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The A to Z's of Teenagers: V Is for Victoria's Secret

Photograph by Getty Images

If your teen daughter is young enough to still be wearing cute undies with the day of week on them and little stretchy bras that come in mint green and sky blue, rejoice and enjoy. Breathe into the moment. Relish this little window of early teen innocence. Because someday soon, you will experience the trauma I now experience. Someday soon your daughter will start talking “thong” and “push-up bra.” Someday soon you will find yourself with your sweet child picking through the bins at Victoria’s Secret examining what my great grandma called “unmentionables.”

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Maybe you can interest her in a what-passes-for-modest “bikini” style. More likely, she’ll skew toward the cheekies and cheekinis (and you know what cheeks we’re talking about here), or the G-strings. (I thought only lap dancers and Las Vegas show girls wore these. Wrong.) And, of course, the enduringly, mystifyingly popular thong. (How have we been socialized into believing that an all-day wedgie is a good thing? My daughter calls thongs “butt floss”—and still wears them.)

And then there are the bras. The bras have names like “bombshell” and “tease,” “plunge” and “lift love.” And, in case the message wasn’t already blaringly clear, there’s a line of bras called, simply, “very sexy.” These bras promise to create eye-popping cleavage and feature “add 2 cups” push-up power.

Hey, those are my little girl’s girls you’re talking about.

Am I being overprotective and hopelessly Old School to not want to see my daughter Gg-stringed and thonged, cleavage-d and pushed-up, decked out in scarlet-trimmed black lace? Am I a prude? Am I denying her fast-approaching (already here!) womanhood?

Or am I a caring, sane, wise mother (say yes right now) who is appalled at how girls are sexualized and objectified (still!)? A feminist mom who simply does not buy the neo-feminist line that today’s young women truss themselves up “just for themselves” or “to flex their awesome personal power.” I wish that were true. I wish creating cleavage craters was a positive statement of Girl Power.

But I’m pretty sure girls work to make themselves sexy because they equate sexiness with self-worth, because they think sexy leads to (is an integral part of) popular, because they believe that sexy is what you have to be and should be if you want to attract the attention of a boy.

I have mixed feelings.

No, no, no, I want to scream.

The sexiest part of your body is your brain, I want to say.

Girl Power is real—go for it!—but it has absolutely, categorically nothing to do with your underwear.

And now, a word from the teenage daughter:

So we were just stumped on what to write about V. My mom suggested (but not seriously, I think) “vagina.” I suggested “vicious.” But really I am so sweet that I wouldn’t know what to write. Then my dad, who was listening to this said, “Hey, isn’t there a store called Victoria’s Secret?" And, BINGO. V Is for Victoria’s Secret was born! As you’ll see, I have mixed feelings.

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Here are the top 9 reasons I love, but mostly hate, Victoria’s Secret:

  1. Size “L.” The L has got to stand for “little.” It can’t possibly stand for "large" unless S stands for "stick-like" and M stands for "miniscule."
  2. The “Pink” logo. Soooo pink. And of all the words to have scrawled across your butt, why “Pink”?
  3. Pink, the color. I mean, how many shades of pink are there? And do you have to wear pink to be, um, officially a girl?
  4. Gems on the underwear. I like jewelry as much as the next girl, but plastic, colored, fake crystals on your panties? Bows and bells making odd little lumps under your T-shirt?
  5. The make-up. Everything has sparkles, and I love sparkles!
  6. The models on the posters. Hey, if I buy enough bras and bikinis here, I could have double D's and an 18-inch waist, too!
  7. The ambience (yes, thanks to my mom, I know that word) of the store: Bright, bright, bright. Smells like everyone in the store just spray-tested different perfumes in the last 10 minutes.
  8. The other customers. I’ve been in the store and seen little kids, like elementary school girls and middle schoolers carrying bags with V.S. logos. Which I guess makes sense, since L size would just about fit them.
  9. The Victoria’s Secret “date.” I’ve seen couples walking hand-in-hand in the store. The guy must really love his girlfriend! This must be either heaven or hell for him. I mean, where does he look? What does he touch? I can’t imagine what he must be going through.

OK, I admit it. I do love those push-up bras.

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