Bewildering Stories

Satan's Indentation

Sherry Gray

Reporting from the battlefield of the 'burbs

Way back in 1966, Elvis Presley's debut on the Ed Sullivan show catalyzed the beginnings of the pervasive television censorship we enjoy today. His devil-may-care style influenced dance, fashion and, yes, teenage rebellion, much to the horror of parents raised in the kindler, gentler fifties. Something had to be done.

Today, Britney Spears has introduced the issue of morality policing to a whole new battlefield--the belly button, dimple of desire. Until Britney came along, the belly button was merely a harmless, unnoticed part of everyone's body -- not even gender specific, about as exciting as your elbow.

Ah, but then an image consultant discovered Britney's belly button and all hell broke loose. Now the very mention of a belly button sends the Christian moral right into convulsions worthy of a crusade against porn. The backlash frenzy has begun.

My daughter had the dubious honor of being the first girl sent home from middle school for a belly button violation. She didn't make it past noon on the first day.

Now, she normally wears her jacket in class because they keep those classrooms at subzero cold -- probably to force the kids to put on more clothes -- but she was busted by a random teacher while walking between classes. She had removed her jacket for that 2 minute walk in the 100 degree August heat.

The outfit she was wearing is one of her most sedate. It has length sleeves and a wrap front, creating a conservative V-neck. Sure, it clings to her slender curves, and admittedly, it's a very provocative deep burgundy color, but it is long enough to meet her low-rise jeans and covers her all around. Except for one little triangle, where the wrap meets in the front. One little 2 inch triangle centered right over her belly button. Is it just me, or is there an echo of Dana Carvey's Church Lady ringing across the land?

Ironically, on that same day I passed a group of kids walking home from school. They all wore predominately black clothing, and had black lines radiating out around their eyes and mouths (think crude stitches) over pale makeup. One girl had a sheer black shirt, red plaid skirt, torn fishnets and army boots - a gothic schoolgirl. Hair splayed out in every direction and her eye shadow curved up Mimi Bobeck fashion to her eyebrows. She held hands with a boy wearing a spiked dog collar, sporting a blue mohawk. That group has a reputation for trouble: vandalizing public property, terrorizing other kids, that sort of thing. But they don't show their belly buttons, so they must be a-ok; clothing sanitized for you protection.

Clearly, this is a dress code that works.

My daughter is a dancer. She has made the honor roll every grading period of her life. She's tall, slender, beautiful, graceful, curvy, blonde, quick-witted and unattainable. She has yet to even hold hands with a boy. So far, none have met her expectations. She is that girl men still fantasize about 30 years after graduation. If she dressed like the elephant man, she would still be that girl. She is who she is. Some girls just don't ugly up.

I find the strangulating morality that has infested this country offensive. Did anyone miss the news story about the high school dance where a teacher made the girls show their underwear before gaining admittance in an insane attempt to legislate against thongs?

How exactly does the stringent dress code keep a teenage hormone-slaveboy's mind on his schoolwork, anyway? Does it work in Catholic schools, where everyone wears ultraconservative uniforms? For the answer, check any porn site on the web. I doubt you'll find many sites that feature girls with only their belly buttons showing. But Catholic schoolgirls uniforms enjoy overwhelming popularity. You figure it out.

Bare shoulders became taboo years ago. How long can it be before some young superstar glamorizes the elbow?

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Copyright 2002 by Sherry Gray and Bewildering Stories.