Ask Scary Mommy is Scary Mommy’s advice column, where our team of “experts” answers all the questions you have about life, love, body image, friends, parenting, and anything else that’s confusing you.
This week: What to do when your daughter’s wardrobe choices have you in a bind. Have your own question? Email email@example.com
Dear Scary Mommy,
We are going on a family trip in a few weeks. It’s a beach vacation, and we will spend at least one day at a water park. Our teenagers will also have paddle boarding lessons. We went shopping recently to prepare for the trip, and my husband has just informed me that he thinks I need to talk to our daughter (almost 16) about her bathing suit choices.
She selected several, and a couple are more revealing with a ‘cheeky’ thong-like bottom and triangle top. I realize these are revealing, and I didn’t guide her toward them, but I also do not want to slut-shame or sexualize my child, and I always believe that it’s ‘my body, my choice.’ If that means showing more cheek and cleavage than I’d prefer, I think that’s her choice.
He thinks it reflects poorly on us as parents, and he also is infuriated (and grossed out) at the idea of adult men checking her out. It’s not like I’m personally excited about the potential for older men to fantasize about my teenage child, but I also don’t think it’s her job to cover up FOR them. I think they are the problem, not her.
We got into a big fight about this (he thinks I should confront her since I helped purchase the suits), and neither of us are willing to budge. Our vacation is probably going to suck if we can’t find some type of middle ground here. What do you think?
In a perfect world, I’d say I’m in complete agreement with you — her body, her choice, so let her rock those teeny-weeny bikinis before gravity takes its toll.
BUT. As we all know, it’s not a perfect world. And though yes, men are the problem here, try telling them that. The reality is, most men are not going to gravitate their eyes away out of respect (and/or the fact that a grown-ass man salivating over a 15-year-old is just gross). Should your daughter have to worry about disgusting dudes? No. But does she? Unfortunately, yes. So as much as I wish it were different, I’m going to have to side with your husband on this one.
I’m not recommending you have her exchange the revealing bikinis for a high-necked ruffly Grandma swimsuit or anything, though — because if she feels comfortable in a two-piece, then by all means, let that teenage self-confidence shine. I’m just saying there’s a middle ground: maybe a two-piece that’s a bit more substantial than a piece of creatively looped floss and some tiny triangles of fabric. It’s fully within your rights as a parent to request that she not go full booty shining on a public beach. Because as much as you want to let her make her own choices, she’s still young enough to need parental guidance for those choices sometimes. If she were an adult, it would be different. But, she’s not.
Let your daughter know that you love her style, but that you’re gonna need to make a slight compromise on this one. Plus, you can always point out that she’ll be taking those paddle boarding lessons — and the last thing she’ll want to worry about is whether a boob is gonna make a surprise appearance while she’s trying to focus.
You said she selected several suits, and that only a couple of them skewed to the more revealing side, so she’ll likely be perfectly fine with using the ones that are a little less risqué.
Even if she’s not happy with having to give up the thong bikini in favor of something more substantial, look at the big picture: it’s not going to ruin the trip. She won’t spend every moment at the beach and water park sulking because more of her butt isn’t hanging out. And your husband will feel better about it too.