Last week, I got an email from my husband linking to the USA Today article "Women's Ultra-Short Shorts Are on the Rise" (not sure why he was reading this article, but something to do with rising hemlines rising economy?). Not surprisingly, within the hour several friends had forwarded me the link. And here's why: I hate to admit it, but in this suburban Miami community, I have become known for my short hem lines.
When I moved back to Miami from a cooler climate, my wardrobe options were cut by three seasons. Miami's hot and humid, pretty much all the time. And the only way to maintain some semblance of style without passing out on the soccer field, was to let my legs breathe, and allow my vintage jackets to show-off. At that time when I first sent my son to pre-school, I had no friends who had kids. (I started young and my inner-circle was living glamorous lives, building careers and experiencing multiple romances in other cities. I was knee-deep in motherhood and I hadn't a clue.) I figured sending my son to pre-school would help me make "mom" friends, but no one really spoke to me, except for teachers and nannies (who were young and childless). I tried smiling and giving off an aura of openness, but it didn't work (like when my mom suggested at 14 that I didn't have a boyfriend because giving boys dirty looks scared them. I grew up with three older brothers, so I learned to fight before I learned to flirt).
Soon after, a curious mother approached me and asked, "How long have you been a nanny for this family?" Wait, "A nanny?" I thought. "Should I be offended?" No. I actually felt good -- "that must mean I look young!" But I fessed up and revealed the truth. "I'm a mother." She laughed and dropped a real insult, "Sorry, but everyone at school seems to think you're a nanny and wonder what the deal is with your short shorts." I was stunned. I've created controversy my entire life for outspoken political comments and forgetting to think before I speak. But causing a stir for short shorts? This was Miami, where cleavage up to your chin and stilettos at morning school drop-off wouldn't solicit a comment, but somehow when it came to my short shorts, everyone had an opinion.
I felt insulted. Didn't they notice my OTHER cool fashion choices? The little socks I had paired with strappy sandals, or my mom's 1970s Il Bisonte bucket bag? I had been marked by suburban mothers and nicknamed "short shorts." Not only did I feel like a newest cast member of MTV's Jersey Shore, but now had a new line to add to my list of insecurities. If only we lived in Paris, those moms would appreciate my sense of style.
To this day I don't dress overtly sexy. I refuse to show cleavage, so exposing my legs and covering the rest is what I consider my fashion yin/yang. A little blazer with a cool T-shirt and cut-off shorts with fancy flats or flat boots -- that's how I wear my "short shorts." It's not like I am sporting Daisy Dukes with a tight tank and no bra. I do realize a time will come -- I am thinking around the age of 80 -- when this might not be "appropriate," but by then I will be living in a country that idolizes the elderly and doesn't pretend they don't exist (please email me with any country suggestions).
When did short shorts become so illicit? This all prompted some investigating. First, I discovered that researchers from the University of South New Wales in Sydney found that "long armed" women were rated more attractive than women with long legs. So, there in itself was proof that short shorts and legs are not as sexy as the masses think. Then, I Googled "Kate Moss, shorts" and about 3.6 million views come up. Do you think when Kate Moss drops her daughter off at school, other moms are horrified by her "short shorts"? Kate Moss, the epitome of style, loves short shorts! And so does Mara Menachem. She's a fashion icon/model and I am quite obviously not. But so what? I like fashion, and I like short shorts.
So my question to my readers is why are short shorts such a taboo (especially for moms), but nobody mentions tank tops? What do bare legs incite in people that bare arms don't? I never look at a friend and think, "Wow, she always is exposing those arms." I certainly wouldn't label anyone, "tank top mom." But maybe I'm being overly sensitive. So an hour of hardcore research later, going back to that mom's question, "What's the deal with your short shorts?" Here is my very personal answer.
"Um, because I like my legs, they are muscular and have a good shape -- long for my short frame and I have a love-hate relationship with my breasts, and now my stomach since having two C-sections." I feel like I am being forced to reveal my insecurities on a platter and serve it to the bevy of friends who ask this. It's always followed up with, "You have the best legs." A body part that gets so much attention, the others feel like they can't shine in her presence. I also have big breasts, but I don't like to show them off. This issue goes back to my teenage years when my ridiculously large chest caused major insecurities, ended my track and field ambitions and eventually led to a reduction. When I finally had small breasts, the first thing I did was wear a tight white tank top, I was thrilled. I finally had that "heroine chic" look (with an added 20 pounds of healthy weight), rather than look like the poster girl for the magazine Jugs. Two kids later and the boobs came back. Tank tops are off my list yet again.
In closing, my legs have not let me down after pregnancies, C-sections and all the other things life brings. Maybe as my friend suggests, I should insure them through Lloyds of London. I have outlined in this article real research defending my personal style, I do NOT dress like a character from a bad reality show. And for all you Fashion Elitists, shorts are hip! The real truth is that I am finally in style according to USA Today, the most trusted source for fashion coverage. I want to continue to see moms and dads dropping their kids off at school looking unique and stylish, whether you are wearing short shorts or Bermudas, one thing is certain, I will never judge you.
Mara Menachem is the creator of www.hautedropoff.com, a website capturing the fashionable at school drop-off.
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