Dress Codes: Why We Need to Respect Them

The day before my middle school graduation, my stomach was in knots- not just because I would be moving onto the intimidating halls high school in the fall, but because my graduation dress had spaghetti straps. Evidently, the graduation dress code stated that girls should not be wearing thin-strapped or strapless dresses without something covering her shoulders. The rule-abiding dork I was back then, I fearfully told my mom that I wouldn't be able to wear the dress without some type of cardigan.

"You'll be fine," she said. "Your shoulders may not be covered, but your neckline isn't too low, and your hemline isn't too short."

And she was right. I went through graduation without a hitch. In fact, I don't think the teachers pulled anyone to the side due to inappropriate dress. And that's because even if a girl's shoulders were exposed (like mine), most of my fellow classmates wore beautiful dresses that demonstrated a certain degree of appropriateness for the occasion.

Fast forward to today and you see an article every week about some student or young professional that was turned away from a class, event, or interview because of her inappropriate clothing. And while I had my brush with defying authority back in middle school, I find myself siding with the "powers that be" who are enforcing these dress codes more often than not.

So what's changed since I hesitantly bared my shoulders at my middle school graduation? Clothes have gotten skimpier, social media has become more ever-present, and acts of "defiance" are now almost always lauded by the media.

Dress codes in schools exist for a reason. School is a place that aims to prepare you for adult life. And in adult life, aka the Real World, you can't just wear whatever you want in any setting because you feel that you have the right to. Most places of employment have a dress code in place because the way you present yourself is a reflection of the company you work for. And I believe that is something that all young people should learn before they're thrown into adult life.   

As a proponent of dress codes today, I don't regret what I did back when I was 13. My mother was right- my dress was appropriate in all other facets. My philosophy about dress codes stems from the idea of using common sense when dressing yourself. Your school may have a "fingertip length" policy on shorts (my middle school did). If your shorts fall a half inch above that, is anyone really going to bat an eye? Probably not, because that is still a very respectable length. If you're wearing shorts that show the bottom of your backside, however? That's pushing it.

The dress in question (middle school pictures are rough, y'all)

It's not necessarily about men being able to (or, really, not being able to) "control their gaze." Rather, it's about having respect for your setting, and understanding that certain items of clothing aren't appropriate in professional contexts.  

I'm not saying that schools and other institutions should put more dress codes in place (my high school didn't have one and that was a-ok with me), I just think that if there is a dress code, students (and their parents) should respect it. And the same mentality should apply to events and dining spaces that have a dress code in place.

Recently, I read an article about a woman who was asked to leave a coffee shop because she had just come from the gym and was wearing only a sports bra and leggings, and did not have anything to cover up with. While it may have been a little harsh for the staff to ask her to leave after she had already purchased a coffee and sat down, a sports bra is definitely not the same as a shirt- it is an undergarment. Most eating establishments do have the policy of "no shirt, no shoes, no service," and that's exactly what this coffee shop was enforcing. If a man had walked in without a shirt, I assume (and hope) that he would have received the same treatment.    

People often argue that these dress codes are only directed at females, and therefore these rules are sexist. But the truth of the matter is, there is a much wider range of clothing marketed at women than men, and this range often includes more provocative items. Men (unfortunately) are pretty much limited to knee-length shorts, button downs, and short sleeved shirts. There isn't much room for error. Crop tops, leggings, and daisy dukes aren't exactly what we're seeing on the shelves of the men's section of J. Crew. But this doesn't mean that men are pardoned from the sanctions of proper dress codes- many high-end restaurants will provide a man with a jacket if he comes without one.

Similarly, places of worship require appropriate dress when entering these sacred spaces. For example, at the Vatican in Rome, all visitors (men and women) must refrain from wearing sleeveless tops or anything above knee length (including shorts!) upon entering. And if you're not dressed appropriately, you might be given something to cover up. This is simply out of respect for this incredibly important spot.  

To me, what it all comes down to is that there is a time and place for everything. Sure, a slinky dress is totally appropriate for a night at the club with your girlfriends- but if you wore that same dress to school, would you really blame anyone for calling you out on dressing inappropriately?  

We live in a time that tends to challenge authority and social norms at all costs. At its best, defiance spurs on important social change. But at its worst, it makes us seem like we're simply looking for something to complain about. 

But whatever happened to having respect for the setting in which you learn, work, or even worship? While it's important to argue for social change where it truly matters, we also have to realize that there are rules in place for a reason.   


