A few days ago, dear 17-year-old Helen asked me if I would consider allowing her to wear a bikini this summer. An interesting and surprising request. One that follows a long history of discussion in this very household on that very subject.
“I would choose something modest,” my daughter said. (Is that an oxymoron? Modest bikini?)
She jumped in with, “You know…in six weeks, I’ll be emancipated. I’ll be 18.” I’m not sure if she thought that would give credence to her request.
Emancipated? What does she think she is? An indentured servant?
Then for the cherry on top she added: “You know, then I could run away.” She was joking, of course.
I reminded her that if she indeed was going to be emancipated, then it wouldn’t be called running away. It would be called leaving or moving out.
Then she asked the question that got the “yes” she desired.
“Mom. I guess I am asking for permission to make the choice for myself.”
Yes. Of course you can. Permission granted. After all…she’ll soon be emancipated. As quickly as I agreed, I told her I was sure she would make a good choice. Because she will.
When I shared this little story, I was reminded by more than one friend that I wore bikinis regularly. And I did. I also remember one day at 17 or 18, my big brother stopping me, telling me I couldn’t go to the beach in a bikini. And that I wasn’t leaving the house. I remember thinking he was joking, but then realized he wasn’t. Oddly, I don’t remember the outcome of that moment, but do very clearly remember the moment. In a split second, I became much more conscious of how I presented myself. I saw myself differently that day. Now, of course, as a mother–especially of daughters–I see it all very differently. I don’t want them wearing burlap sacks, and I certainly understand the desire to be fashionable. But I do want them to at the very least consider their modesty and what it means with regard to making choices on how they dress.
To top this off, I was going to put in a Bible or Catechism quote about modesty. Even though I found many truthful and meaningful quotes … they all were a bit too radical in their wording. So instead, I’ll translate: God wants us to respect our bodies and be modest. And he means it … because it’s in the Bible a bunch of times. Popes have written about it and so have a bucket load of saints. Amen and cover up.