Do you have a neck? Do you wear a particular article of clothing that is useful but not quite fashionable? Did your parents have a strong belief in the usefulness of that piece of clothing and put you in it at a young age? And finally, despite the fact that you know nothing about fashion and have a nagging sense that this must be how questionable things get passed down from one generation to the next, did you dress your own children in that particular article of clothing? My answer to all these questions is yes. How about you?
This questionable article of clothing is the turtleneck. It is a simple, thin layer of cloth but due to its preservative properties, it has kept decades of wind, sun and assorted elements off my delicate neck skin leaving it sort of untouched, yet saggy and wrinkly. Like used crepe paper covering a helping of Jello.
I’ve worn a turtleneck for as long as I can remember – even when it was Halloween and for two years in a row, I tried to pass as a magical fairy princess. My mom had me wear one under my costume because, well, it was October in northern Wisconsin and despite the addition of a sequined tiara, there was not going to be enough magic to make me a fairy or a princess.
My husband doesn’t think too much about his neck yet he too wore a turtleneck before he had a chance to develop his sense of fashion. Now, our moms didn’t know each other when they gave birth to us four days apart in the summer of 1968, but I like to think they shared the same dream that their new babies would grow up and find someone who also wears gold turtlenecks. And hugs animals.
My husband and I realize that no matter the question, a turtleneck is not always the answer, but we put our own children in them anyway. Maybe we did it because of our hardy midwestern upbringing or our lack of style with a sense of duty (if it’s winter, you wear a turtleneck) or because we had an inkling that one day one of our preteen daughters would be searching for something positive to say about my appearance and come up with “but mom, you have such a nice neck.”
To this day, all of our kids say they hate turtlenecks – they are too constricting, they feel too squeezy, they get too hot if they wear them. I understand their resistance but also want them to think about the future. Without the help of a turtleneck, what will their necks look like in 30 years? No one in our family seems to care. And no one in our family continues to wear one except me. How about you?