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Dress to Impress (Your Children)

July 25, 2010

This post fulfils a promise I made to my elder daughter when I was in the UK a couple of weeks ago.

My wife and I were invited to dinner with some old friends in Richmond. They also invited my elder daughter and her boyfriend. My daughter, although she’s reached the advanced age of 24, has not yet fully overcome the sense of embarrassment about her parents which tends to surface among kids around 10, and slowly peters out after the teen years.

In most respects she seems to have accepted my quirks and eccentricities by now. But as for dress sense, well that’s another matter. A few hours before we left for Richmond, said daughter sent me the following text: “Dad please don’t wear a short sleeved shirt they are so hideous. Look forward to seeing you tonight.” At the same time she gave detailed instructions to her mother as to what I WAS to wear: long trousers (not shorts, despite the fact that it was one of the hottest days of the year in London), and a long-sleeved shirt with the sleeves rolled halfway up my forearms.

My first reaction was to text back “How dare you tell me how to dress!” with all the outrage of a parent affronted by the impertinence of his offspring. But I relented, preferring a quiet life and a pleasant evening to the black looks I would get when I turned up dressed in my usual shorts and tee shirt.

Come the evening, I show up looking as elegant in my offspring’s terms as I can manage, duly dressed as commanded. Our hosts are dressed down, as I would have expected. The husband is wearing a nice tee shirt and shorts, as you would expect on a hot evening.

Daughter shows up, and boyfriend shortly after. After changing out of his cycling stuff, her boyfriend appears exactly as daughter demanded I should. I’m sure he was not also under orders – this would have been his natural attire for such an evening.

I took my beloved to one side, and said “you will notice that I’ve dressed as you asked rather than as I would have wished. However, there is a price to be paid. I shall be exposing your coercion in my blog.” Fair enough, she said.

Not that I wish to embarrass her, but simply to point out that although she has excellent dress sense herself, there were times in her teens when she would go out dressed in a way that would have led other parents to come out with the traditional line, “you’re NOT going out dressed like that!” But being a fairly liberal chap, and remembering the ridiculous stuff I used to wear once I’d escaped from the clutches of my parents, I refrained from passing comment, except the occasional “very nice dear” as she sloped out in full Gothic regalia rounded off by a magnificent studded dog collar.

What I hadn’t anticipated when I joined the older generation was that I would be subject to dress censoring, not only from my wife (who hates it when I wear tee shirts with no collars because she says she can’t tell my neck from my head), but also from my daughters. So much for liberal parenting. Perhaps if I’d taken the line of the stern paterfamilias, they would have stopped short of provoking my ire by daring to comment on the way I dress.

So the generations have flipped over. The oldies dress like slobs and the young wouldn’t be seen dead with them. You see it at airports. Guys my age with pot bellies bulging through over-tight tee shirts, baggy shorts with more pockets than they know what to put things into, complemented with casual shoes and totally inappropriate socks. Oh dear, am I talking about myself here?

Well at least I dress fairly formally at airports in the forlorn hope of getting an upgrade. And I don’t wear one of those M&S squashable Panama hats beloved of the oldies in linen jackets who dress ready die in Venice when they’re actually off on a package tour to the Canaries.

I will continue to do my best not to embarrass my family, but I’d also encourage my daughters to look forward to reaching an age when they don’t feel the need to impress anybody, as I have.

I do draw the line at speedos these days, though.

From → Social, UK

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