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11 yr old son won't wear shorts

April 2013

My eleven year old son hasn't worn shorts for about two years - ever since his legs started growing hair. He wears long pants during PE, and we're heading out to a hot climate for vacation where he will have his legs covered. And mind you, the hair is a very light brown, straight, isn't that thick - in fact, it barely shows. I feel bad for him that he is embarrassed and I would like to help him feel better about himself and his body. I've bought cool looking shorts, long pants where the bottoms zip off to make shorts, given him hand-me-downs from his beloved older cousin, and he won't bite. Will he outgrow it? Concerned mom


Your son will probably outgrow this. My son, at nearly age 13, wouldn't wear shorts for quite a while after we moved to Davis. It was 105 the day we moved here! But it was a big change from San Francisco, and hard for him to adjust. He's 15.5 now and I can't remember when he started wearing shorts, but at least last summer. It happened on its own; we didn't nag.

Think of the ways that you dress that could be more practical, and have some empathy for him. I still have vestiges of my SF outfits that seem a little silly here in Davis. I still refuse to wear sleeveless shirts because my upper arms are flabby. We all have our vanity. maybe this year I'll go sleeveless...maybe not


I have a 13-year old who's the same way. If he's not endangering his health leave him alone, let him not wear shorts, and don't make a big deal out of it. This is the age when they start to explore their autonomy and individuality, so leave this one alone, because you're going to have many more important matters to get into disagreements about, believe me. Jane
I have three boys and my oldest son, 15, prefers not to wear shorts, even when traveling to the hottest climates.

He made this preference know to me when he was about 8 or 9, ''I would rather just wear long pants.'' As simple as that. When I asked him about it, he stated he was just more comfortable. We travel quite a lot and occasionally he will wear cropped cargos, sort of surfer style, that go past the knees or those lightweight zip offs you talked about. Most of the time he prefers jeans, but he'll wear lite cargos if it is very hot.

If your son did not state he was uncomfortable with his legs, maybe it just that he prefers to have them covered. Here's another thought: My middle child was playing in shorts in the driveway the other day and tripped over a toy, skinning his knee. His older brother was going past him into the the house, and in the derisive tone that only a teen can possess said to him, ''you should really wear long pants...'' East Bay Mom


My son, who is now 18, didn't wear shorts AT ALLl in middle school. I did the same thing you did, gave him lots of options, even had his 2 older sisters pick out ''cool shorts'' the older kids liked, to no avail. On the hottest days in walnut creek he wore pants. Then a couple of years later he asked to go shorts shopping. He is now a senior in high school and has only worn shorts to school a few times. He'll wear them after school and on weekends only, but not when he's officially hanging out with friends. That's just his style...just as I rarely wear a dress any more! Don't sweat it, don't make a big deal out of it. It's his choice! Momof3
For years my son refused to wear shorts. Just didn't like how they felt. So he wore pants in all weather, including the height of summer back east, etc. Then when puberty hit, he clung to pants even more strongly due to hairy legs. He's 16 now and within the past month or so he has started to wear shorts. Who knows why--he was just ready. I say choose your battles and skip this one. Have shorts available if he gets too hot and leave it at that. Someday he may just up and choose to go to shorts...

My daughter wore a bathing suit in winter, too. Been There Too


I bet if you thought about it, you would be able to identify a style or type of garment you prefer not to wear. Leave him be. This is your issue, not his.

In most of the hotter places in the world people cover their bodies. There are good reasons for this. Keeping direct sun off the skin lessens the risk of skin cancer, and keeps the skin cooler. Wearing light colored clothing reflects light, also providing a cooling affect.