Summer Highlights

One of the best things about not being in high school anymore (and let’s be real- I could write a whole essay about why I’m glad high school is over) is that summer vacation lasts an entire four months, rather than a measly ten weeks like it used to.

But with all of those days of sunshine and freedom it’s pretty easy to slip into a complacent mindset, wasting the day watching Netflix and eating way too much ice cream straight from the container.

Luckily, I didn’t have one of those summers (okay, maybe a few days were like that). Having a job that lasted eight weeks certainly helped fight the urge to just laze about, but more than anything, having a group of friends that were willing to be a little bit spontaneous and adventurous made this one of my best summers ever.

 And what better way to share my most fantastic summer moments with you than by narrating some fun pictures here on my blog?

Can you believe I had never been to Provincetown before this summer? It's such a unique place- it feels like a small island, even though it's connected to the mainland of Massachusetts. 

I participated in the AIDS Walk for the second year in a row this summer. I'm glad I took the time to support such a great cause by walking a 10k with my bestie (and picking up some a lot of free food along the way, of course).

A lot of my summer fun these past few months is completely attributed to my mom (aka my best friend). Since the fam is pretty much all "grown up" at this point (hah), it's gotten much more difficult to get us all together for extended vacations. This year, we nixed the big vacay, and opted for a little bit of New England sightseeing, while helping my mom research for her newest book in the process. This photo was taken at Hildene, the Lincoln family Home, in Vermont.  

My social life basically revolves around bonfires. It's free, fun, and the smell of the burnt wood that stays on your clothes and hair the next day? Nothing can beat that quintessentially summer-esque scent.

Because I go to school so far away from home, having people from uni coming to visit Boston is basically just a fantasy. I mean, you can't just pop over for a weekend! I was really lucky, however, because one of my good friends from my running team was in town before I started working at camp! It was really such a pleasure to be able to show off my favorite city. And I was a pretty good tour guide, too, if I do say so myself.

One of my biggest successes of the summer? Polishing up my cooking skills! I can't wait to start cooking in my flat next year- though I'm sure I won't be doing anything as fancy or time intensive as this particular meal was (in case you're wondering- clockwise from top- chicken piccata, wilted spinach salad, sundried tomato orzo, and lemony asparagus).

I absolutely love having a summer birthday (if only for the great weather in June). My 19th birthday definitely goes down as one of my favorites. And the sparklers definitely made it extra special!

So I actually completed something on my summer bucket list! (come to think of it, I actually can cross off a few of those items) Hiking in the Blue Hills on Fourth of July was one of my favorite adventures of the summer. Can you say #outdoorsy?

Nothing that happened this summer can beat the gratification I felt when I received a call from the Boston Globe saying that they would like to publish my article. After about a month of hard work (and seven whole drafts), I was able to see the final product of a dream that I had always had. And I'm sure I'll remember those "pinch me" moments forever.

This swan floatie made me so happy. I mean, Taylor Swift has one! It's not technically mine (nor is that my pool), but just getting to hang out on one of these guys made me feel like a celebrity. 

I can't talk about my summer without mentioning working at camp! I honestly think that every year at camp has just gotten better. This year I felt like I really clicked with my co-counselors, who I can certainly also call my friends! Eight weeks with up to 17 four-year-olds seems like a lot at first, but it really was all of my co-workers that got me excited about coming to work each day (oh, that and getting to eat JP Licks ice cream during the seventh week).

So this is a snapshot from my current New England vacation through Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Western Massachusetts. I know this picture is on my instagram and my Facebook but I'm absolutely obsessed with this little six week old goat named Alice from Mount Hope Farm. She certainly stole my heart. 

And here I am later today at Winvian Farm in Connecticut! The places we've been visiting for my mom's new book have each been really different- ranging from quirky and quaint, to just downright luxurious. Winvian Farm definitely falls under the category of "luxurious" with its beautifully decorated private cottages and incredibly elegant farm-to-table dining. This final trip has been a fantastic way to finish off the summer!
The end of the summer as a college-student is always strange: it doesn’t end all of a sudden, with everyone going back to school all at once. Rather, it kinda just fizzles out as everyone leaves for their respective schools at different times.

Being one of the last people to leave is tough- you see your home friends having fun at college, and you’re not left with many people to go get froyo with during those last few days of summer. And once it’s your time to leave, there’s hardly anyone around to give you a proper sendoff.

