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What My 4-Year-Old Said About This Billboard

Photograph by Getty Images

I was out running errands with my youngest child, a 4-year-old girl, after dropping off her two older brothers at their sweet Jewish Day school. The school is right in the middle of Hollywood. The education they receive in those walls is warm and comforting.

The education outside of the walls is, well, an eye-opener—particularly on the streets. When oldest was 4, he noticed that one man smoked his cigarette out of something different than another man smoked his. Just a few days ago, I pulled up to Starbucks where yet another way to smoke was being demonstrated.

All this is a great excuse to talk about smoking, drugs, alcohol and homelessness, but one of the topics I'm fumbling for words for has to do with my daughter and the sexy photos of women.

Behold this billboard.

When we drove by this billboard, I held my breath and hoped she wouldn't see it. Not so lucky.

"Hey, why is that lady's butt sticking out?"

A big silence from me.

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I generally try to talk about sexual images we see of women, since they are all over the place. (I mean, have you been grocery shopping lately?) I try to tell her that people admire the strength in these women, and I make a muscle man pose.

I wink at my older 9-year-old son and sometimes just say "Boobs," because what else can you say when boobs are spilling out of a bra. I have explained they are selling bras. I mostly try to explain it's all about advertising.

But this particular billboard was very in-your-face and hard for me to explain. I also had no idea myself what the hell it was for.

My 4-year-old filled in the gap for me. "Well, that is inappropriate for me."

"Yes, it is." Thankfully, she got it.

"She's got a strong butt," I said pathetically.

"Her pagina is behind that butt," said my daughter.

"Yes, it is." The light turned and we went.

My 4-year-old's conclusions summed it up well for me also. Because you know what? It's inappropriate for me, too.

"Don't worry they are going to take that down tomorrow," said my daughter.

Apparently, she's in charge with these people.

"They are not sticking their penises out," she went on.

"No, no they're not. That would be inappropriate, too." I began to hate myself for not knowing what to say about this one.

People might argue that I live in Los Angeles and my kids go to school in Hollywood, I should expect this. This is where I'm raising kids. But I would argue that most parents I know are lovely here and trying their best like most parents everywhere. Why should we have to look at this billboard?

My 4-year-old's conclusions summed it up well for me also. Because you know what? It's inappropriate for me, too.

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Fifteen years ago, I was a young 22-year-old from Iowa who preferred tennis shoes and flip flops to heels when going out for the night. I remember driving down Sunset Blvd. and staring up at the billboards: huge images of toned, scantily clad people. I remember being surprised that the images made me feel insecure.

I don't want that for my daughter.

And, no, I'm not moving.

Look, even if we lived in Iowa, we'd still have to pass by similar images at the grocery store checkout counter. The difference is that, here in L.A., the images are the size of dinosaurs and against a backdrop of blue sky and swaying palm trees.

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