It must be hard to be a kid. Adults are always wagging fingers at you.
Don't be trashy! Stay out of trouble! Cover the cleavage, you're just a baby! What do you think this is, a nude beach?
But play devil's advocate for a minute. How are kids supposed to know what's okay? Don't human beings learn by mimicking what we see?
Here's what they see:
They see 16-year-old Disney darling Miley Cyrus on Monday on the Teen Choice Awards. Woohoo! They have her pink plastic backpack and glitter lip gloss at home! She's singing their fave song!
But what's this? She's wearing tourniquet-style hot pants and leather boots, and she's grinding a stripper pole. The stripper pole is attached to …
An ice cream cart. The thing kids chase for Rocket Pops.
If you watch the video, it's actually not that scandalous. Miley looks more awkward and gangly than ferociously lusty. She holds the stick for dear life while the cart wobbles around stage. She dips low once, and occasionally thrusts her hips poleward. It's all sort of … confusing.
And that's exactly what's dangerous about it.
This kind of thing blurs the line between young girls and sexually mature women.
It's Britney Spears in schoolgirl socks. It's pageant babies with spray tans. It's a Bratz doll.
Miley is like bread and butter for millions of little girls. Her Disney show concludes with endearing life lessons. She dated a Jonas Brother who trots around wearing a purity ring purporting abstinence before marriage. She goes to church.
So, if kids are supposed to mimic Miley's country Christian values, her thoughts, her entire prepackaged pubescent PR kit — wouldn't they logically try on the hot pants, too?
You could be the best parent on the planet, but your 10-year-old girl might quietly consider dancing on the support beam at school, or saving her allowance for shorts with a one-inch inseam.
The door creaks open.
But the gravity, the implication, the gray area — it's really too much for a developing brain to get.
When I was 7, I went to a birthday party at the home of a classmate in rural Ohio. The birthday girl's mother gave us all candy cigarettes and root beer as party favors. It was exciting, thrilling, unknown territory.
We slid our T-shirts a few inches off our boney shoulders, all French-like. We chugged the Barq's and play-puffed the sugar ciggys. Some adults snapped photos.
Aren't the girls cute? They look like miniature women!
My mom picked me up after the party. I clambered into the car, riding the high. I couldn't wait to tell her about it.
Wasn't that so cool that her mom let us do that?
Her face changed — her expression was somewhere between furious, terrified, determined and helpless.
I didn't understand it then.
Stephanie Hayes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8857.