The See-Through Dress

          Other people don’t see my daughter.  They see a generic teenager.  The shop clerks follow her in stores expecting she will steal and the waitresses sigh expecting she won’t leave a tip.  Her teachers don’t see her either. They don’t see the Jane Austen heroine she is.  Someone who flaunts social conventions and is stubborn, flawed, artistic, loyal and loving.  Teachers do not have time or patience for revolutionaries.  They don’t want an Anne of Green Gables, a Romana or an Elizabeth Bennett unless they are neatly packaged in a book, able to be admired from afar, glorified as unconventional, reduced to nothing more than a convention and complete with a happy ending. 
            It was not the first PHONE CALL I had received from the Vice-Principal about Laura.  And my prior tendency to defend her rather than apologize and be obliging may have accounted for the tone of her voice.  She said they believed Laura was a leader but was leading the other students to be disruptive.  Could I come in to have A TALK?  “They” were Ann, the Vice-Principal and Scott, the new Middle School director.  I had hoped that when Scott started off the year he might be the one who would appreciate Laura for who she was, but that was not to be.  Within a month I had received a PHONE CALL about how Laura had defied his refusal to allow her to accompany her friend, Liz,  to see the school nurse during study hall.  He believed this was a direct challenge to his authority.  When we got into the PROBLEM it seems that Laura could not see any reason why she could not accompany Liz to the nurse, he couldn’t provide a good reason and so she went.  He continued that he could not provide every student with a reason for every decision and order.  Couldn’t she just do what he told her?
           I responded with sympathy, “I’ve thought the same thing myself.  Sometimes it would really make things so much easier.”
           Then I told him that Laura thinks for herself and is loyal to her friends. I would discuss with her that she should consider his position and responsibilities for keeping the Middle School orderly and safe.  If what she did had consequences at school then so be it.  I would not go further.  I would not do his job for him.   Not the response he wanted.
            I went in to TALK.  It was near the end of the school year and Laura would be leaving the school and starting high school the following year.  Why so late in the year?  Couldn’t they just hold on a little longer?
          “We are concerned about some of the choices Laura is making.” Ann said.
          Translation:  Laura is not doing what we want her to do.
          “What choices?”
          “She is not making productive use of her time and interrupts other students when they are working.”
          “Could you give me an example?”
          “Well,” Scott said, “We just want to make sure that the end of the school year goes smoothly for everyone.  And we want Laura to participate in that.”
           I have my issues with that type of expression. Even lawyers aren’t that  intentionally vague and convoluted.
          “What choices?  I thought you said she was a leader.”
          “Yes, and that is what concerns us.  The other students look to her and we don’t believe that she always sets a good example.”
          Translation:  The other students look to her and are being independent, too.
          We went back and forth for a while.  I didn’t see the problem. I was even willing to concede that it was entirely my fault and failing that I could not see the problem.  Which is when they brought up THE SEE-THROUGH DRESS.  Scott mentioned it first. 
          “I won’t even go into what the students have been saying about the see-through dress that Laura wore on the trip to New York.”
          That has got to be one of the best sentences ever uttered by a middle school administrator to a student’s mother.   There’s rumor, innuendo, a see-through dress and absolutely no information.  It is perfect.  At the same time I reveled in its perfection I was thinking “You’ve go to be kidding,”  I should just walk out,  “you better not be getting any mental visions about Laura in this dress, what did the students say?” 
          I said, “Laura, doesn’t own a see-through dress.”
          A bit more discussion revealed that the offending dress was the white cotton baby doll dress with black trim that Laura had gotten just before the trip.   I had seen the dress.  It was cute.  To my knowledge it did not have any see-through properties.
          “She was wearing it with red underwear.”  Ann added.
          Now Laura may be and do a lot of things.  She may be a rebellious teenager.  She may have her scrapes with the powers that be.  She may want body piercings and tattoos, but I know my girl.  She would NEVER wear red underwear with a white dress.  I said as much.  They said I should talk to the teacher that had been on the trip.
          It was not long after that Ann was standing in the middle of the road in a long white cotton skirt directing traffic at dismissal with the sun behind her.

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