Instead of trying to make him wear shorts, get him some summer-weight long pants made of cotton, linen, or some new miracle fabric. He'll be comfortable, and he'll be appropriately dressed in case your trip includes visits to churches or other places where shorts are not permissible attire. In fact, he'll be better prepared as a respectful tourist than are most Americans, who think they should be able to wear whatever they want, wherever, whenever. Don't need shorts to be cool


Your query brought back memories -- of our younger son in middle school, refusing not only to wear shorts, but to ever take off a sweatshirt, even in the heat of summer east of the tunnel. We'd pass out from heat exhaustion just looking at him, all covered up in the blistering heat. It was hard to get him into a swimsuit, and then he insisted on always wearing a swim top too. He wasn't necessarily embarrassed by his body, though that may have been a piece of it (he tends to form moles and has a super skinny build). Instead, I suspect he covered up to disappear -- to armor himself against a middle school world that felt hostile. (Only years later has he revealed how ostracized/bullied he was.) He found comfort in being covered up. He found his tribe in high school, and is extremely happy. When he felt he belonged, he suddenly was happy to ditch the sweatshirt and long pants. Dig a bit to see if there is something else going on. If not, let it go and it likely will pass. (Then again, I know a senior in high school who still refuses ever to wear anything but shorts and a polo shirt, even when it is freezing out.....) Mom of Big Guys
My son - now 19 - hasn't worn shorts since he was about seven or eight. I never thought about it being related to leg hair - he just says they aren't comfortable for him. No jeans, either. Just khakis/chinos type of pants. And sweat pants for P.E. Oh - and no long-sleeved shirts. Pretty much long pants and short-sleeve t-shirts in every kind of weather. Although we haven't traveled to really hot places like Death Valley, we have done some vacationing in pretty warm places. We try to find some slightly lighter weight pants he'll wear, and leave it at that. I figure he's old enough to decide what's comfortable for him (although we do try to insist he put on a sweatshirt or jacket if the temperature falls below 40). No heat stroke so far. to each his own pants?
Leave him alone! He will wear shorts when he is ready. Pack a pair of shorts for him in case he changes his mind on the trip or be prepared to buy shorts. there are so many other things to worry about
Yes, he will probably grow out of it. I had a phase early in high school where I never ever wore shorts either. I played tennis in jeans. And this was in Atlanta, so yes, it was very hot! Later on I just started wearing shorts again. I don't remember why. I think my mom did a good job not pushing me too hard - I probably would've avoided shorts longer if it seemed like she cared what I wore. maybe he just feels more comfortable in pants

Teen Boy Wants to Wear My Little Pony T-Shirt

Jan 2013

My son received a My Little Pony T-shirt for Christmas from his friend and wants to wear it to Berkeley High. My Little Pony consists of very feminine drawings of ponies in girly colors (pink, lavender, etc.) that for some reason is popular with young guys. The pony on the shirt features pink and my worry is that kids will gay-bash and bully him for wearing a pink & white pony. This link shows it: http://www.welovefine.com/1802-sweetie-bell-derailed-pullover.html http://www.welovefine.com/1361-rainbow-dash-paint.html People say ''It's Berkeley, that won't happen. It's too liberal.'' I say gay-bashing is everywhere, and teen boys are extremely insecure of their masculinity. It isn't worth getting beaten to a bloody pulp just to show off your taste in cartoons. In middle school there was lots of gay-bashing and those kids are now at Berkeley High. I want to hear of experience with this, not just opinions & speculation. Anyone know of boys wearing such shirts at Berkeley High? Concerned


