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“All You Need to Resist Adulthood Are These Rainbow Lisa Frank Pajamas” exclaimed an article on the website for Time magazine (a magazine for adults). Accompanying the article was a picture of a woman who appeared to be in her 20s wearing a tunic featuring a baby tiger against a rainbow background.
I miss the days when little girls wanted to rush toward the phase of adulthood where pantsuits were appropriate work attire.
I would like to say, “Why would a fully grown woman want to resist adulthood forever?” But I can’t. Because, being an adult woman, with the competence that implies, isn’t looking so great for women in 2017. Easier, it seems, to look like you wandered out of playgroup in a onesie.
The trend of “adult women dressing in literally the same thing their mothers would have dressed them in at the age of four” isn’t confined to Lisa Frank. You can go to BlackMilk’s homepage and be directed to the “Mermaid Life” section, which is immediately followed by Hogwarts-inspired wear. Hot Topic has a “Lilo and Stitch Collection,” every item of which could be seamlessly shrunk and given to a toddler. There’s a line of Polly Pocket-inspired clothing which TheGloss promises “Is For All 90s Babes.”
’90s babes are in their 20s. Polly Pockets are toys that can help a five-year-old learn how time works.
Dressing like a busty child that was born yesterday is something that’s been considered “cute” for women for at least a decade. Remember that episode of New Girl where she wears overalls to a fancy restaurant because she has presumably never been to a fancy restaurant, or seen one, on television or the movies, ever? Or Katy Perry dressing up in outfits festooned with cupcakes? Tina Fey made fun of the “sexy baby” women on 30 Rock years ago, and to great effect.
It’s not a new trend. But it’s perhaps especially appealing in this age where adulthood seems passé.
The country is run, seemingly, by overgrown babies. At 39, Donald Trump Jr. is still referred to as a “kid.” President Trump himself has to get a folder of positive information about himself twice a day or he gets cranky, like a first-grader who has been told that if he keeps smacking other children, none of them will want to play with him. Between them and the other puerile personalities who accuse their co-workers of fellating themselves, we’re living in a land of large adult sons.
Rebecca Huval wrote here on Racked about how, following the 1960s, women’s fashion seemed forever geared toward making women look 20. If only women of all ages were still supposed to look 20. To seem younger than the men in power today, and less threatening, you’d have to, well, be wearing a tunic with a rainbow unicorn on it. If those men seem about 11, women have to seem about five or six.
It may seem appealing to snuggle into rainbow-colored unicorn- and mermaid-festooned outfits that show that you’re just a little girl at heart who never yells at anyone. Not like those bitchy adult women in their pantsuits.
Here’s what we forget: Being an adult is a good thing.
Middle-aged women are the ones leading the resistance. According to Lake Research Polling, women are making 86 percent of the calls to resist extremism in America, and 66 percent of those calls come from women over the age of 45. The health care bill was stopped by Senators Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, two women in their 60s who dress like two women in their 60s.
Toddlers embracing Polly Pockets don’t get to stop health care bills. As we have already established, they are still in the process of learning how time works, so they would have difficulties showing up at the appointed hour.
The pleasure of being an adult woman is knowing your values. The pleasure of being an adult is also knowing you’re competent, and never having to pretend that you’re dumber or sillier or more childish than you are for anyone. Which is to say, you don’t have pretend you’re a cute sexy baby — or dress like it — for anyone.
Dressing like a child may make you seem less threatening to some adult men who act like 12-year-olds. It may make them less likely to pick on you. But those aren’t really people worth worrying about.
You may like bright and vibrant colors. That is perfectly fine. But you are not a little girl. You are an adult woman, and there is pride in being an adult women. Adult women fly across the Atlantic like Amelia Earhart and break new scientific ground like Marie Curie and get us to the moon like Katherine Johnson. Adult women get stuff done.
Please don’t latch on to the fantasy world of mermaids and unicorns and whatever other bits of girlish nostalgia is being marketed to you. None of those things are real. Now, more than ever, we need to be present in the real world that’s unfolding. The world needs adult women, desperately.
Because there are more important things to be resisting than adulthood.