I just said no to my first string bikini. Not one for me—I said no to that piece of clothing years and years ago—but my 12 year old daughter wants a bikini and found the cheapest one at the Forever 21 outlet while we were in Orlando. But it was a string bikini, one with little tied bows on each side. I didn’t check to see if pulling the strings would make the bikini bottom fall off, but believe me the reason those little strings are there is to tempt some teenage mass of male hormones to try.
Now I’m not opposed to bikinis. Growing up in Hawaii, bikinis were a way of life—pretty much everyone wore them at some point or other. When I moved to the Midwest for college, I was shocked to hear folks from my Christian fellowship debate the morality of bikinis and even more to find out we were discouraged from even tank tops on our spring break trip to Daytona Beach. The ubiquitous verse used to control women’s clothing, “Do not cause your brother to stumble,” was cited often.
Always one who wants to distinguish between what’s a cultural value vs. a moral/godly value, I debated some of my Midwestern peers, arguing that perhaps what it took for brothers to stumble in the buttoned up, turtlenecked and sweatered world of Chicago might be different from the tropical paradise of Hawaii.
I wish I could say I refrained from wearing a bikini because I didn’t want my Midwestern brothers to stumble, but the truth is, deep down I secretly wished some good-looking brother would someday be somewhat tempted to stumble on my account. No, my reasoning for nixing the bikini was you need boobs for bikinis and I’m more than a bit boobless.
So now my 12 year old wants a bikini, and despite being nearly boobless as well, she will look cuter in one than I ever did. Today’s bikini tops are like today’s bras--padded so the top is actually quite modest and plumping at the same time.
As she held up that little black string bikini she had her heart set on, a stream of questions went through my mind:
· Is there really a difference between a string covering your hip bones vs. half an inch of fabric?
· Am I having ambivalent reactions to the budding sexuality of my child?
· Do I have the right to veto a style of bikini when I’ve opened the door to bikinis since birth?
I didn’t have much time to ponder, but the answer to all these questions was, “Heck yeah!”
To the petulant pouting, whining and evil eye I ultimately said, “When you’re 18, you can choose to buy whatever clothing you want and broadcast whatever image of yourself you want, but while you’re living in my house I will help modulate that image.”
Yes, I even said it in those words.
Later, when questioned again, I re-explained that the whole point of a string bikini is tempting the opposite sex to pull the string and thereby release the bikini.
“Oh, really? I didn’t know that,” she said, “I just thought the bows were pretty.”
And then when we went to Clearwater Beach and our 2 girls strolled down the beach in their Speedos with their dad (“Mo-om, we’re the only girls on the beach in 1 pieces!”), they got cat-calls from boys/men on motorbikes. Our 12 year old may have even gotten the most whistles because she was trailing behind the other two and looked alone.
Of course, the girls didn’t notice anything until told afterwards.
So no strings for now. Until we really pull on the end, untying the bow and releasing this kid into adulthood, she’ll just have to settle for that extra half inch of fabric on her hips.