March 20, 2010 9:19:00 PM
Adele Elliott - [email protected]
Mississippi is in the national news, again. Sometimes it seems that we only get press for embarrassing things, like being one of the fattest states, or the least literate.
Now, it is the lesbian teen who wants to take a girlfriend to the prom. This uproar has resonated around the world. There are crawls at the bottom of the CNN screen. It is big news on the Web, as well.
I, however, am having trouble understanding the fuss. Constance McMillen wants to attend her high school prom; most teens do. It is a rite of passage. Her requests are simple. She would like to escort her dear friend and wear a tuxedo.
The Itawamba County School District denied this request and intends to cancel the prom Could they possibly have made a worse decision? It seems a foolish idea to keep the entire class from their senior dance.
In my teen years, girls always danced together. We weren''t in love. In fact, we were a bit "boy crazy." It was just that the boys seldom danced. Dancing with other girls was our only option. No one ever questioned this.
We swung each other around the floor, often kicking off our shoes. (Oh, my, could this be interpreted as disrobing, too?) It was innocent fun. My friends and I were "girly girls." We loved clothes and jewelry and painted "Twiggy" lashes around our eyes.
Miniskirts were our favorite party dress, the shorter the better. We, too, had an absurd dress code at school, but, weekends were for breaking out of those restrictions. (I once got in trouble at school for wearing my bangs too long. Does that make any sense?)
Gym teachers enforced the rules code. Again, senseless, since they only dressed in athletic gear and had zero style.
Teens of my era, both boys and girls, wore bell-bottom pants. Girls would not have worn a tux, probably because we hadn''t thought of it. But, why not? I just flipped open a copy of Vogue and found photos of Ashley Olsen, Diane Von Furstenberg and Carolina Herrera looking stunning in very masculine, tailored tuxedos. If the most fashionable women in New York can pull it off, surely this look is chic enough for north Mississippi.
Why is a girl in a tux distasteful? I am offended by young teens with exposed navels and clothing that is too adult, too sexy. No one likes to see school girls dressed like street walkers. The suit idea sounds like an improvement to me.
The protest signs say, "What happened to the Bible belt?" and, "Why would we condone this?" Condone what? Girls dancing together and wearing pants? None of it is exactly new. "There''s immorality here," said one of the protesters. Really?
This prom should go on. Perhaps by the time you read this it will. But, I wonder if our Bible belt might be jerked just a little too tightly? It''s time for Mississippi to loosen up a notch or two, and maybe get some ink for the things that make this state amazing.
You may still have time to catch Michael Kardos at 2 p.m. this afternoon at The Tennessee Williams Welcome Center, 300 Main St. He is an award-winning writer, editor and English professor at Mississippi State University.
This is another edition of "No Dead Authors," free and open to the public, sponsored by the Columbus Convention and Visitors Bureau. Kardos will read from his work, sign books and answer questions.
Mississippi has the best writers in the world, the most remarkable blues musicians, extraordinary cooking and splendid beauty. When will we get notoriety for our assets, instead of our dumb decisions?
Adele Elliott, a New Orleans native, moved to Columbus after Hurricane Katrina.