Good-Bye Harriet the Spy

harriet-the-spy The other day I was scanning through the Facebook newsfeed when something caught my eye. An article on bras - the address it came from was called "Lingerie Talk" (which is funny in itself; why is there a site devoted to articles about lingerie? One of everything on the internet.) But it had me at "bra" so I clicked away and found myself totally inspired by this 17 year-old girl who saw something she didn't like in the world, and was actually doing something about it.

In a nutshell Megan Grassel couldn't bear the thought of her 13-year old sister getting her first bra from a store that screamed "SEX"  and smelled like the line-up outside of a bar on Friday night. So she started Yellowberry, a line of bras and age-appropriate underwear for girls ages 11-13. I have to admit, the issue hadn't dawned on me before. My first bra came from a box in the underwear and pyjama section at Sears. But the picture of taking a 13-year old into La Senza or Victoria's Secret trying to find something remotely age appropriate is actually ridiculous. Is this what it's like to grow up today? And how long ago was I thirteen?

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I remember reading somewhere once that girls need the chance to relish in their "Harriet the Spy" phase. It's that time when you're a kid and you run around analyzing the world, writing things down in your private book, because you're playing detective; you're on the cusp of putting it all together but before you do, you remember you're just playing make-believe. When you jump from child to adult, the stages get blended. You have kids trying to tackle adult problems before they've even figured out if they're creative or rational, analytical or logical. And while it's not catastrophic, it's a crying shame. There really isn't anything more depressing to me then the thought of a cynical or hardened 12 year-old. Or one that's standing in line with their allowance waiting to buy a leopard print bra.

Of course it doesn't happen in the blink of an eye with a walk into a lingerie store. But I don't think anyone could argue that it's ever just that. It's that and lyrics on the Top 40, and Selfies, and weird hashtags on Instagram, and "Teen" Magazines, and video games and even some young adult literature... am I wrong or are  there are just too many opportunities to grow up quickly now?

I feel about 50 years old writing this. And I'm wondering if this is what the generation before thought about the one before them. I mean, people had a problem with Elvis and the Beatles and Rock and Roll. Is our period in history any more unique? I say yes, but I'm open to arguments otherwise.

I think the really important question, which Grassel was getting at, is how do we protect this time-period and help kids just be kids? In the mall in downtown Ottawa, you literally walk by Gymboree, Old Navy and then you pass Victoria's Secret. We were there today and the model, who ironically was advertising underwear, wasn't wearing any. She was instead wrapped in some sort of silk thing, biting her lip. Images are so powerful. And I don't mean that in an "artsy" way.

The thing that encourages me is that there's a demand for the alternative. Grassel started her company through a Kick-starter campaign and she received double the contribution then she had benchmarked from the outset. What this says to me is that there are a lot of us are on the same page; totally aware that being a kid is the absolute best - and it's a privilege we really should be doing more to protect.