An Open Letter to All You Teenage Girls At the Swimming Pool


Self-respect is a beautiful thing. Perhaps you’re too young or too busy to realize this just yet, but I can assure you that when you behave with self-respect and dignity, you are all the better for it. The beauty of our country is that we can wear what we want, express our individuality in ways that we find appropriate for our personalities, and we can be ourselves without (as much) fear of persecution as there is in many other parts of the world. I’m writing to you because I am a mother. I have three little girls and a little boy, and I want you to know that the behaviors I see when my family is at a resort pool, at a local beach or on the boat all summer are disturbing. My daughters are 7 and 4 and 17-months. Our little boy is also 17-months. Right now they are so innocent and so sweet, and I’d like to keep them this way as long as possible.

Before I begin, let me clarify a few things; I may be a mother, but I love fashion. At 31 (32 next month) and with four kids, I work hard to maintain my good health – I do have four kids to keep up with, you know – and my slender frame. I wear bikinis every time I go to the beach or the pool. My favorite look and pretty much all I wear are Victoria’s Secret cheekies on the bottom and bandeaus on the top. So I have no problem with you showing your skin by any  means – this is not an open letter demanding you dress in something more matronly and modest. This is merely an observation of the things I see that make me feel…almost sad.

I see no self-respect. At all. I see girls lathering their bodies with oil rather than sunscreen. I see 12-year-old girls pushing their breasts together while taking selfies to create the perfect cleavage. I see girls covering up their bodies because they’re not perfect. I see girls taking photos with their arms stretched out high above them at a downward angle, partly to ensure they are getting their cleavage in the photo, but mostly to look thinner – trust me, I can always tell when someone is unhappy with their body when they use this angle since it’s the most flattering and causes you to look thinner than you are.

Ladies, I’d love for you to have more self-respect and more confidence in yourselves. We’re all women – and we all have beautiful bodies. Size might matter to some people, but it doesn’t matter to me. What I want to see is a woman who is confident, beautiful and happy with her body; she is lovely. And I especially want to see young girls of all shapes and sizes embracing their appearance with confidence, because you are you and that’s what should make you happy.

What I want to see are fun swimsuits, great looks, mix and match pieces that make a new, fun suit. I want to see one pieces, bikinis, tankinis, boy shorts and everything in between. But I want to see them in your size. I don’t want you to wear a size that’s too small; it’s unflattering on even the thinnest girl. I don’t want to see you refuse to take off your cover-up in the sweltering heat because you are too ashamed of your body. I don’t want to see you angle your photos from way above your head in an effort to look thinner; I want to see you embrace your body and work for the one you want if the one you have is not your ideal. I want to see you healthy and happy.

And I want to see you apply sunscreen – not tanning oil – regularly. I don’t want to see you treat your skin so poorly. You are beautiful young women with so much to offer the world. You have your entire life ahead of you; college, marriage, children, an amazing career. I don’t want that happiness and your dreams taken from you, shattered even, because you wanted a better tan and instead contracted skin cancer. I don’t want your parents to cry when you tell them that you have cancer of the skin because you didn’t care for it growing up. I don’t want your kids to wonder if their mommy will be in Heaven sooner rather than later because mommy decided as a child she wanted darker skin instead of nicer skin.

Furthermore, I don’t want your beauty to peak at 15 because you are so busy tanning you forget that you’re turning yourself into a leather handbag. I don’t want to see you again when you are 35 and look more like 50. And I know you don’t want that, either.

And ladies, I don’t want to see nothing but cleavage in your photos. I, personally, have no problem with people taking swimsuit photos. I have no issue at all – it’s your body and if it’s perfectly legal to wear a swimsuit to a pool or the beach, it’s perfectly fine to post it online if that’s what you want. But I don’t want to see you pushing your barely even developed breasts together to look more mature and sexier for little boys who aren’t ready for that and cannot handle that kind of view.

I want you to be less Kardashian and more Hepburn. I want you to remember that class and elegance are timeless. Duck faces and butt selfies are not timeless, classy or elegant. Remember, ladies, that how you present yourself to the world is what drives perception. If you present yourself as a somewhat provocative, duck-face, partially nude girl, you’re not going to attract sweet, kind, funny boys. You’re going to attract selfish, unkind, devious boys after only one thing.

I want you safe, happy and healthy; not tan, provocative before your time and used. So please, ladies, let’s have some self-respect. This is the kind of advice I want to pass on to my own children, and it will be easier for me and every other mother of little girls and boys if you all practice self-respect by the pool.

Photo by Imeh Akpanudosen/Getty Images for FIJI


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