But while the last week or so of summer is a little bittersweet, I can’t help but feel satisfied with how much fun I’ve had these past four months. And, after all, I have a whole semester to look forward to! In case you’re wondering, it’s just a week and a half now before I leave for school.

Edinburgh, I’m comin’ for ya.     


Freshman Year Fears (And How to Really Conquer Them)

Let's face it: whether you're starting your first year at a state school just an hour away, or entering your first week as a fresher in a totally different country, taking that first step on campus- and into your new life- can be really scary.

Looking back on how I felt at this time last year, I can recall that I was dreadfully nervous on the inside, but seemingly excited when I spoke to family and friends about the new adventure I was about to embark upon. I had planned out my fresher's week events to a T, stuffed all of my clothes, bedding, and luggage into my brother's vacant room, and started a blog about my transition into college.

But, like all of the older, wiser second years out there, I can now see that there was so much I didn't know, expect, or properly prepare for in those weeks leading up to the big move. I really could've used some advice. And while there are thousands of resources out there that attempt to guide incoming freshmen, in this post I aim to give you the #realtalk version in which I express some of my biggest fears from last year, and try to give some genuine advice to all of you newcomers out there.

Me bein' a fresher.

Making new friends // One of the most common pieces of advice I've read regarding making new friends in college is that "the people you meet the first week won't be your best friends for the rest of the year." Isn't that just delightful? The truth is, the people you meet the first week might not be your best friends in the coming years- but that's really up to you! You get so many phone numbers at the time that it can be hard to keep up- but it's so important to keep in contact with anyone you seem to have a connection with in order to develop a friendship. Just like with dating, it might not always work out. But sometimes, you really do end up meeting your friends right off the bat! I mean, I met all three of my flatmates for next year during the first week of university. And, I met one of my closest friends during a jazz night at our student bar after just a few days at school. To make a long story short, this very friendly American guy started talking to me while I was waiting for my drink, and we found out we were both studying sociology. Fast forward to today, and we've grown incredibly close- not to mention he's let me store my stuff in his flat over this summer (if that's not true friendship, then I don't know what is).

Missing home // There's no question that you're going to miss home at some point during your first year of college. Whether it's your mom's home cooking, impromptu ice cream runs with your high school friends, or simply being in a place that feels comfortable- you're going to have some nights when you miss all of this. If I'm being honest, I didn't miss home as much as I expected I would, considering I go to school so far away. But the times when I did long for being back in my bed? Those pangs of homesickness almost always came when I was going through some sort of "crisis"- whether personal or academic. The best thing you can do for yourself in order to miss home less is to simply call your family (and friends!) regularly- it doesn't matter if it's every other day, once a week, or once a month. Just don't cut yourself off from your home life only to realize you need that comfort at the worst of times. Your family doesn't only want to hear from you when you're feeling sad about something or need more money- so make sure to call them up with good news every once in a while! 

Not bringing the right amount of "stuff" // Oh, the dreaded freshman year "packing list." So many websites attempt to streamline what college kids need to bring their first year, but let me tell you something- it all depends on where you go to school and what kind of student you are. Overall, I can tell you my biggest piece of advice to incoming freshmen (that many of my friends agree on) is to bring less than you think you need. Luckily, having a limit on the suitcases I could bring on my international flight prevented me from bringing a ton of unnecessary items. That being said, I still could've packed lighter. Keep in mind that more likely than not the college you're headed to probably has a pharmacy, grocery store, and Target within driving distance of campus. Take advantage of that, and buy bigger items (such as pillows or a trash bin) there. As for clothes? One of my friends told me she packed way too many sandals for going to such a cold-weather school in upstate New York. And to be honest, I'm guilty of packing too many pairs of shorts. So just remember, kids- less is most definitely more when it comes to packing.

My real suitcases for school are way more full than this. 

The freshman 15 // First off, if you're just about to start your first year of college you need to come to terms with the fact that you will most likely gain some weight. And if you didn't gain a single pound throughout your freshman year please tell me your secret. Here's the thing, though: your first few weeks of college are about enjoying yourself. And a lot of what constitutes for "enjoying yourself" (at least in my book) includes eating- whether it's greasy pizza after a night-out, an extra plate of sweet potato fries in the dining hall, or a slice of birthday cake for your hall mate's special day. You can't avoid these situations altogether or be a stickler about eating healthy- especially during your first semester. So I'd say the best thing to do for yourself in order to avoid the freshman 15 is to spend your first semester simply getting used to your routine, involving yourself in student life, and forming solid friendships. Then, once you feel more settled in to being at college, you can figure out what small changes you can make in order to stay healthy (and lose those pesky 5 pounds that you didn't notice until Christmas).

