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Ventura County Perspective

'Shame!' Sound and Fury From a Navel Academy Fashion Cop

The airing of naked bellybuttons seems a rather innocent lapse of taste in a nation that has lost all sense of public decorum.

June 21, 1998|ALICIA A. REYNOLDS | Alicia A. Reynolds teaches English at Oxnard High School

During the last few warm months of school my colleagues and I have been on bellybutton patrol--a duty we now gratefully turn over to our comrades in arms who teach the summer session. As for me, this year's fashion trend has been quite an education.

It seems the prevailing fad this season among teenage girls is bared bellies. Whether they realize it or not, our young ladies in their child-like exhibitions are affording their teachers the opportunity to become experts of our most novel and most natal feature: the navel.

Sitting at my desk, I'm treated to an eye-level display of more innies and outies than I could ever hope to witness anywhere outside of a hospital nursery.

Of course, such midriff attire runs counter to school dress codes. When confronted with these violations we are to send our female students in search of more suitable clothing. However, the sheer onslaught of naked navels often overwhelms the ability of a mere classroom teacher such as myself to stem the fashion tide. I must confess, I have failed miserably at the quest to hold the line of any shirt, skirt or pair of slacks securely over the offending feature.

Last season, it was not raised T-shirts but lowered pants that were raising educators' eyebrows. Then, our male students, under the fashion gun, felt the need to display the labels of their skivvies. It escapes me as to why the appearance of a young man's boxer label peering above his ridiculously low-hung trousers would cause young women to swoon, but apparently it did.

Now that our young men have opted to purchase slacks that actually fit them, our young ladies are buying T-shirts three sizes too small. And, now for another confession: I can't take another season of fashion censorship. Can't we just put them all in uniforms and be done with it?

Maybe this is just sour grapes. In truth, after childbearing and developing a taste for brie and pate, my own midriff is hardly pristine. Then again, I had my years of providing generational shock therapy. I can still hear my Nona's mortified response when I told her that I (at the age of 16) had "liberated myself from the tyranny of bras." She flared her Roman nostrils and said, "Vergonia (for shame)! Have you no pride?"

Now, I find myself echoing these same sentiments over and over again about much more than just naked navels.

How else can one respond when barraged by a national press corps more eager to report "the facts" about our president's private anatomy than on diabolical dictators who have their hands on chemical weapons?

How can I keep my grandmother's indictment from ringing in my ears when I hear gubernatorial candidate Dan Lungren state that "teachers don't want more money, they want respect . . ."? How can anyone keep still when they hear multimillionaire Donald Trump announce over national television that if he were to come back to this Earth as anyone, he would "come back as a black man, because with affirmative action, the world would be my oyster"?

When Michael Bolton rasps Puccini arias to a standing ovation, superstar sports figures give interviews that make Porky Pig sound articulate and the Spice Girls are presented as role models to our preteen girls, a rage wells up deep inside me. I find myself wanting to yell, "For shame! For shame! For shame!" into the empty wind.

Bared bellies seem a rather innocent lapse of taste in a nation that has lost all sense of public decorum.

I suppose I should get off my high horse, leave off the campaign to ban bare bellybuttons, and just mellow out, lest my rantings become "a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."

After all, what's to worry? I understand one of the networks is offering a remake of "The Love Boat" this summer. Vergonia!

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