I remember vividly the first day that “Dawn” came to our home. I found her through a babysitting service run by my alma mater, a prestigious women’s college. While many of the Brooklyn mommies I know choose to employ older, more experienced nannies –- Jamaican or Trinidadian no-nonsense ladies who line the park benches at the nearby playgrounds and chat amongst themselves — I had the revolutionary idea to find a college girl–someone who’d be more like a “big sister” to my kids. She would have no problem getting down on the floor to play with them, but could also be someone I wouldn’t mind having extended conversations with as we took day trips to the beach and the zoo.
Dawn showed up at my house wearing a demure, floral print dress. She was so shy and deferential, I wondered if we’d get along. She was considering pre-med, and we commiserated about the perils of trying to find a boyfriend at an all-girls’ school. Everything was going fine until her fourth or fifth day with us, when she showed up at my house in what can only be described as a pair of tiny, butt-cheek baring booty shorts. Dawn explained to me that she had just come from exercising, but that did little to help me reconcile the presence of purple lycra in my living room. More than just running shorts, these purple booty shorts actually had ruching up the sides, with strings that tied at the tender place betwixt her gluteus maximus and her no-no zone.
Immediately, I knew that any complaint about this outfit would paint me as an old, jealous hag. Of course I didn’t want a younger version of myself running around my house half-naked, reminding me that next to her I was like Amy Poehler in Mean Girls — a woman past her prime, trying so hard to be a “cool mom.” In reality, I’m happy to be my age, I love my having-given-birth body and no way would I want to be back in my 20s again, even if it would mean fewer grays and higher boobs.
“Send pictures!” joked one guy friend. “I didn’t realize there was now a uniform for babysitting,” another male friend chided me. But maybe there should be, I thought. Suddenly, I was having a serious “What’s the matter with kids today” moment.
Then again, could someone with a closet full of cleavage-baring dresses really call another woman out for wearing something that looked like it came free with the Carmen Electra Aerobic Striptease DVD? Yes, said my female friends. This was a job, not a social call, and I had every right to expect Dawn to come to work in work-appropriate clothes. But the prospect of speaking to Dawn about this made me cringe. Did I really need to tell an Ivy-League educated woman that it was not OK to come to work with her hoo-ha showing or her tits falling out of her shirt? What would be a diplomatic way to broach the subject? “Dawn, I appreciate your celebration of your womanhood, but I think I can see the outline of your labia minora, and that’s not working for me.”
I wasn’t worried that my husband would fall for an up-talking, almost-teenager, but I didn’t need to be providing him with a free floor show either. One afternoon, we both watched in awe as Dawn bent over to pick up my son and her bountiful 20-something breasts nearly spilled out of her top. “I don’t want to see that in my home,” my hubs muttered to me later that night. I didn’t have to worry about him pulling a Jude Law (or Ethan Hawke) on me, but I knew that this could not continue.
In the end, we sent purple booty shorts packing. I suppose that the adult thing would have been to sit Booty Shorts down and explain to her that this was a real job, and that she needed to come dressed in a comfortable and covered-up manner. In the end, I decided that she should have known better.
I tried another babysitter from my alma mater’s service, and the next one was so introverted that she literally only spoke when I asked her a direct question. Still, she came to the interview wearing a tank top with armholes cut so low that I could see almost all of her hot pink, lace demi-bra. Was this a babysitting job or the freakin’ Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show? I wanted a babysitter who would be a good example to my toddler daughter, not teach her how to rock the side-boob.
And so I know that means that I should probably be a mentor to these young women, too. So listen up girls, here’s my advice: You know how you want to make sure you look good every time you leave the house because you never know when or where you might meet someone? The same thing goes for your professional life. Dress in a way that shows respect for your employer. Ask her questions. Google her name. She might not be in your industry, but I bet she has friends. Achieving success is hard, so don’t mess up on the things you have control over, like showing up on time or dressing appropriately. (If you’re coming to my house, an oversized gray Champion sweat suit works great.)
Even though some will still say that my disapproval of this nearly-naked attire is about my own insecurities, in the end I decided that what the babysitter wore mattered because one day my daughter is going to be a young lady who dresses herself–and if she gets any slutty fashion ideas, well, I want them to come from me.