I am the father of a teenage son and a daughter. Our house has a “no shirt — no service” rule that has been tested a few times by my son’s friends. In each case, I (or my son) tell the offender that the second violation will result in banishment from our house. No offender has ever violated the rule a second time. Our house also has an informal “no low-cut shirt” rule for females. This policy has been tested a few times by my daughter’s friends. However, in these cases I am reluctant to mention the infraction to my wife or daughter, let alone enforce this policy. Am I being sexist?
E.M. / Malden
How about pointless and creepy? As I always say, hosts are the captains of the ship, and they make the rules. This doesn’t mean every rule is a good idea. Yours seemed odd to me, but not having teens myself, I checked with several parents of same and boy did I get an earful.
For one thing, according to my experts, having your kids socialize with their friends at your home is the gold standard. “Banishment” as a consequence made no sense to them: Your son would only be socializing with these topless hooligans away from your watchful eye.
Parents of teens (they tell me) want their kids’ friends to feel comfortable in their homes. Arbitrary house rules don’t help with that. What’s the harm with shirtless teenage boys? Granted, with the summer we’ve had, you may be worried they’ll catch pneumonia, but in general? Unless you’re prepping food or surgical patients, it’s hard to see the harm.
Policing teen girls’ clothing is creepy as all get-out, full stop. Who is inspecting these girls for violations of the rules? What would you do if one of your or your wife’s friends visited your home in a low-cut top? Is the cleavage of the middle-aged acceptable while that of nubile youth verboten? Stop. Just stop.
If you want your houseguests to cover up, set your climate control low and keep some hoodies on a coat rack in your living room. The problem will solve itself.
Miss Conduct is Robin Abrahams, a writer with a PhD in psychology.Send your questions to Miss Conduct at firstname.lastname@example.org.