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Letters to My Daughter: Sexy

I’m not sure where the word came from. I don’t know where you first heard it, or how you came to incorporate it into your vocabulary, without fully understanding it’s meaning.

But, it’s there.

You strike a pose in front of your friend and have her snap a picture with the camera you got for Christmas – one arm in the air, the other on your hip, eyes fixed. Sexy.

You play with make-up, painting dark smudges of liner that extend past your lash line. Cat-eyes that would rival Cleopatra herself.  Sexy.

And when you send your four-year-old sister strutting down your imaginary runway, instructing her to pause at the end and say “sex-ay” with a pout, I think that you see drama and intrigue and beauty. I think that you see what you think it means to be a woman.

What I see, is my baby girl, wrapped in a slinky slip of a toga, imagining herself as a sort of feminine ideal. I see my two young daughters, who have zero idea what they’re saying, playing pretend, with only a shadow of understanding.

To be clear, I am not saying that sexy is inherently bad. It’s just so much larger and complex than you realize.

And to watch you so casually use the word, it feels like I may as well be watching you playing doctor with a pretend mallet and always prescribing M&Ms as the treatment for whatever ails the patient.

It’s the innocent way that you see the world.



This morning, Evaline is spinning in circles, extending her arms and singing a song of her own making. Please don’t go. I love you. I don’t want you to go. Please come back to me, because I loooooooooove you.

She’s you, five years ago. You’re her, five years from now. And I am you, perhaps, thirty-some years from now.

It’s the narrative of girlhood. Love. Wanting to be loved. Beauty. Wanting to be beautiful.

And you’re about to start the journey of figuring out what that means to you, really.

So, I want to start this conversation now, because there is a whole lot of illusion, misinformation and heartbreak, between where you are and where I am. If I can help shed a light, or answer any questions, or if I can be the person you want to run to when things don’t go as you’d hoped and your heart hurts…I want to be.

And, I think that all starts here, in this short breath between childhood and adolescence. Even, with the word no parent really wants to be hearing in the context of their daughter: sexy.
Here’s what I want you to know: there is nothing wrong with being sexy, in and of itself, and in the right context. There is also nothing wrong with not being sexy. There is nothing wrong with dressing up for fun, and there is nothing wrong with sweatpants and a ponytail. There is nothing wrong with being who you are, and behaving in a manner that is empowering and respectful of who that brilliant person is.

But, don’t do any of it for anyone else. And don’t think for even a moment, that any of it defines you.

Because it does not.

You see, sexy is not found in the curve of eyeliner or in the cut of a dress. It’s in sweatpants. It’s in a crooked smile. It’s in kindness. It’s in shyness. It’s in confidence. It’s intangible. It’s innate. It’s powerful. But, in the end and at it’s core, it’s just another part of being a person. It’s like hunger, ambition, worry, happiness, sorrow. It’s one of the hundreds of layers of emotions and motives and facets that make us who we are, as human beings.

If you can learn how to care for yourself, to control yourself, to not let yourself run stark-raving mad when you’re hungry, or to not flip out on your sister when you’re annoyed (which you have, mostly)- you can also learn to harness and care for this piece of yourself.

And just as hungry or ambitious aren’t singularly words that could be used to describe the entirety of a person – sexy isn’t either. Be smart. Be funny. Be adventurous. Be curious. Be compassionate.  Be brilliant.

Be a woman who is so complex that sexy falls to number eight or nine or ten on the list of words that can be used to describe you, if it even factors at all. Because, what’s truly sexy, is someone who doesn’t need to declare that they are, at all.


And, sex, itself?  It’s not the be all and end all of anything, or anyone. I hate to crush the mystery here, but it’s not a mystery. It’s biology. I grew up in a culture where we raised sex itself to a pinnacle – in a conservative setting, it was the act we’d eventually be able to participate in – as married person. Finally, after all the years of surviving teenage angst and the ups and downs of stumbling through relationships, we’d be whole. We would be satisfied. <Cue the hallelujah chorus> (Okay, that might be a little over the top…but only a little.)

But…if I’m being honest, it’s not even the best part of being married, truly. Partnership, friendship, having someone hold your hand while you’re crossing the street or bring you a fresh cup of coffee – just because they care for you – all of you – these are just as important and fulfilling as the biological imperative of it all.


Of course, I’m getting ahead of myself. You’re only nine. You don’t have an instagram account and you aren’t posting seductive selfies to the internet or starting to navigate the world of flirting or dating. But it’s only a matter of time, before the pretend fashion shows and play-make-up, blends into these larger issues and the harder questions come.

And, I guess, I just want you to know, I’m here. I’ve lived through some (not all) of what you’ll encounter. I’ve been day-dreamy and doe-eyed. I’ve been idealistic. I’ve been embarrassed.

And, I’ve been hurt.

But, mostly, ultimately, I’ve been fortunate enough to be happy.

And above all, that’s all I can ever want for you, too.


1 Comment so far

  1. Ed King

    ty for contributing to a world where girls can rise above….And be valued(and value themselves) as more than just SEXy.

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