President Obama on vacationIt's hard to believe it's been four years since President Barack Obama first took office, but there's no better evidence of the time that has passed than his daughters. Sasha and Malia entered the White House as little girls with stuffed animals. This week they were teens snapped wearing bikinis on a Hawaiian beach by a photographer who has since been asked to destroy the images.
The request isn't the first that comes from a White House that considers it mission critical to protect the first daughters from a public that has been harsh to girls in their position before. And like those before it, this letter to the paparazzi who managed to capture the young Obama girls in their bikinis was just that -- a request.
This was not Barack and Michelle Obama abusing the power of the office. It was Barack and Michelle Obama, parents, politely asking a guy with a camera to give their daughters a break because, come on, they're just two kids who were trying to have fun on vacation.
As a journalist, I was relieved to see that the Obamas made sure to appeal to the photographer's better side. They are not trying to push the bounds of free speech here.
But it's as a mother that I'm really struck by their request. I remember being Sasha's age, Malia's age.
My teenage body was my enemy. I was a mess of hormones and thoroughly confused by what was sprouting where. Wearing a bathing suit in front of total strangers on a beach seven hours from home was hard enough. Spotting a photo of myself in said suit in a national magazine, everything I was unsure about on display for everyone to see, might have rushed me even faster toward the eating disorder that was my teenage destiny.
In a world where Internet trolls think nothing of calling young children fat, ugly, and often worse, this photographer's decision to take a simple request and agree that, yes, Sasha and Malia should be spared is a kindness any mother would be grateful to have done unto her.
Being a teenage girl is hard. Your body is baffling you. Your coping mechanisms still developing. This is all true for the average girl, the girl who is trying to exist in Small Town, U.S.A. This is true for girls like Sasha and Malia Obama who are still just average American girls who are changing rapidly, who are becoming young women.
They may be the president's daughters, but they are still just two kids trying to grow up.
Would you want someone taking photos of your young daughter in a bikini?
Image via United States Government Work/Flickr