My Little Pony is incredibly hip. You should let him wear it. And after all, isn't it a measure of his masculine confidence, that he's not afraid of being taunted for this? If the social pressure becomes unpleasant, he'll stop. Mom of another teen-boy MLP fan
There is probably some camp value to the T-shirt that is not apparent to adults, especially if his friends gave it to him. If your son is outgoing and has friends, it most likely will be seen as a joke. If your son isn't a 9th grader, I wouldn't worry about it at all, because he knows what he can get away with better than anyone else. If he's a 9th grader, you might want to talk to him about middle school bullying and ask if he wants to risk it. It also depends on the small school he's in, some groups of students are more tolerant of kids playing with gender assumptions than others. I'd say let him go for it, and just take another shirt or a hoody with him if he decides he's getting more attention than he bargained for. I've seen a lot of unusual clothing choices at BHS. BHS parent
My Little Pony is a craze among teen boys and young men. Your son is just being hip and will be recognized as such by just about anyone under 30. Just google 'my little pony' and you'll see. There has been an interesting trend during the past few years among hipster young men (including my 20-something son) to wear colors and patterns and clothing that are traditionally considered feminine or even little girl-ish, especially if they have nostalgia value for the kids. You see this a lot in the artsy musician crowd -- look at photos from Burning Man from a few years back and you will see lots of guys wearing whimsical ''little kid'' hats riding bicycles decorated in pink streamers. I now see the little knitted hats with animal ears in mainstream stores so I suspect it is no longer considered avant garde. I like this trend. To me it seems like a healthy rejection of the super-macho ghetto look that was popular when my boys were teens. Feminist mom of hipster son
My 16 year old son and his friends have been doing the whole ''MLP'' (My Little Pony) thing this year at Albany High. Some of them wear the shirts, some don't. Some of them are gay, some are not. My son happens to not be gay, but has lots of gay friends. He personally has an MLP background on his computer, and uses it in facebook and things. If there is gay bashing they don't say it is a problem or anything they are concerned about. I know Berkeley is different, but close. My son has often made choices that did end up in getting bullied and that was just part of his learning experience. We warned him and he made the choice. And now he chooses to be much more conforming in general. Somehow MLP is conforming in our neighborhood. Good luck!
I wouldn't worry about your son wearing this shirt if he wants to. It's black (at least the one on the link is), and it's about as cool as My Little Pony gets. The deeper issue may be if your son is gay, and his general appearance, affect and behavior are perceived as gay. Then yes, it may contribute to others' opinion that he is gay. If he's out, and happy with himself, let him wear the shirt. If he's straight, still let him wear the shirt! It should be his decision. I've seen plenty of tough, big, masculine guys wearing purple and pink these days. And at diverse Berkeley High, there's a greater chance that it won't turn heads than at most other high schools. BUSD mom of 3
Hi, My son doesn't go to BHS, so can't advise you on those specifics, but we have dealt with similar issues. In my experience, a lot depends on the individual kid. My son had one kid in his middle school who was ridiculed for doing much less gender-bending behavior than my son was. Unfortunately, ''status'' is a big factor at this age and affects how far kids can go outside the norm. So regardless of others' experiences, I think you have to know your kid. What does he say about the other kids who are into My Little Pony and whether or not they are harassed? What is his opinion about it?

We've had discussions (re: other 'style' and choice of acoutrements) about what is the message you're trying to get across, what is the potential fallout and is it worth it, what other options are there, what specifically are the risks both physically and in the conclusions other kids draw, how will he deal with various responses, is there someone (friend or teacher) who 'has your back'. As they get older, these are the conversations they need to be having internally because we won't be there to decide for them and they need to be learning to assess the situation and make decisions. anon


I just asked my son, a senior at BHS, about this and he said don't worry about it. BHS Mom
Honestly, just graduating from Albany High and having some friends that went to Berkeley, I understand, however, respectfully disregard your concern. I can honestly tell you that no one is going to make any negative comments about the shirt. It's black. It has 1 My Little Pony character. it says ''meh'' under it. If you're unimoformed as to what is more humorous umungst the younger generation, then let me tell you that the word ''meh'' has the implications of indiference or a ''whatever'' mentality. The pony is lying on it's stomach like it's lazy, like it has that ''meh'' mentality. The combination of the horse and the word creates a humorous message. My Little Pony has most likely been around for a while so many people know what it is. People know that high school boys are not the targeted audience. If your son does happen to watch it, there will be a miniscule amount of people that will realize believe he does. From those that do, even fewer will actually believe that he's gay. If he is gay, then I can almost 99.99% guarantee you that nobody will harm him in any way. Berkeley is very progressive. In my experience, I would fear for the life of the gay-basher more than I would for your son. I understand your fear, but here in Berkeley the roles are reverced when it comes to opinionated majorities of the stereotypical United States (''more gaybashers, less progressives'' to ''less gaybashers, more Progressives). If I saw your son with that shirt, I would chuckle and continue with my business. There are too many transitive thoughts necessary for one to result in the thought that he is homosexual in any way. 18-Year Old Post-Albany High Student
I must admit I really can't make out your problem. If it's just your son wants to wear a silly T-shirt and that's all, and he's in high school, he's old enough to take the consequences. So what if he's into Bronies. Lots of kids are. It's just a popular form of cartoon fun (with a dash of rudeness). Here's a recent article (Oct 1 2012) on the phenom, but it's been around for years: http://www.globalpost.com/dispatches/globalpost-blogs/weird-wide-web/bronies-my-little-pony-reboot-finds-passionate-grown-audi And here's an opinion piece on it from the Guardian (UK): http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/oct/01/my-little-pony-bronies-rebels

Now, if your problem is that your son is gay, or you suspect he's gay, you've got a problem you need to wrestle with - and it isn't Bronies. Bronies aren't gay or straight or trans - just good fun.

