Have I got a rant for you today. Michael, my husband, took Cassie and I out to the Virginia Air And Space Museum to see the Liberty Bell 7 exhibit currently on view there. This is a traveling exhibit that explores the history of the Mercury space program and the life of astronaut Gus Grissom, as well as the recovery of the Liberty Bell 7 capsule 38 years after it sunk into the Atlantic Ocean. My family and I had a wonderful time learning about the early days of the US space program, and I highly recommend you see the exhibit if it comes to a venue near you. It really brings home what an astonishing feat it is to send a person into space.
As I walked through the exhibit, reading about Gus Grissom and the Liberty Bell 7 this afternoon, I was struck by how much some people accomplish within their lifetimes. Grissom came from such humble beginnings, yet he became one of the first seven astronauts in the US space program. He went up twice, one Mercury mission and one Gemini mission. He was supposed to have commanded the first Apollo space mission and would have been the first man to walk on the moon. Sadly though, he died before he got the chance. A flash fire broke out in the Apollo command module during a launch pad test, killing Grissom and his crew.
But what a hero Gus Grissom was! And he wasn’t the only one we learned about during our visit to the Air and Space Center. In addition to the Mercury Program exhibit, we also saw displays on the Tuskegee Airmen, the WWII WASP pilots, the Wright brothers, and many, many others who have contributed to the history of manned flight. All of these people risked their lives to do what they believed was important. They worked their behinds off to make something of themselves and what they did changed the world. I felt overawed as I stared at the Liberty Bell 7, the Apollo 12, and all the other air and spacecraft on display, and that feeling of wonder and amazement only grew as we made our way through the center.
Toward the end of our tour, we reached one of the interactive displays, a mock-up of an Apollo command module that visitors could sit in and run through a series of instrument checks. Michael, who got his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in aerospace engineering, climbed into the module and I lifted Cassie in to sit beside him. They sat there together, tilted back in the module, pushing buttons and laughing, when I was struck by two staggering realizations. The first was just how much Cassie looked like her daddy. She is Michael’s spitting image, from the hair and eyes to the wicked little grin they both get when they’re having fun. The second realization was that someday Cassie might very well follow in her father’s footsteps and become an aerospace engineer herself, or even an astronaut (Michael applies for the astronaut candidate school every two years, and it will not surprise me to see him accepted one day). For a few moments, I grasped the astounding amount of potential that resides within the 32 lbs of tantrum-prone toddler I know as my daughter, and that brief flicker of insight was truly a heady experience. As we left the Air and Space Center, I couldn’t stop daydreaming about my daughter the future astronaut.
Of course if you read the title of this entry, you’re probably wondering just what the heck Gus Grissom, the Liberty Bell 7, the history of space exploration and my fantasies of Cassie’s future all have to do with hookers. Well, I’ll tell you.
After we left the museum, Michael, Cassie and I headed across the street to a little Italian place to get some gelato. I was talking to Michael about how much I wished I’d studied math and science in college when in walked three hookers. At least that’s what they looked like. I think they might actually have been somebody’s teenaged daughters, but they must have been orphaned at an early age because I can’t believe that any parent alive would let their girls go out in public dressed the way these three were.
The first girl wore a strappy t-shirt and short shorts, not so bad I suppose, except that she obviously wasn’t wearing anything under the t-shirt and the shorts rode so far up her crotch they looked more like a thong. The second girl wore a camisole made from cheap nylon fabric, complete with spaghetti straps and see-through lace at the top. Her breasts were bigger than mine had been was I was nursing Cass, and I feared that at any second the flimsy straps of her top would snap and her breasts would tumble out and smash the glass cabinet where the gelato was stashed. I kept thinking, why is that girl walking around in her underwear? Where is her shirt? Then I realized in horror that was her shirt.
The third girl was dressed pretty much like the first, in strappy t-shirt and short shorts/thong, but with the precocious addition of a rhinestone tiara clipped to her empty little head. It seemed we were being visited by royalty, in the form of none other than the queen of tarts and her ladies-of-the-night-in-waiting. How delightful.
You could have offered me no greater contrast to the heroic images of men and women we’d just seen in the Air and Space Center. These girls looked like cheap trash. Even worse, they sounded like cheap trash. Camisole-girl pulled out her cell phone when she walked in and began talking to someone named “Chad”. Apparently she gets really bad reception because she immediately began shouting into the phone, so loudly in fact that she startled the customer in front of her into dropping her change on the floor. While Camisole-girl screeched at Chad like a harpy in heat, Tiara-girl stood there cracking her gum and rolling her eyes, repeating “Oh my Gawd!” over and over again at everything Camisole-girl said. Thong-girl stayed pretty quiet, but I’m guessing that was because she was too busy picking her dental-floss drawers out of the crack of her behind to contribute to the intellectual discourse of her fellow tramps.
Stunned as I had been by the accomplishments of Gus Grissom and the other heroes of the Virginia Air and Space Center, these girls stunned me even more. I kept Cassie turned away from them, desperate to shield her from the image of three young girls masquerading as whores. The way they were dressed just made me want to scream. I mean these girls were someone’s children, for Pete’s sake! In a time when every parent lives in fear of their child falling victim to sexual predators, what mother or father would be so stupid as to let their child parade around like that? Michael must have been reading my thoughts because as soon as those three girls left, he turned to me and said, “Cassandra will NEVER leave the house dressed in nothing but her underwear.” Amen to that.
At this point, some will accuse me of judging and condemning these poor girls based solely on their appearances. Well guess what? I am. Appearances matter, people, and a coarse demeanor leaves a stigma that’s near impossible to erase. Girls who look and act like trash will never grow up to be astronauts, or doctors, or much of anything at all except, well… trash. And before anyone jumps all over me for calling these teenage girls such horrible names as whores, hookers, etc., keep in mind that these girls branded themselves as trash by dressing and acting the way they did. Or maybe their parents branded them, by buying the clothes and letting their daughters wear them.
Sadly, this phenomenon of dressing like a 1990’s Madonna video reject isn’t limited to teens. At the neighborhood pool this summer, I’ve seen countless little girls, ages ten and under, wearing bathing suits that make them look like pole dancers. Don’t their parents understand what they’re doing when they let their kids dress that way? I’m sorry. I write erotica, but I cannot condone turning teenage girls and small children into oversexed vamps.
The way I see it, my daughter can grow up to be the next Sally Ride or the next Anna Nicole Smith. She can become a lady, showing respect for her self and others. Or she can prance around like the three strumpets in the gelato parlor this afternoon and one day wind up on Jerry Springer, punching the lights out of some other piece of trash as they fight over who stole whose boyfriend in the trailer park. The difference between one fate and the other, I believe, lies in my (and Michael’s) decision to teach Cassie how to dress and act like a responsible, civilized individual.
Clothes make the man, and the future generation of women in this world too. Gus Grissom worked hard all his life to become a great pilot, engineer, and astronaut, and he looked and acted the part. He wore an Air Force uniform. He wore a space suit and helmet. He never, ever wore his underwear in public, ladies and gentlemen. And neither will my daughter.