Don't worry- you have time to learn how to eat healthy.

So there you have it, folks! My genuine, unfiltered advice on how to conquer your fears for the coming year. And while I've tried to keep this post as not-cliched as possible, I just have to add in this one last piece of advice for incoming freshmen: have fun! Over-stressing about the next year won't do you any good, so just remember to enjoy the ride while you can- because you're only a college freshman once!



FAQ Part 3

It's that time of year again! You know what I'm talking about. The time when nosey family-friends, old classmates you run into at CVS, and summer co-workers start asking you questions about the coming year. While these questions are almost always both polite and relevant, I often find myself getting asked the same questions repeatedly. Why? Because these are the questions that most people actually care about hearing the answers to (and hope you'll ask them as well so they can gab on about their respective schools). So here are my answers to some of my most frequently asked questions as of recent:   

What's your housing situation for next year?

Starting in early September I'll be living in an off-campus flat with three other girls, and I couldn't be more thrilled! We each get to have our own room (thank God), and our flat also has a small kitchen, a lounge for a dining table and a couch, and a bathroom of course. The location of our flat is ideal since it's a bit closer to University than our halls last year. Not to mention, it's in the Marchmont area which is where pretty much all Edinburgh Uni students aim to end up once they move to a flat. 

Image credit: Dave Henniker

How did you decide on your flat/flatmates?

You can read more about our flat hunt here, but to put it quite simply, we were looking for a flat in which we each had our own bedroom that came at a reasonable price. Luckily, we managed to check off both of those boxes (and more!) after an extensive, exhausting, and emotional search. As for my flatmates? Well, to make a long story short, we all met during Fresher's week (basically the "orientation week" of UK schools). We all lived in Grant House last year, and made the effort to get together for dinners and nights out during that first week. Since then, they've become my go-to gals for pretty much anything- from study sessions outside when we've got a case of cabin fever, to discussing the ins and outs of dating at Uni. While these girls are definitely my besties, I'm always surprised as to how we managed to become friends considering that we're all so different from one another. But maybe that's the key to good friendships- if you're too similar you might get on each other's nerves. We'll have to see how living together next year affects our friendships- hopefully in the best way possible! 

Are you going to have to cook for yourself next year?

Yes! I'm on my own for every single meal next year. And this isn't by choice- after first year at University, there is no option for any type of meal plan. Essentially, I've been thrust into the adult world way before I ever expected to. Thankfully, my mom is an incredible cook- and an even better baker- and has taught me the art of creating cheap and easy meals that somehow taste like you spent hours slaving away in the kitchen. I've spent time each week brushing up on my skills, and while I sometimes still forget to put the onion-half on the flat side while dicing it, I'd say I've improved quite a lot since the beginning of the summer. Oh, and this past Sunday I managed to put together an entire brunch for my friends- drinks, flowers, food and all! While I'd say that's a pretty good accomplishment, my mom did point out that while I did a great job with the cooking, I didn't do so hot on the cleaning up part. Oops.    


What are you most looking forward to as you head back to school?

Strangely enough, I'm looking forward to getting back to running and racing with my team the most. I say "strangely" not because I don't totally adore the Haries (because I do!), but because of my attitude toward the start of the formal running season back when I was in high school. During those years, the coming of the last few weeks of August meant one thing: pre-season. And I absolutely dreaded it. We all knew what was coming: a 90 degree day, a three mile lydiard on the track (we're talking 12 laps of race pace), and the gut-wrenching fear that you wouldn't be as in-shape as your fellow teammates. To be honest, pre-season had to be the most physically and mentally difficult few weeks of training out of the whole year. Luckily, I don't have to deal with that anymore- giving me all the more reason to eagerly anticipate the start of cross country season. And while running isn't as high-pressure as it used to be, I'd have to say that my more relaxed and positive attitude has contributed to this being my best summer ever in terms of training. Last month I knocked three and a half minutes off my 5 mile PR from this past March, and that's definitely giving me a big confidence boost for this coming season. Plus, I've even already signed up for a 10k in Stirling in September!

Just being incredibly happy/sassy after finishing that 5-miler in July.

