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Q&A for Teens: My Clothes, My Body
Q&A for Teens

Q&A for Teens: My Clothes, My Body

How do you want to present yourself to the world?


Dear Lauren,

I keep fighting with my parents about the clothes I wear. They think it's far too revealing, but to me it's stylish and fun. How can I get my parents to understand that fashion today is not like it was in their day?

Thank you for your fantastic question, which allows me to make a Very Important Point: “How can I get someone else to believe, think, do something other than what he or she believes, thinks, does now?” Answer: YOU CAN’T. Pure and simple. You can NEVER “get” someone else to do anything. It’s not up to you. Your trying to control other people’s thoughts, opinions, actions, behavioral patterns will inevitably be an exercise in futility.

In other words, the simple answer to your question, which will save you countless agonies, frustrations, broken relationships, and general misery, is this: the only person you can ever, ever change, in this whole wide world, is YOU. If you try to control someone else, try to change his or her opinions, thoughts, beliefs, actions, goals, ideals—you name it—you’re bound to alienate them and frustrate yourself with your Sisyphean endeavors.

Sigh. What I want to say now I wish your parents could read also, and not just you! Maybe print this out, and leave it somewhere strategic and SUBTLE…like taped to their bathroom mirror with red arrows pointing to the text and “READ THIS” printed in bright orange block letters….

It seems the convince-fest is going both ways in your family: it seems your parents are trying to convince you that their opinion is the right one, and you’re trying to convince them that yours is. They’re trying to convince you to cover up, and you’re trying to show them that, by God, I will NOT.

Calmly and respectfully talk to your parents.

Let me offer a solution. But I won’t force my solutions on you—I practice what I preach! You can take my suggestion or leave it: it’s up to you. This solution, if done correctly, can stop the convince-fest, stop the fighting, and instead create an informative, respectful, enriching, constructive exchange of ideas.

Here it is: calmly and respectfully talk to your parents. Tell them your opinions about your fashion style. After you’ve told your parents how you feel about the issue, ask them, “Please tell me your opinion. I’m interested in hearing a different perspective on this.” Then listen respectfully to what they have to say. Really listen with an open mind. It’s possible that they’ll make some points you hadn’t thought of before. It’s possible that some of the things they say might make sense to you. Maybe they’ll understand needs and wants of yours that they hadn’t realized before.

The only way to learn in this world is to be open to hearing opinions which might be different from our own. Once the discussion is over, honestly think about all the ideas presented and make a mature, rational, informed decision.

Regarding the content of your question: what message does your choice of clothing relay about you to the world? When people see you, what message will they think you’re trying to send about yourself? How do you want to be seen by other people? Think about what message your clothing is sending, and what message you want to send, every time you get dressed, as you look in the mirror.

Every time you get dressed think about what message your clothing is sending.

Make sure that the message you want to send is the one you’re actually transmitting. As part of the respectful discussion with your parents, ask them what message they think you’re sending when you wear different outfits. Then consider whether you think their assessment is correct, and consider whether you want to be perceived in that way or not.

Also, does your choice of clothing allow those around you to focus on your real qualities—your personality, your thoughts, your spirit? Or will they be distracted from that deeper quest by your revealing your body? When passing an alluring billboard, no one says to themselves, “I wonder what that model is THINKING. I wonder what her PERSONALITY is like. I wonder if she’s a GOOD PERSON.” They just say to themselves, “Nice teeth. Nice hair. Nice legs….”

How do you want to present yourself to the world?

December 10, 2011

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Visitor Comments: 14

(10) Marion, May 2, 2013 3:14 AM

Good points.

(9) Anonymous, December 15, 2011 1:25 AM

Perfecto comentario, es verdad!

Yo quisiera haberlo dicho así, es perfecto, espero en Hashem que las jóvenes puedan tener ese entendimiento. Da tristeza ver a jovencitas hermosas vestirse como si se ofrecieran al mas aprovechado, porque eso es lo que pasa. Los hombres que ven a jovencitas no bien vestidas solo quieren pasarse de listos.

(8) elsa, December 15, 2011 1:21 AM

Es verdad!

Yo creo que El Judaísmo es lo mejor que existe, ahora estoy leyendo mucho acerca de eso y me doy cuenta que desperdicié mucho de mi vida, . Lástima que a los jóvenes se les hace gravoso llevar el judaísmo. Es lo mas precioso que he visto e inigualable. El Eterno les haga ver que no es gravoso, sino especial y celestial, cuando se ven jovencitas vestidas como dice el judaísmo,, se ven como joyas entre la multitud en serie que no tiene nada de personalidad, quieren ser únicas y se vuleven como en serie, prototipos de sexualidad.

(7) Susan, December 14, 2011 6:40 PM

Bottom Line

I hope she reads your whole answer. I too liked to wear clothes that were a bit more revealing than I should have. I hope she reads the whole answer because at the beginning you stated that the only one who can change the way you think is you. This is true! but I would have put that part of the answer last. It may be the only thing she focuses on and think (I know this only because I was a rebellious teen) "See, they can't change the way I think" and not really pay much mind to the rest of the letter... You will grow up. You will hopefully get married one day but even if that is not Hashem's plan, you will not want others paying the kind of attention to you that is inappropriate. You do not want young males thinking you are what we used to call "A piece of meat" and believe me, men have not changed that line of thinking to this date that I am aware of. You know what you have. Relish that. Keep it a secret and smile to your self, tell yourself you have something no one else has and that is your self respect and worth.

(6) cynthia, December 12, 2011 10:46 PM

i had the same problem

i had the same problem, and i fought all the time, but then someone showed me this speech, and i hated it because i didn't want anything to change how i dress, but it really got me thinking, that we're not just bodies, we don't have to just do what everyone else does, our purpose isn't to get boys to stare at us without really seeing who we are. i put a lot more time on beautifying my inside characteristics since then, and i still really like fashion, but it's different now, it's more for myself, to look dignified, because i am dignified. if anyone's interested, the speech is from gila manolson, she talks about clothing and relationships a lot, she goes to different schools to talk to girls, and she's really smart. she has a book with the same name as the talk, but i liked the talk much more than the book. s

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