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Reading Aloud

Jean

My eldest daughter, Jean, sixteen at the moment, is a great believer in clothes. In the clothes others wear. She must have the same. This covers everything from underwear to overcoat and headgear to footwear. In addition it is make-up. All shades of all colours. I don’t know why she doesn’t use nail varnish. Perhaps it isn’t used widely enough. My sister had a shock when she saw her recently – at least that was Jean’s impression. She had turned up with full “war paint” so to speak in a pair of trousers that looked like pyjamas, high-heeled shoes, enormous earrings and I don’t know what else. My sister would never have thought that of me!

Jean had brought some money with her to spend during her holiday on the Continent. When she came back home, it turned out she had spent it all on clothes. We persuaded her to do a little parade for us and had a presentation of present day fashion.

That’s what it is: fashion, things the others do, the majority, no matter what, most manifest and visible in clothes. Jean who is naturally shy tells me she doesn’t want to stick out and puts on the most daring clothes. She hesitated very much to parade them at home.
She hates humorous comments on her clothes. In the end she was showing the tightest and shortest mini-skirt imaginable. I deliberately sent her to switch off an electric point underneath the desk. I was wondering… And then said aloud: “How will you do that?”
I shouldn’t have done, because I had hit a sensitive spot. She turned round before having done the job and with a red face marched out of the room. Later I found her in tears, furious tears, in her bedroom. She was most angry with me for being so nasty. She had known from the beginning that I would tease her and had dreaded it. I told her she could wear this skirt whenever she wanted to. She said no, she wouldn’t, she had torn it up already, she had realized it was impossible, but why did I have to do it in this way, so unpleasant and downright hurtful. She accused me of taking delight in poking fun at her. That’s where fun stops. I had not been aware of saying nasty things to her. I hadn’t even criticized her skirt, just asked a question… She wouldn’t hear.

I had to think of something to restore peace. Putting on a stern face I expressed my disgust at her most untidy bedroom. All the things I had found under her bed, cupboard and chair during her absence! She stopped her tears and looked sheepish. I left her room to return a few minutes later proposing a deal: I would forgive her, if she forgave me! She accepted, smiling. “At last you’ve stopped laughing,” she said and kissed me good night.

I read this piece to her twenty-four hours later. She said: “If you don’t mind me being like that…”