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Dressed to kill (Innocence) - Tom Purcell

"You are not leaving the house dressed like that, young lady!''

"Oh, Mother, all my friends are dressing this way!"

"In high heels, hip-hugger pants and a tube top that leaves your stomach exposed? I don't think so!''

"But, Mother, don't you know that the popular culture has been driving fashion for years? So many TV shows feature young girls wearing provocative clothing. Is it any wonder younger and younger girls are dressing this way?"

"Not in this household they aren't!"

"Oh, Mother, you need to get with the program. Some clothing manufacturers are marketing sexy clothing to young girls, including feather boas, leather pants and stretch flares to girls ages 7 and up. Some companies are even offering lingerie and string bikinis!"

"String bikinis for a 7-year-old?"

"Of course, Mother! Abercrombie & Fitch recently came out with a line of bikinis with a padded bra for 7-year-olds. A bunch of fuddy-duddies complained, so the company raised its target age to 12 or older."

"That is the same company that advertised thong underwear for little kids in 2002 -- and the reason I have not bought any of their products since!"

"Let's not forget the cosmetics companies, Mother. Girls as young as 3 are wearing lip gloss now. Kiss Products sells custom nail products to girls 5 and up. By the time a girl hits 8, she wants to get into some serious makeup. That's why the biggest growth area in cosmetics is for girls between 8 and 12!"

"This is just not right!"

"Oh, my, Mother, why can't you be like the progressive parents who let their 5-year-old daughters get together for nail and glamour parties, where they can get manicures and have makeup sessions?"

"Because it is immoral to sexualize girls at such a young age! This is more than just common sense. In 2007, the American Psychological Association found that early sexualization of girls is linked to eating disorders, low self-esteem and depression!"

"Look, Mother, times have changed. Girls have to showcase their bodies to stand out. If I am ever going to be popular enough to start dating, I better be at least as provocative as the other girls."

"Dating! There will be no dating for you anytime soon!"

"Oh, Mother, will you get with the times? Those rigid lines older generations put between childhood and adulthood are over. All this talk about innocence and childhood are silly and unnecessary. In the new era, it is only a matter of time before I look into corrective plastic surgery."

"Plastic what?"

"Mother, we need to make sure that if my body doesn't fully develop, we have the plans in place to insert curves where they are needed. Lots of girls are doing that now. After all, what good is it to wear provocative clothing if you have nothing to show?"

"What has my generation of mothers done wrong? What has happened to our little girls?''

"I know it is hard for you, Mother -- I know the mass media were conservative when you were young and you'd never see the things on TV that my generation sees all day long -- but your little girl is growing up fast and you will have to deal with it."

"But! But!"

"But what, Mother?"

"But you're only 5!"

Tom Purcell, a freelance writer, is also a humor columnist for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate. E-mail Tom at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.