With saggy pants, it’s not hard to get behind law
by Reg Henry
Columnist
June 20, 2013 11:43 PM | 728 views | 0 0 comments | 43 43 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Reader warning: There’s going to be puns. How could there not be puns in a column about Wildwood, N.J., enacting a ban on saggy pants that expose people’s butts or underwear along its boardwalk.

The law will take effect July 2, The Associated Press reports, with a first offense punishable by a $25 fine. Subsequent violations might reap fines as high as $200 and 40 hours of community service. Presumably you’d have to be really cheeky to merit that sort of penalty.

“This is just adding a little bit of decency to our town,” Mayor Ernest Troiano Jr. was quoted as saying. “It’s amazing — and this is a pun — how far decency has fallen through the cracks.”

I myself take a stern view of people parading about with posterior decolletage. Really, do we have to look at that?

It is hard not to sympathize with a Jersey Shore resort that is trying to maintain standards when at any minute Snooki and her pals might arrive. I am surprised they didn’t pass an ordinance requiring tuxedos to be worn on the boardwalk.

But any suggestion that Wildwood is trying to be the fashion police was squelched by city Commissioner Pete Byron, also quoted in the AP story despite not making any puns. “There’s a line that gets crossed between being a fashion statement and being obnoxious,” he said. “Families can feel threatened.”

He is so right. Buttocks are anathema to family life. If too much is made of buttocks, a little kiddie can wake up screaming in the night because he thinks a monster pair is hiding under the bed.

As it is, the attempt by Wildwood to become Mildwood has led to cries of racism, just as it has in other places with similar bans. Civil libertarians say such laws are unconstitutional. That’s because the trend called “sagging,” which is said to have originated in the prison system, was made popular by hip-hop artists.

(It is a relief to know that I am finally trendy. I am at the age when a lot of personal sagging is going on, although not yet my pants.)

I read in The New York Post that the rapper “The Game” — who is apparently famous, which explains why I have never heard of him — has denounced the Wildwood law as racist and promised to pay the fines for the first five people ticketed.

This is very sporting of The Game but — call me naive — I am not sure that racism is involved in this case. Maybe he could have a chat with The Situation, one of the dopier characters in the “Jersey Shore” cast, concerning the situation.

Certainly racism is a lingering legacy in this country, but I don’t think the cause of equality is helped by blaming everything on race. I think we do better by assuming the best about people in the absence of clear evidence to the contrary — in Wildwood’s case, that it’s just well-meaning silliness inspiring the law.

After all, sagging pants are worn by all sorts of callow youths.

The last offender I saw was a pale-skinned kid who had his butt so far out of his pants that if had he tied a roller skate to it and bent his knees, he could have slid on down the road as a mercy to onlookers.

It may be progress that the knucklehead community is so about equal opportunity these days, empowering people of all ethnic varieties to wear their baseball caps backward and to have droopy drawers dusting the sidewalk while aerating their nether quarters.

It’s the plumbers I worry about in Wildwood. What if some honest tradesman were walking down the boardwalk to fix the pipes at an ice cream, trinkets, saucy postcards and T-shirt store and found himself ticketed for an offense against good taste? It wouldn’t seem right. Surely plumbers are allowed to display the trademark sign of their profession without a law that allows no ifs or butts.

So while the residents of Wildwood have my sympathy, I don’t think a law is needed, especially one that goes into effect just before the Fourth of July, America’s great celebration of freedom.

Fashions change, as does society’s definition of obscenity, dooming Wildwood to fight a hopeless rear-guard action against the tush menace.

Reg Henry writes for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

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