They are coltish, wobbling on strappy sandals, their wedges creating even longer legs, jutting from their teeny tiny shorts. They hobble along in clusters of three or four, their long hair cascading down their backs and brushing over bare shoulders. Their shiny lip-gloss sending off tiny glinting sparkles like confetti thrown at a party. They swing their pink striped bags jauntily. Victoria’s Secret. These girls can’t be more than 13. They giggle and lean into each other as they head toward Pac Sun. I turn to see another cluster of girls. Three. Marching across the parking lot. They are in bikinis. The one in front, the leader, has long sinewy brown limbs like a runner. Her bikini bottoms hike up as she walks, perilously close to being absorbed completely into her butt cheeks as she struts along. She has two followers, one shorter and fuller with thick thighs and a slice of rainbow triangles covering her upper half, who seems to walk with small hurried steps as though trying to catch up with her friends long strides but not wanting to actually jog. And the other, a tall gangly girl with a body like stretched putty. All awkward limbs and angles, who may someday grow into her body and recall her ugly duckling days, but is currently trudging along with her knee caps round and shouting out of her lanky limbs like the dot of an exclamation point. They are just girls. People turn to stare. After all, this is an outdoor mall with people carrying packages from the Gap and Bath and Body Works. This is the first truly warm day of summer. And these girls, still with virgin winter skin, white as the petal of a spring calla lily and blossoming under these painfully small swimsuits, seems out-of-place and garish in the harsh summer light. They show no apprehension about parading through throngs of shoppers as close to naked as a tween girl can legally get in public. A man sitting at the outdoor coffee shops looks up from his phone and his eyes trail them as they walk. He is old enough to be their father. And I wonder what he is thinking. His face is slack and his expression hard to read. Is he thinking of his own daughter at home or out with friends. Is he hoping she would be more modest. Does he find their bravado a tad revolting as I do? Is he thinking of these pubescent girls as women? Is his gaze running over their naked limbs and… My stomach clenches and I want to throw a towel over them and take them home with me. And I think of my sweet girl, only seven. This is the world in which we live. There is something so missing here. Is this just another facet of culture and I’m an old lady and out of touch with reality? I’m just a mom and what do I know about style anyway? And this is how they all dress and this is how they all act. And it’s just a stage that all girls go through and it’s just innocent. And then my head explodes. My heart hurts. Literally aches in the hollow of my chest. Because I know this place. The one where a normal stroll turns into a saunter and your hips sway a tad more and you feel eyes on your skin and you feel beautiful, wanted, sexy. I know that heady rush of power you feel at 14 when your body has changed and you realize you can get attention with a shorter hemline, tighter tops, and wet glossed lips. And I know how young 14 really is. I know how fragile beauty is. And how innocence lost can only be redeemed but never regained. And I know how hard that road is. And I want so much more for my daughter. And I pray a silent prayer for the years ahead. I pray hard.