It’s the year of the bikini in my house, and I am dreading this summer.
I get it that middle school girls wake up one day and discover they suddenly have curves and, damn, they’re proud. Self-awareness and sexuality are part of growing up.
So is self-absorption.
I admit that I did plenty of mirror-gazing at this age – hours and hours spent singing “Delta Dawn” and “Billy Don’t Be a Hero” with my electric toothbrush.
But that was in the privacy of my family’s bathroom. I didn’t have 668 followers checking out my selfies on Instagram.
I don’t believe kids today are any more self-absorbed than we were at this age. They just have access to Internet platforms that permanently preserve and amplify the most awkward social and physical stage of our private-no-more lives.
And it breeds the worst kind of narcissism.
Vanity has become such an obnoxious online preoccupation that the latest disturbing Instagram trend has users voting on the appearance of young girls in #beautycontests and #rateme pages.
“Pageant hosts” post mug shots of the girls while others vote on their appearance in the comments section. Once a girl’s photo receives a certain number of negative remarks, it’s updated with a big red X or the word “OUT” scratched across her face.
“What started out as just a photo-sharing site has become something really pernicious for young girls,” Rachel Simmons, author of Odd Girl Out, told The Washington Post. “What happened was, like most social media experiences, girls co-opted it and imposed their social life on it to compete for attention and in a very exaggerated way.”
It doesn’t help that Rihanna, Ireland Baldwin and even some Miami moms repeatedly post their own vain attempts at self-validation, I mean bikini shots, on Instagram with obsessive regularity.
(Please pause for a moment while the few dads on this site click on the hyperlink above.)
The sharing of self-portraits on social networking has become such an issue in my house that originally I banned bathing suit selfies altogether. My daughters wiggled through a loophole and had their friends shoot the photos instead.
Uh, good try.
I was afraid I was being stodgy. Then last weekend I sent a photo of my 13-year-old daughter with her friends at a pool party to my husband. He was so startled by the Lolita-like imagery that he immediately deleted it.
“I can’t have this picture in my phone,” he texted me. He was only half-joking.
With summer approaching, my daughters, like most Florida kids, are beginning to live in their bathing suits. And I'm beginning to lose ground in the bikini battle. Now I’m struggling to find the words to begin discussing the (not so) subtleties of cheesecake photos and pin-up poses, and why they don’t mix with young teenage girls.
No raised hip here, no pouty lips there.
And definitely no bird’s-eye cleavage or crotch shots.
As my daughters and I maneuver through their coming of age in the age of over-sharing, this next phase of our lives together might as well be titled “Dangerous Curves Ahead.”