Tuesday, January 20, 2015

French Jews, French tips UPDATED

-Have questions about French Jewry? I have thoughts. A short version, and a long one; a mid-length one is in the works. Much as a stopped clock is right twice a day, an obscure research topic proves to have broader significance once in however-many news cycles.

-And back to your regularly-scheduled deep thoughts: Philip Galanes seems awfully confident "that hair dye and eighth grade do not mix." He OKs dress-up that involves a wig, but tells a letter-writer to turn his or her 13-year-old daughter's interest in going blonde into a discussion "about depictions of women in society."

I know it's very much the thing to be outraged whenever girls' parents allow them to express traditional femininity, and all self-expression-through-appearance apparently counts as such. We're supposed to lament the era when gender roles and the desire to primp and all that sort of thing managed to hold off until 16 (or 30?). When young boys and girls alike played in the dirt, explored in the woods, built those proverbial forts that so epitomize the ideal childhood. Why can't kids just be kids?

(I see that I repeat myself, but I really do think part of this is the concept of "virgin hair" - as if something sexual and adult happens when hair color is changed. Which... no. It's just hair, and however you dye it, it grows back your natural color.)

While I do see the skepticism surrounding a world in which young children feel entitled to expensive beauty treatments (and professional hair dye, at least, is a splurge, she writes, having just splurged on some), eighth grade seems exactly the right time to be experimenting with at-home Manic Panic, weird nail polish, etc. If not then, when? There's this brief blip of time when you're old enough to want to do such things, but too young to need to look office-appropriate.

Maybe, then, the issue is helicopter parenting. It seems inconceivable today - but didn't in my day - that kids might be bleaching or dyeing their hair unsupervised. These days it would almost have to be at a salon. And salon means the resulting look will be a tasteful, pretty look rather than the kind a 13-year-old could very well have in mind.


Re: helicopter parenting, there's quite the thread here, of commenters recalling their own "free range" childhoods. (So. Many. Forts.) What's frustrating about the comments is that they're each one presented as scrappiness oneupmanship, rather than as examples of how life just was, quite recently. ('My mother let me blow-torch the creme brulee as a toddler!' 'Oh yeah! Mine let me ride a motorcycle without a helmet while in utero!' I paraphrase but slightly.)

There's a huge divide, but it's not about seatbelts or curfews. It's not about today's parents being more fearful than earlier ones. It's about smartphones. It used to be impossible for parents to know what their kids were up to much of the time - even the kids whose parents tried to construct a panopticon out of guilt. Today, everything's documented, and everyone can be in touch at all times. It's become irresponsible not to use one of these devices. A constantly-monitored childhood was always the fantasy of some parents (we all had those classmates...), but is now the default.

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