Particularly Well Suited

A cop measures lenght of woman's bathingsuit.

A father should never take his teenage daughter shopping.

You see, something happened to my daughter in the number of months since the weather was last warm. For one, she turned fourteen, and the clothes that fit her well in one season no longer fit in another. With the gradual addition of some well-proportioned dimensions, suddenly many of her summer outfits are too tight, too short, and too . . . little girlish.

Suddenly she wants stylish clothes that are too tight, too short and . . . young womanish.

For another, at least among the boys with deeper voices, she has started to turn heads.

These changes I have acknowledged subconsciously with the understanding they are both inevitable and beautiful. And boys are not yet calling so I can leave these observations buried in my psyche safe from reconciliation.

So when summer kicked off in earnest a few weeks ago and she was invited to a pool party of her school friends, she found herself in need of a new swimming suit.

“Dad, I want to go to this party today and my suit doesn’t fit,” she said one morning.

She was holding an old Speedo she had pulled from her drawer. When she first wore it a couple of years ago, the suit was a little big. Now, held against her long slender body, the one-piece suit looked more like a Spandex tube sock.

“Can you take me to buy a new one?”

I was a little surprised that she asked me. Usually my wife takes her shopping. This is not because I am incapable; it is because I have no sense of style.

If you saw me, you would understand.

In fact, it wasn’t that long ago that my daughter actually sought help selecting and sizing her clothes. My wife is a prudent guide, and shopping is a good mother-daughter bonding experience. But recently when they go shopping together, my wife is needed more for her wallet than for her advice.

Which I guess explains why at this particular moment my daughter considered it appropriate to ask me to accompany her on this last minute shopping expedition. I am equally adept with a credit card.

So on a bright summer morning that promised of great heat at an afternoon pool party, we jumped in the car and discussed where to buy a new suit.

I should have known then that our conception of what constitutes a bathingsuit was vastly different.

Since I was driving, we headed to a small specialty sporting goods store that sold nothing but swimwear. There were racks and racks of suits. I usually break out in a cold sweat when presented with so many choices—I once cried in Barnes and Noble helplessly browsing for a good book to read.

But sections of this specialty store were clearly marked, making me feel a little less overwhelmed: Boys, Girls, Men, Women, Sport, Casual, Surf.

I headed to the Girls Sport section seeking to find a replacement Speedo for her in a larger size. I rifled through a rack of competitive swimsuits fit over hangers marked with sizes. Of course, I had no idea what size she was. So I asked her.

She didn’t respond.

I looked up and discovered she was not with me. She was browsing in the Womens Casual section holding up what appeared to be empty hangers. Then she disappeared into a changing room.

“I like this one,” she said happily when she returned. On a hanger were pinned two strips of brightly printed cloth, barely visible behind the dangling price tag.

A bikini.

“It fits well. Do you want to see?”

Every once in a while, men are posed by the women in their lives dangerous moral and philosophical questions that cannot possible answered with simple yes or no answers. Questions like, Do you think Kim Kardasian is attractive? or Do you really need to have another beer? or Did you remember to pick up the dry cleaning like I asked?

The question before me was this: Did I want to see my teenage daughter modeling what could very well be a flesh-revealing bikini, knowing that I would be put in the position of inherently having to express both my acceptance of her style choice and my approval of how she looked wearing it?

So much for my subconscious acknowledgment of the obvious.

I responded the only way I could. “What about those suits over there? Do you want to try one of those on?”

“Dad, those are full body wetsuits!

Then she mercifully paused, as if sensing my dilemma. “Dad,” she declared putting her hands on her gently curved hips, “it is a pretty suit, it fits well, and I feel safe and comfortable wearing it.”

And then she added, leading me confidently to the checkout counter, “. . . besides, mom told me what is appropriate to look for in a two-piece.

Like I said, a father should never take his teenage daughter shopping.