July 11, 2013 1 Comment
First year college students routinely receive gobs and bogs of advice. Study hard, sit in the front row, exercise to avoid the freshman 15, go to class. (No, really, go to class. Even the 8:00 ones.)
It has become increasingly clear, though, that we are all falling down on the job with regards to one crucial piece of advice we need to pass along to our students:
Keep your ass in your pants.
Don’t think me a prude or a pervert, but each fall I can identify the first year students by either how low their pants hang or how high they ride. I was reminded of such things a few weeks back when I took my son to his first year orientation. For three very long, excruciating days, we walked campus, attended sessions, and learned about all the cool, groovy things waiting for him in late August. In some ways, what I saw was encouraging. We have clearly entered a post-racial world and fashion, or lack thereof, has now transcended (or descended?) ethnicity: it was a veritable rainbow of backsides.
Notably, as we walked around campus, there was a distinct and fashionable difference between the upper division students I saw and the incoming first year students. I watched young men waddle around campus, struggling to keep their pants perfectly positioned on their backsides aiming for that zero gravitational point. Clearly, we have raised a generation of kids who just don’t care if “I see London, I see France, I see Billy’s underpants.” Let me give you guys a hint–they are called underwear because you wear them under the other clothes you wear.
But at least we were looking at clothes under those shorts. Sure, they all look constipated trying to walk around but at least they have some sense of decorum.
I would have preferred to see little Susie’s underpants but I’m not sure she was wearing any.
I repeat–don’t think me perverse. I realize these are 18 year old women and I’m not prone to oogling women half my age who could be my daughter. I recognize and respect the necessary separation between faculty and students. These young women are coming to campus where they will be cared for and protected by the established leaders on campus. Let me also state for the record that I respect a person’s right to dress anyway he or she wants to dress. I realize clothes are both a personal expression and, often, an opportunity to make a cultural/political statement. I also realize there is an “ick” factor involved in my even mentioning that I see young people’s backsides. But we also must note that flapping butt cheeks are hard to ignore.
Of course, there was a time when such things were exciting. I’m a child of 80s movies. I was raised on gratuitous nudity and I could rationalize the need for Erika Eleniak’s important role in any film. Popping out of the cake half naked was, of course, vital to the plot line in Under Siege. It offered Steven Segal a chance for moral redemption. Plus, it was Erika Eleniak and I was 23 and not old enough to have a daughter her age. (Don’t get me wrong–I enjoy a beautiful body as much as the next guy. I’m older, not dead.)
Understand that I’ve been teaching on a college campus for 20 years and I’ve watched trends come and go. I fully expect students to arrive on campus and announce their independence from high school dress codes. They feel a sense of liberation as they become fully adult without the oppressive school administration and social mores stifling their sense of self and identity. They are truly coming into their own bodies and experiencing a new found joy in expressing themselves as adult, sexualized, and independent entities.
I get it. I think it’s entirely appropriate for them to do so when they go out on Friday night or off to Las Vegas. Feel free to flash your flesh at the lake or the beach or on our sand volleyball courts. In fact, if you are someone who has a backside worth looking at you should be proud and happy. Trust me–the day will come when everyone will notice your backside but their reaction will be just a tad bit different.
But, and I say this as someone tasked by the state to help train students to become fully realized citizens of the state and the world: don’t be so cheeky even now. Take a hint from the upper division students around you. They’ve put their high school letter jackets in the closet, starting wearing sensible shoes, and realized it’s hard to walk across campus in 10 minutes or less when you are constantly stopping to pull your pants up. Or down.
So I encourage you, as you dress for class, make your fashion statement. Assert your independence. Feel free to be your own person.
But, on your way to class this fall, try to keep a little bit of that person hidden.