Rosenblum: Let's not shoot from the hip on leggings issue

  • Article by: GAIL ROSENBLUM , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 14, 2012 - 10:38 PM
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An example of leggings.

Photo: Elizabeth Flores, Star Tribune

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I think we can agree that there isn't a gift-card value high enough to thank those selfless, energetic, patient public servants who spend eight hours a day with our teenage children.

Now, about leggings.

I feel for David Adney. He's the Minnetonka High School principal who sent an e-mail to parents Monday urging them to talk with their daughters about wearing skin-tight pants that expose their rear ends.

Such attire, he wrote, can be "highly distracting for other students."

Adney didn't ban the leggings. He just urged kids to think while getting dressed for school.

His plea is hardly new. Kids have been pushing the limits since some wild thing in my junior high school got her ears double-pierced.

Some among us can remember when girls had to wear skirts no more than a specific number of inches above their knee, and it wasn't much.

That concept seems quaint compared to uproars of late: girls' exposed bellies and bra straps, boys' jeans belted perilously around their thighs, providing a handy case study in the marvels of gravity.

Adney noted, importantly, that this isn't about letting boys get away with anything girls can't. Minnetonka cracked down last year on boys wearing muscle shirts. In Richfield, boys are banned from wearing baseball caps.

Schools are legally allowed, in fact, to restrict certain types of clothing via handbooks approved by school boards. But let's not overreact.

We're talking about teenagers here.

To review, this is a group of human beings whose very purpose is to reject our values and ignore our brilliant suggestions so that they might do the hard, essential work of separating from us until they graduate from college and return to sleep in their childhood twin bed.

In other words, they're supposed to push the limits. This certainly doesn't mean that we retreat into the fetal position. It means that, at every juncture, from the toddler tantrum to the slammed bedroom door, we talk about choices and the possibilities of those choices, both intended and unintended.

Then we shut up and listen, which leads me to my second thought.

Have you ever worn a pair of "jeggings," that Nobel Prize-worthy combo of jeans and generous stretch? I'll bet that most teenage girls are choosing the attire for the same reason their grateful mothers are choosing it: Comfort.

I'll bet, too, that the majority of those girls, far from needing to be reminded to cover up their backsides, are doing it all on their own. Despite the raw, sexualized nature of so much popular culture today, too many girls remain insecure, and critical, of their perfectly developing bodies, which is a far more troubling trend in my mind.

Finally, let's consider the idea that this clothing is "highly distracting" for the poor boys, preventing them from being able to focus on their calculus quiz.

It's unlikely that any hormone-crazed teenage boy (in other words, pretty much any teenage boy), needs assistance in being distracted. What he needs is a constant reminder to treat everyone around him, girls and boys, with respect.

And all of our kids need to be reminded to never judge anyone based on what he or she is wearing, whether it's hipster-wanna-be skinny jeans or hand-me-downs or a head scarf and floor-length skirt.

Now that we've gotten that out of the way, we can remind our kids to please respect their hard-working, underpaid teachers by paying attention in class.

Thankfully they do that quite successfully most of the time and, best of all, while sitting down.

gail.rosenblum@startribune.com 612-673-7350

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