad. Because along with this preparation, fixation and focus is the clear message that childhood is now over. Gone is the little girl. From child to siren, from girl to woman all with the donning of the half-dress and the spraying of the full tan. And the message that a woman needs to be without blemish is underscored along with the communiqué, that the more skin that is revealed the more the admiration. And that is more than a little tragic.

I matriculated in 1986. And it wasn’t pretty. I recently paged through my photo album and was horrified as to the ugliness of the decade. Massive shoulder pads were dwarfed by even more massive hair. “Perms” were all the rage along with very blue eye shadow that would now be regarded as war paint. Dresses were satin and so shiny that it is little wonder that an entire generation of migraine sufferers were born that year. Facebook and Instagram did’t exist but even without counting the likes, we knew that no one looked like a supermodel. Which meant that no one even tried.

I worry about the girls who would prefer to not show so much skin. Because although at one stage it might have taken courage to go bare, today it is just the opposite. The courage required to be clothed is not something that everyone might have, and although I am not an educator, I would hope that schools, in their effort to educate, teach this life skill along with some of our 11 national languages. Because if we don’t give our girls the message that they don’t need to conform, then we would have neglected to teach one of the more important life’s lessons.

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