Talking trash

Oo­­­ps. We did it again.
That’s right, faster than a speeding megabit, Durango has gone from the nation’s worst-dressed town to its least dressed.

OK, so maybe the “pop”-arazzi has already dumped Sydney Spies in favor of B.I.C. (aka Blue Ivy Carter, the well-bred but curiously named offspring of Beyonce and Jay Z), but Durango is still abuzz with the biggest thing to hit cyberspace since the Mystery Chicken laid an egg. (Besides, it sure beats talking about the weather, or lack thereof.)

As an editor who has dealt with outrage over scantily clad women, as well as a mother of a curious pre-tween boy and myself a former high school senior who cringes at her own senior photo (it should be illegal to go to the tanning booth that much), I feel uniquely equipped to offer my two cents, or maybe a whole nickel.

See, if there’s one thing I’ve learned in my years in journalism (other than obituaries are no place to express your creative side) it’s that hell hath no fury like a woman bedecked in a mini skirt and strategically placed martini glasses.

While I’m not really sure what that means, I do know that nothing gets people’s thongs in a bunch like a little, or a lotta, skin.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m about as dawdy as they come. For example, that aforementioned senior portrait entailed a cowl neck-blouse that, as painstakingly chosen and buttoned to the tippy top as it was, had about all the panache of a drop cloth. In fact, a look back through the years entails a lifetime of fashion “dont’s” including argyle crochet, “prairie” shirts, sailor tops, fair-aisle sweaters, turned-up collars and whale-festooned turtle necks. And don’t even get me started on my “goth” years, other than to say I hope the hairdresser who gave me that horrid reverse mullet is suffering in blue-hair hell. (Speaking of which, for hours of entertainment, go to

On the up side, being last in the family birth order, did spare me the “wicker chair and feathered hair” treatment my older siblings received on their first foray into adulthood portraiture.

Alas, I digress. As fun as it is to take a tour down Josten’s Hall of Shame (the sheepskin was my hands-down favorite), this is not 1988. And pine as we might for the Gunny Sacks of yesteryear, not even Farrah Fawcett can bring them back (may she rest in peace).

Yes, it is a strange new world, where the all-too-familiar sight of a waxing moon rising over the crest of low-rider ridge causes severe eye sprain in an effort to avert one’s gaze.

Which, perhaps, is what we all should have done with Miss Spies and her “artistic” form of self-expression in the first place. Glance, process, and then go about our business. Unfortunately, like anything that conflicts with people’s sensibilities, our first reaction is to over-react. However, if there’s anything we’ve learned from this, those tactics only land you on the “Today Show” couch next to Matt Lauer and a coveted spot in cyberspace, right below a story about Stewie, the world’s longest cat, having cancer (get well soon, furry fella.)

That’s right. In a deliberate effort to turn down the heat, we inadvertently fanned the flames. Which isn’t to say I condone high school students shedding their clothes accordingly.

It’s just that, if there was no concrete policy in place at the yearbook, other than a consensual “yuck” among its editorial staff, then Spies (who is 18, I might add) should have been allowed to use the picture she submitted. Sure, maybe it wasn’t in keeping with the school’s overall dress code, and maybe a glorified doily would not have been the first choice for most of us. But as a student publication, the yearbook is a forum for student expression, and as I understand it, immune from administrative influence, i.e. school rules such as dress codes. In such forums, students are entitled to stronger First Amendment protection, and censorship is only allowed when the publication will cause a “material and substantial disruption” of school activities.

I’m no lawyer, but I doubt snickering over a risque photo in the boys locker room constitutes a “substantial disruption” of school activities.

While I respect the yearbook staff for taking a stand, the way I see it, until there is a black-and-white definition of what is and is not allowed, I wish them luck. Where to draw the line? Will cheerleaders, dancers, football players and wrestlers (those pants leave little to the imagination, after all) also be subject to the same scrutiny? And what about the girl in the wicker chair with the feathered hair, who, while not particularly provocative, is nonetheless creepily disturbing in her denim suit? Should we put a black bar over her eyes to protect her from future embarrassment?
Perhaps even more perplexing is the fact that Spies was offered to run the photo elsewhere in the yearbook, which seems a little like telling the elephant in the middle of the living room to take a seat in the corner.
Not that I am comparing Miss Spies to an elephant. Or anything, for that matter – which gets to my biggest problem with all of this. Yes, people are entitled to their beliefs (of which I’m sure I will get an earful after this). But if no rules are being broken and no crime committed (other than a crime of fashion), then who are we to judge? I am particularly bothered by the comments referring to Spies, of which “trashy” was about the only one that was printable. And don’t even get me started on the “mom blame.”

Why so angry? Is it because when a woman shows some skin we automatically think “sex,” which, of course, is her fault? If so, there’s an even bigger elephant in the room.

Yes, I agree that girls – and boys for that matter – are maturing at what seems like an alarming rate. And that three-letter word is everywhere, from the Disney Channel to the high school yearbook. But I can assure you, as long as people roam this Earth, the subject is not going away, even if you try to bury it in the back with the ads (don’t you know, that’s where people look first?)

While I’m not sure what the answer is, short of the one-size-fits-all drop cloth approach, I do know this: frank, honest discussion with kids instantly ratchets down the taboo factor. (I believe in parental-self-help circles, it is referred to as a “teaching moment.”) And the sooner we can have it, the sooner we can all turn the page.

– Missy Votel