Jan 18, 2006

Last night, I went to winter in Mead, Washington – my only taste of "sticking snow" all year. Damp, fat flakes poured from the sky, "putting wings on the trees," as my uncle explained.

My work shoes skittered over the broad semicircular stairs. Aunt Maura grabbed my arm, both of us giggling hopelessly. "I really am a city slicker now!" I joked.

She made a nest of blankets beside the cast-iron stove. I curled up and stared out the window: the fire's reflection was a quavering gold window superimposed on the moonlight snowscape. People waste a lot of money on drugs or gurus or ritzy resorts for a vision that sublime.

Except I was distracted. Earlier, we'd attended a high school basketball game, where my 14-year-old cousin performed at half-time. Her award-winning drill-team did this ... well ... booty dance; I can find no other word for it. The girls – flouncing in pink and black microkilts – were self-consciously adorable. They also were quite accomplished as both athletes and artists.

It was the sexiness that got to me. Some clearly were going through the motions. Others shimmied and bucked with authority.

Not that I care what teens do on couches or backseats – my hypocrisy hasn't gone too far. But booty dancing? At half-time? When did T&A become a letter sport?

"Does it bother you as a parent, seeing young girls aping adult erotica?" I finally asked Maura.

"The sexiness is just the style these days," she pointed out.

True. Had I not just read Cheryl-Anne Millsap's column in the Spokesman-Review? "It's no fun buying dainties at Victoria's Secret surrounded by high-school age kids," she complained. "The kids have taken over the grown-up's playground."

Martin Rogoff, a retailing professor at Philadelphia University, shed some light on this: "There's something we call age compression," he told the Philadelphia Inquirer. "Young people are leaving their childhoods early, forsaking toys for other pleasures, such as shopping."

I was working up some righteous indignation. I'd almost achieved bile. Then I remembered the dancers leaving the gym. One chawed a hot dog, others squabbled about the theme color for the next day (turquoise). They bounded into the snowy night – limbs still fidgeting dance moves – and zigzagged over the sidewalk, trying to catch flakes on their tongues.

And the moment was pure as driven snow.

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