Sometimes I feel like I live in limbo. I am stuck in an adult body with adult reasoning skills and adult responsibilities. But I haven’t yet forgotten how it feels to be young.
I remember exactly how it felt when I was 14 and every girl in my class made sure there was no where for me to sit with my grade at lunch for two solid months of ninth grade. I remember how stressful it was to keep an A average while juggling all the extra-curricular things I was involved in after school. I remember thinking my parents were INSANE for expecting me to only talk on the phone for half an hour every day.
I remember fighting with my mom about everything from clothes to boys in middle school. I didn’t want to wear skimpy stuff to get boys’ attention (most of the time), I just wanted to wear what was in style. I wasn’t a baby. I wanted to dress how girls my age dressed. She said I’d dress how girls my age SHOULD dress. I wanted to bang my head on the wall.
So here I am, almost done leading a group of middle school girls through three years of life. They constantly remind me of my own life at that age. Wanting to be a “good girl” while still being attractive, desired, witty, and popular.
And here I am, married to that guy that mattered most to me in high school, the one who was just my friend for a couple years until I saw him for the catch he always was, and we’re raising a daughter of our own.
Stuck in limbo.
Today, I saw that Victoria’s Secret is planning to launch a line aimed at middle school girls.
The new brand called, “Bright Young Things,” includes lace black cheeksters with the word “Wild” emblazoned on it, green and white polka-dot hipsters screen printed with “Feeling Lucky?” and a lace trim thong with the words, “Call me” on the front.
When I read that, it released an all out war in my heart. Part of me wants to stop wearing Victoria’s Secret items all together, and part of me realizes it will take a lot more than that to make a difference.
Part of me is cringing because yesterday, we JUST FINISHED a four week series on sex in my middle school small group. I’m grateful we start talking about sex with these kids at 11 years old and keep the discussion going every year until they go to high school. And they can continue it there every year until they go to college.
I see every one of my girls in my mind. Precious faces. Dear to my heart, I love them all. Sick that this is marketed at them. Who needs to see their thong, asking for a phone call? Seriously, Victoria’s Secret??
In my mind, I see myself at 13, knowing all the other girls are getting this and fighting with my mom. I hear her asking me, “Why do you need underwear with writing on it? Or lace? Who is going to see that anyway?” And I say, ” NO ONE, MOM! Maybe the other girls in the locker room, who will also have it. I don’t want it so I can show it to boys! I just want to have it because it’s cute. FOR ME. Not for anyone else. GAAAH!” And she doesn’t back down, and I storm off to my room, and 14 years later, I find myself siding with her.
And for me, that’s how it would have gone. But thankfully, for girls today, that’s not the end of the story.
Victoria’s Secret isn’t the only brand out there marketing to girls and women (and sometimes, guys). There are other brands that have a message blazing across their products, and it’s a positive one.
So Worth Loving is a movement that Eryn Erickson began a few years ago. It started as a doodle in her journal. She reminded herself that she was, in fact, “so worth loving”– just as she was, just who she was made to be.
She started using stencils and spray paint to put it on shirts- for herself, for her friends (including me). And then people saw it, and something resonated within them- they needed that reminder- that they and others are worthy of love and should love themselves for who they are.
Strangers began mailing Eryn their shirts. People started tweeting it and emailing her their stories. And suddenly, this sweet person who was trying to minister to others with an idea that’s both simple to say and hard to act out- loving yourself as you are and others as they are- realized that there was a greater need for this message than her stencils and spray paint could keep up with.
So she launched the brand. So Worth Loving. It’s a challenge and a way of thinking and a reminder all wrapped up in three words.
She has multiple screen-printed shirts that are so cute, jewelry and stickers and buttons, and a second line called “Been Loved” that has the same message screen-printed on one-of-a-kind vintage clothing that she finds in stores around Atlanta.
I have one of these shirts, and I love it. Trust me, you carry yourself differently when you are wearing that message. When you wear these shirts, you feel like they’re true. You feel your self-worth. You’re more accepting of who you are. I don’t know why, but there is something about how what you wear makes you feel. You just act like it’s who you are. (Which should scare you, if you are buying sexy lingerie for your 12 year old, but I digress.)
She has a blog with multiple people who share their stories and remind others on a daily basis what it means to look past the negative around you and to love yourself.
In a world that markets lingerie to 11-year-olds, we are in desperate need of a different kind of message, and thank goodness for someone like Eryn.
I would rather see these girls, and my own daughter, plaster themselves with words of love and self-worth than “Feeling Lucky?”
I would be so grateful to see them choose to see their own value and wear it proudly on their shirts rather than declare themselves “Wild” with a lacy pair of underwear.
I don’t think the answer is angrily picketing or boycotting Victoria’s Secret, but instead, putting your money into brands that are promoting the kind of messages we want to see more of in the world.
So write your thoughts to Victoria’s Secret, let them know you don’t condone selling sex to middle school girls who are already desperate to find their worth and shouldn’t be looking for it in how sexy they can be.
Then, after you send that email or letter, let your daughter pick out a shirt or a necklace that reminds her she is already worthy -of love, respect, and admiration. It’s a far better message to send the world about our daughters. And more importantly, it’s a far better message to send our daughters about themselves.