Ek, do, Teen

If you are father of a teenage girl, you will face many challenges almost daily, and sometimes on a hourly basis, but nothing will be more daunting and dispiriting than the one when she walks up to you on a quiet evening or a cool night when you are blissfully reading a book or aimlessly surfing the net, and breaks the news which you as a father had never hoped to hear. And that piece of news is: ‘Dad, I am going to get a skirt.’

Now, you may be a modern and open-minded dad, and in general you may not involve yourself in what your daughter wears, but the moment you hear her plans to get a skirt, your most normal reaction is a firm: ‘NO’, which you hope will settle matters then and there.

But the basic rule of parenting is: The first ‘no’ never works in any circumstance. If it does, then most probably you are rebuking the neighbour’s kid by mistake.

And so your daughter will point out, ‘but dad, how does what I wear can be an issue to you?’  There can be no reasonable answer to this. So taken aback, you will be speechless for a few seconds, but quickly regaining your composure, you will try to collect your thoughts, but usually there will be none and you will end up saying:   ‘when I say no, it means only one thing and that is a NO’, which sounds mighty impressive but actually doesn’t make much sense, and you kind of expect the loudness of your voice to make up for the absolute lack of logic.

This is another typical parental fallacy. Shrillness never works with your children. It only works in making audible to your neighbours the fight brewing in your house.

Anyway, your daughter, raising her own tone, will respond sharply: ‘But why? What is wrong with wearing a skirt? Vulgarity, like beauty, lies in the eyes of the beholder.’

And that is where the nub of the issue lies. You know your daughter well. You know she can carry herself pretty decently in a skirt. But you, having been a male member of the species all through your life, also know equally well that men, almost as a rule, don’t conduct themselves as decently as they should in the face of a skirt-clad female.  Skirt, in general, is a dress that men love women from other families wearing.

It is not without reason that skirt is probably the only attire that doesn’t have a male equivalent.  Please don’t point to the Scottish kilts. Only Prince Charles probably wears them these days, which when you consider his wealth and the fact his day job is just staying awake, seems a minor and harmless bedroom kink that has spilled out.

Skirts also present a totally different conundrum to men, which is:

If they say they like women in skirts, they will be branded as sexist.

If they say they don’t like women in skirts, they will be branded as, well, patriarchally sexist.

So the politically correct position for any man to take on skirts is to take a leaf out of Manmohan Singh’s book, and not take any meaningful position at all.  But we all must take a stand on women wearing skirt and stockings to go with it: It is more hideous than Suhel Seth’s hairstyle. Stockings, along with the tie that self-important marketing people wear, have to be the most stupid thing ever conceived by human mind.

Coming back to your daughter, after your yet another ‘No’, she will stomp off the room sobbing and shouting, at you and in general complaining that nobody understands her and that life is meaningless. She will also text her close friends with carefully chosen words to convey her extreme agony and pain. It will all sound heavy, but when you re-read it, it will stop making sense. Just like Ayn Rand books.

Anyway, you should not be alarmed by the extreme show of emotions by your daughter. It is the default reaction of all teenage girls. They tend to think that the world to be cunningly conspiring against them when they trip on a harmless stone on the way, and take the world to be kind and a happy place to be in when they manage to zero in on an earring that can go with their dress. Teenage boys, on the other hand, are much more grounded and have a practical way of dealing with their parents: They just ignore them.

In the end, if you are parent of a boy, you should be happy that you will not have to contend with a daughter seeking your permission to wear skirt. But I think in all probability you may have to grapple with a situation wherein he walks up to you on a quiet evening or a cool night when you are blissfully reading a book or aimlessly surfing the net, and breaks the news which you as a father had never hoped to hear. And that piece of news is: ‘Dad, I just had a tattoo.’

PS: I know I have generalised a lot here. Deal with it, which I can assure you, is a lot easier than dealing with teenage children.