Yesterday I was at the grocery store with my two toddlers. Before us walked a young lady in brightly bolored volleyball shorts, which is to say, underwear people call pants. My three-year-old son gaped at her and said, entirely innocently, "Mom! Why isn't that girl wearing any pants?"
I fumbled about trying to think of a thing to say that would be true but not close off future conversations on the subject. I came up with, "Because her mother did not teach her to wear pants." My son accepted this but was still quite confused as to why anyone would walk around in public with no pants. (And this little boy is no prude—for one, he whips down his pants in the front yard when he needs to urinate. We stopped that one, though.)
Usually when we see a young lady wearing really scandalous clothing, her mother is not too far behind, and the mother's dress makes it obvious that neither of them has any clothing propriety. In this case, the mother looked normal. But I know that mothers nowadays have lost the ethos and habit of training their children in what is right and wrong, in dress and in everything else. This is probably both because it's a lot of work to enforce morality on young barbarians, and because nowadays people falsely believe that there is no right and wrong—in appearance, or anything else. As a consequence, people really never become true adults.
I mean that true adulthood is having a sense of self-command, and maturity requires both understanding what is good and having the self-control and purpose to pursue it. So many people who are biological adults are not mental or ethical adults, and as a consequence they stunt their children's moral growth, too.
I'm going to venture here that a hallmark of adulthood is a shift from seeing yourself as the center of the world to acknowledging a higher authority, a center outside yourself. It's well-known that small people are all born narcissists, and juvenile behavior perpetuates the infant conceit that everyone and everything else exists at your pleasure.
What does this philosophic-sounding blather have to do with young ladies that wear inappropriate clothing? For one, young ladies wear such clothing to direct attention to themselves, and not their person, character, or even beauty, but their bodies. Is it right to demand that people look at the sensual parts of your body in a grocery store? That's a moral question as well as a prudential question, and to both I answer, "No." Clothing like that indicates a lack of respect for self and others. The young lady disrespects her person by giving personal bits of herself to any onlooker, and disrespects others by pushing our thoughts not to who she is but what she looks like. Some people, like me, call that superficial. It's also immature. And the function of parents is to help their children shed such immaturity.
Image by Parker Knight.