Literary Mama's Reviews > You're Wearing That?: Understanding Mothers and Daughters in Conversation

You're Wearing That? by Deborah Tannen
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's review
Jan 29, 2012

bookshelves: advice
Read in May, 2011

Tannen, also the author of You Just Don't Understand: Men in Women in Conversation and You Were Always Mom's Favorite: Sisters in Conversation Throughout their Lives, is a linguistics professor at Georgetown University, not a child psychologist, but someone who deconstructs conversations and their meanings. You're Wearing That? is based on her research, combined with case studies and conversations between moms and daughters that Tannen observed over a period of time.

In the case of the clothing conversation, what I understood later when reading Tannen's book is that my reaction most likely stemmed less from wanting Clio to be dressed appropriately for her own sake than from my own desire to be viewed as a good mother. Tannen writes,

"Each sees the other as representing her to the world, and women are overwhelmingly judged by appearance. This is especially urgent for mothers, because once a woman becomes a mother, her value -- in the eyes of the world and often in her own eyes as well -- resides largely in how she fulfills that role. And her children's appearance is only one of many criteria by which she is judged. This is true regardless of how successful she is in any other realm."

According to Tannen, clothing choices, along with weight and hair, are the "big three" between mothers and daughters. Later in life, depending on the relationship, the daughter's partner choices and parenting skills are added to the list.

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