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It Was an Itsy Bitsy Tweenie Bikini

As if shopping for a bathing suit isn't brutal enough, now I have to do it with my tween-age daughter.

My 12-year-old, who is growing in all directions every day, needs a new bathing suit. But, as I learned on a trip to Dadeland Mall this past weekend, the dilemma of bikini shopping with an adolescent – besides the fact that she insists on being fully clothed whenever the dressing room door opens – is that fashions are either geared to the very young (Hello Kitty, Disney princesses, superfluous frills) or the lady dancers of Tootsie's Cabaret (strings and tiny patches of fabric).

The girls departments of Macy's, Justice and Old Navy were quickly ruled out. The good news: She was way too self-conscious to go for the triangle scraps at Aeropostale that barely covered her private parts or, as a friend's young son call them, her "tenders."

For this summer, at least, those tenders will be discreetly covered and not available for public consumption.

My husband, bless his clueless soul, thinks this is because our daughter is "conservative" and would never dream of exposing or flaunting her body. But as a former 12-year-old girl, I suspect that her current baggy T-shirt/don't-look-at-me phase will morph soon enough into full-fledged exhibitionism and she will risk sunburns in places her father never wants to think about.

This summer's compromise is a respectable, size zero blue and white striped bikini from Hollister. But my relief over being spared from a full-blown skimpy bikini war with my daughter for at least another year quickly faded when I saw her anxiously turning this way and that, inspecting every inch of her reflection. Deflated and depressed, I left the mall with the sinking realization that, like every other girl before her, my daughter faces a lifetime of cruel self-analysis.

Fat rolls, cellulite, unwanted hair, wrinkles, skin that is too white or too dark. Every woman knows that the world's worst bully is looking back at her in the dressing room mirror.

My younger daughter sat inside those dressing rooms in her dirty soccer jersey and jean shorts, a bored expression on her face, totally content with last year's faded, hand-me-down bathing suits. As she grew impatient with all the trying ons and trying offs, I urged her to be kind to her big sister.

But what I really wanted to tell them both was to remember – summer after summer, in one harshly-lit dressing room after another – to be kind to themselves.