My sweet niece came to stay with us this summer. We had a great time on field trips, swimming and shopping. And she bought black eye shadow, on my watch.
In retrospect, I regret letting her buy it. My niece is a beautiful, bona fide teenager, but just barely into her teens. My leading edge of parenting experience is about eight years old, so what do I know?
I figured the whole artsy, neo-grunge, black eye shadow thing was normal. My niece is incredibly smart, she gets straight As, and loves math. Will black eye shadow ruin that? Surely not, but if I wouldn't let my own daughter buy it, why did I let her?
Black eye shadow evokes drama, intrigue and sexiness. Kids today grow up too fast. Why? Are images such as Victoria's Secret models in wedgie lingerie with haunches hoisted in awkward positions, or Hollister men showing waxed sensitive areas, helping to define a new normal for bodies and sex?
Here's an idea. If we as a culture are to become so casual about our bodies, let's at least get comfortable with real bodies, not the surgically-corrected, injected, perfectly hairless and photoshopped physiques currently plastered all over the media.
So why worry about how teen girls present themselves? For centuries, conservatively-dressed women have been victimized, despite wearing plain Amish dresses, saris, hijabs, burkas or business suits. Male aggression against women will never be stopped by what clothes or makeup our daughters wear; that problem can only be fixed by how we raise our sons.
Yet, to be cared for as more than simply a pretty trinket, a girl is compelled to worry about her image. My daughter has a shirt that reads, smugly, "It's a Girl's World."
Well, I got news for you honey: no it ain't.
It is a competitive and dangerous world for women, and if you cling to a pretty face or a hot body as your trump card in life, then the only mobility you may ever experience is horizontal. My message to girls is this: Snooki is an idiot and a joke. Teen years spent emulating her are wasted time.
I recently broke down and got a Facebook page, and I love being 'friends' with my family. My niece is a good kid, but one of her friend's suggestive pictures regularly pop up on my Facebook page, and it severely annoys me. I don't know what to make of that risque little girl.
Is she an angst-ridden tween experimenting in self-expression, or the next teen mom? Either way, I don't like it. Many have told me I'm being silly; these girls are just figuring out who they are and pushing the boundaries. What are the boundaries? I have only a vague idea. As a parent, I'd better figure that out pronto.
One thing is clear: I am heading for a nervous breakdown when my children hit puberty.