We have tried fairly hard to raise our children "non-gendered". Within reason. I fix things around the house, John does laundry, we try not to label things as "man's work" or "women's work". I bought a dollhouse for Rachel and didn't comment when William played with it more than she did. They all played with trucks.
Tonight is the 8th grade dance. It is the culminating social event of the Middle School. It also takes place as part of an overnight trip to an amusement park, which only adds to the complexity.
When JC went, the biggest issue was teaching him how to tie his tie. John practiced with him several times, but I ended up printing out instructions from online just in case. Turned out that JC did fine on his own but a couple of his roommates borrowed the instructions. Beyond that? Nothing - didn't worry about what to wear - dress pants, shirt, dress shoes, tie. All the boys wore the same thing.
Now it's Rachel's turn. It's been a bit of drama, and I will fully admit that it is mostly my fault. You see, she's not really a girly-girl. She is perfectly happy to head off to school with her hair in a very simple ponytail, no makeup, no earrings, t-shirt and jeans. Her fashion sense leans toward "tomboy", and "modest" which is just fine with us. (Have you SEEN what teenage girls wear these days? OMG!!!) Having watched several friends with girls go through 8th grade dance prep in previous years, I was concerned that if she didn't amp it up a bit, she was going to feel uncomfortable and out of place.
So we talked and shopped and finally found a compromise outfit that is perfectly Rachel but fancy enough (skirt and boat-neck top). She actually liked the dangly earrings and bracelet that coordinated. And I talked her into getting her hair done - the school lets parents take the kids out of school for an hour to get their hair done during the school day before they leave. We tried painting her nails last night to match her top, but she mangled one nail almost immediately so we took it all off and just put on clear shiny undercoat (actually much more age-appropriate). I gave her a crash course in makeup application and am hoping her roommates may provide some guidance. She got her hair done today.
Because, you see, the worst thing about all this? Since the dance takes place at the hotel at the amusement park, I don't get to see her all dressed up! They had a full day of school (sort of, it was pretty relaxed from the sounds of it), then loaded up the buses and left from school right afterwards. They all had to bring their luggage to school in the morning (to get inspected for contraband) and will dress for the dance there. Buffet dinner, dance, then tomorrow morning they will hit the park for most of the day. Back on the buses, and call your parents about 15 minutes before you arrive back at school tomorrow evening.
It's been a lot of angst and some arguing, at least for me. But I think she will be comfortably appropriate - I don't think there's many things more uncomfortable than being under dressed for an occasion. Especially when you're 14. I hope she has a really good time.