I was sitting on the beach in Sarasota, Florida, with my best friend, her sister, and my daughter when two men carrying surfboards strolled by.
They were in their late 30s or early 40s, seemed respectable, or as respectable as one can appear in a wet suit.
And then—in the midst of eating our picnic lunch—we overheard the blond man comment to his friend: "I love coming out here and seeing all these underage chicks in bikinis."
I looked over at my own little girl—two years old, with a fountain ponytail—mixing blue Play-Doh into the sand. She was wearing a one-piece bathing suit beneath her cover-up and sweater.
And yet I imagined her out there on the beach 14 years from now.
I imagined some lecherous surfer eyeballing my daughter, and it was everything I could do not to chase after that blond-haired man, jerk the surfboard away from him, and use it to bonk him over the head.
However, despite my anger toward that man, I was also angry at the parents of those underage girls.
It was so cold on that beach I was wearing a light sweater and rain jacket over my cotton dress.
And I could easily see the underage girls that man had been referring to—parading down the packed strip of sand in sparkly bikini tops—and I wondered why they weren't being protected the way they deserved.
Two weeks after I returned from the beach, the ultrasound revealed that my husband and I were expecting another little girl this September.
Staring at the screen, I thought again about what that surfer had said and the flippant tone in which he'd said it, and I wondered how I could protect my daughters the way they also deserve.
I have the responsibility of raising my daughters to become women who do not feel their value lies merely in physical beauty.
I want my daughters to feel beautiful; I want them to embrace their femininity, but I also do not want some 35-year-old surfer to be ogling this beauty that should only belong to them and to their future husbands.
I cannot tell you how ironic it feels to be typing this.
I attended a strict private school from the time I was in K-5 until 12th grade, and for the majority of those 13 years, I rebelled against the dress code.
My skirts came just a little above the knee when the hem was supposed to end in the middle. I wore heels that were three inches instead of the regulatory two.
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