When I was in my twenties, I flew from Los Angeles to Marbella, Spain, for a holiday at my parent's villa. I was an independent young woman, working as a motion picture literary agent at a large agency.
On my first vacation day, I slathered on the sunscreen and stretched out poolside, like a cat.
To misquote Brian Hyland, I wore an: "itsy, bitsy, teenie, weenie, sexy leopard skin bikini." My ever-so-chic Parisian aunt had slipped it to me the last time I had seen her and I hadn't dare wear it in LA... too racy, too fashion forward, too Euro at that place in time.
My father actually came out and admonished me: "My dear, you can't wear that thing; we're not running a brothel," he said, with plenty of humor and resolute firmness. "It's not ladylike. Please go and get changed."
That summer, I had to sneak my bikini to the beach. Let's not forget, this was the Costa del Sol, where women frolicked topless. Nonetheless, I would respect my father's wishes at home, but at the beach, well, I was an adult and I drew my line in the sand.
Now this morning, I watch a segment on the NBC Today Show about an Abercrombie & Fitch string bikini, with a padded bra, that's being marketed to girls in the 7-14 year-old age group. To be fair, on the vendor's website, the sizes aren't listed by age, but by S, M, L, EX, with measurements to figure it all out.
The questionable item of clothing is a stripped pink and white string bikini, with a padded top, called the Ashley Push Up Triangle. (Frankly, I take more offense at the name; use your imagination.)
There is a panel of experts, discussing this thing.
But so far as I'm concerned they completely miss the boat. Yes, I wouldn't put a little girl in a padded bikini, with a skinny bottom, but it wouldn't be because I'd worry about her self-image.
Are we so obsessed with self-image and plastic surgery these days that we think young children think like we do: "Mommy look, I have perfect boobs now!"
Let's get real. Is this bikini any different from all the other age-inappropriate clothing out there? Is this bikini going to make our daughters want to grow up and have big boobs? Is this bikini going to give them a terrible complex that they have Smarties-on-a-plate, instead of big jugs, excuse the English expressions?
Girls will think about this stuff irrespective of this bikini; we all did when we were girls.
With all due respect to the journalistic expertise of the NBC Today Show staff and their guest experts, not one person mentioned how dressing our daughters in provocative clothing is an open invitation to sexual predation.
Sexual predators are the culprits in our society, not string bikinis.
If you put a girl in sexy clothing, well, that's just asking for trouble. The child may or may not be aware of looking more like say Britney Spears, but they become an easy target by looking like they do.
So I say worry less about girls developing self-esteem issues and more about girls making it to adulthood without being taken advantage of.
Internet sexual predation is currently in vogue among media circles, but real life sexual predation is out there: at public swimming pools, in country club cabanas and on our beautiful beaches. Be responsible with what you buy for your young girls to wear, swimwear or not.
Not everyone has a father like mine.
WATCH the Today Show segment:
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