What classes are you taking this year?*

So I only have one required class for my second year and that's Sociology 2 (surprise, surprise). Along with that course I'll be taking Social Anthropology 2 as well as Ethnography to fulfill half of my remaining credits. I took Social Anthropology 1 last year, and enjoyed it maybe even a little bit more than Sociology at times! I think it's really cool that the curriculum for anthropology becomes more hands on with the addition of ethnography as a class- this way I can delve deeper into actually learning how to study groups of people, rather than just reading about researchers who have already done the fieldwork for us. And the real curveball class this year? Scottish Studies! I was really struggling to fill the other half of my credits because for some reason all of the classes I was considering (Education, American History, Italian) all clashed with either my class schedule or my running schedule. And so I happened to stumble upon Scottish Studies in my desperate search and thought it would be a perfect way to not sound like an uninformed American when I'm around Scottish people. As they say- when in Rome!    

*Disclaimer: my classes aren't completely finalized yet. 

So those are some frequently asked questions for ya! If you want to enjoy my previous FAQs then have a read right here: 

FAQ Part 1 // FAQ Part 2


A Very Scottish Brunch at The Haven

Scottish food certainly doesn't have the best reputation- not only do people find the list of ingredients in haggis to be somewhat horrifying (sheep innards anyone?), but most struggle to be able to identify what Scottish cuisine exactly is. To me, Scottish food is not only both comforting and rich, but it is also a lot more healthy than you might think! (maybe not the deep fried Mars Bars, though)

But being so far away from my term-time home, you might wonder: where would I be able to indulge in the delicious Scottish fare that I've come to miss so much? 

Enter: The Haven

I find it hard to believe that Boston only has one purely Scottish restaurant in town. Perhaps it's because Boston is so Irish-heavy that the Scots seem to have gotten a wee bit overlooked. But despite the country's singular presence in Boston, The Haven is really all you need for your Scottish fix. 

Located in Jamaica Plain, The Haven doesn't scream "Scotland" from it's exterior. Other than the golden thistle that stands as it's logo, you don't really get that Scottish feeling until you step foot inside of the restaurant. But the second you walk in, you might as well be in the center of Edinburgh. From the horned light fixtures, to the tartan-clad throw pillows, to the Robert Louis Stevenson poems gracing the walls- every nook and cranny serves to celebrate everything that is wonderful about Scotland. 

My mom and I arrived on an appropriately rainy morning for brunch. As we scanned the small menu (complete with a glossary for those of us who aren't familiar with terms such as "tattie scone" and "lorne sausage"), we were served oat cakes with butter along with our perfectly strong coffee. 
Truth be told, I'm not the biggest fan of oat cakes. Living at Pollock Halls this year, I actually lived just around the corner from the Nairns oat cake factory, but never bothered actually buying the product because they're just too dry. But the second the waitress set those oat cakes down on the table, I absolutely lit up from the familiarity of it all and immediately scarfed one down. 

A cheeky cartoon we received with our check.

While it wasn't the most purely Scottish choice on the menu, I decided to order the toffee french toast with blueberries and maple whipped cream- because who could really resist that? I was tempted to order the full Scotch breakfast just to see how it measured up to Pollock Hall's take on the classic meal of fried eggs, bacon, black pudding, sausage, tattie scones and beans. My mom almost bit the bullet on that one, but ended up deciding on the "bubble and squeak" at the last minute. 

The french toast was absolutely phenomenal, reaching that perfect balance of moistness without being too soggy. And the maple buttercream? I wanted more, it was that delicious. I've had a lot of french toast in my day, and I'd say The Haven's is one of my top picks. 

Because my mom and I believe in the old saying of "sharing is caring" when it comes to food, I was able to try a few bites of her "bubble and squeak." First off, I would have had no idea what that meant if it wasn't for the glossary in the corner of the menu. Apparently, it means leftovers from Sunday dinner. Who would've thought? These "leftovers" happened to have been cabbage, peppers, and carrots topped with some crunchy pork belly and two poached eggs. I loved how simple, fresh, and healthy the dish was- it seemed like something I would make for myself in my flat next year! (granted, probably not nearly as well)

Having brunch at The Haven certainly cured some of that "homesickness" I've been feeling for Scotland lately. From its tastefully patriotic decor to its authentically delicious plates, The Haven stands out because of the unique culture it brings to a surprisingly Scottish-starved Boston. 

If you've never tried Scottish food before or already love it as much as I do, The Haven is your best bet for experiencing Scotland's cuisine without having to cross an entire ocean. Oh, and I don't mind if you take me with you, either ;)  

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