Your son has a right to his own sexual identity and privacy. If he's told you he's gay, your fear of bullies and alienation will not lead to greater acceptance and esteem - rather the contrary. He must *own* his identity proudly. And you should be proud of him as well and not be afraid. Would you hide your religion? Your gender? Your intellect? Your feelings?

This is giving into fear. Fear has to be faced. Yes, he may be teased. And yes, there may be an idiot who tries to bully him. But bullies prey on the weak. Fear makes one weak, but pride and awareness of one's own genuine identity makes for a man or woman strong enough to endure - and capable of fighting for others who need his or her strength. And if he hasn't said he's gay, back off mom. It's not really any of your business. A T-shirt is a T-shirt and nothing more. Good Luck


My BHS sophomore girl says it is fine. She says the students wear a lot of crazy shirts to berkeley high and they dont get targeted for it. This my little pony motif is known and well accepted she says. So no worries mom. Another BHS parent
Dear Concerned, My two boys went to Berkeley High. I asked them about your concerns to see what they thought. A couple things. They said these shirt are also being worn by some of the high school football players and they call them ''Bronies'' (ponies/bronies?) They also both said that they thought you should let your son wear the shirt. That if there were any school where he could get away with it it would be Berkeley High and if there were any problems he might have to deal with over it that perhaps Berkeley high wouldn't be so bad. My thought about all this is if you are worried and he insists, perhaps you should go to the OCI office or the Vice Principle in Charge of discipline and give him/them a private heads- up about your concerns. There are good people at BHS to help you. Hope this helps a bit
Hi - You didn't mention what grade your son is in, but I would say that unless he is a clueless 9th grade boy with a history of being socially awkward and out of touch with his peers, let him wear the shirt. I have noticed that many of the more secure boys/young men proudly wear pink shirts or shirts with pink lettering and no one 'gay bashes' them. Of course, these boys appear to be very heterosexual, so that surely factors into it. Actually, this is a fascinating concern. My sense (and I have a kid in Berkeley public schools) is that a gay child may very well be teased or bullied for being gay no matter what he/she wears to school. On the other hand, I'm amazed at the acceptance and tolerance I've seen towards some of the more openly gay and even possibly trans-gendered kids, so we are making progress. But to address your specific question, I don't think your child will be bullied, teased or worse for wearing the shirt you described. I think it is 'the fashion' among many of the kids and is considered cool. Go figure. anon
Hi - I became so curious about this that I actually typed ''My little pony teen boys fashion'' into my search engine and I hit on an interesting article in the NY Times called, ''Hey Bro, That's My Little Pony.'' Turns out MLP is 'hot' or 'cool' among many teen boys. In fact, there is a word for teen boys who enjoy it ---''bronies'' - a combo of 'bro' and 'ponies.' What will the teens think of next? So, concerned mom, your son is in fact on the cutting edge of coolness and you should probably just trust him and let him wear the shirt. anon
I understand your concern, and think you are right. My child attended middle school in Berkeley and a boy there got verbally and physically bullied for using an umbrella with flowers on it. It didn't matter that he never used it again--the bullying was relentless for the rest of the year, as I recall. THey were even calling each ''fag'', ''queer'', etc. in elementary school. This was Berkeley, so all this talk about Berkeley High being so cool and open-minded rings false. Unless they have moved, those homophobic kids would be at Berkeley High by now. It only takes one strong leader kid to start bullying, and his friends will follow suit. Victims of gay-bashing are often so harassed that they commit suicide. No one wrote to say ''Yes my son wears My Little Pony shirts to BHS and no one has bothered him''. I think you should err on the side of caution here. Yes, it's sad that boys have to be ''in the box'', but that is reality. -You are right to be concerned
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