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Tyrades! Girl, You'll Be A Woman Really Soon

Friday, August 20, 2010

If the tender message of the 2005 Billy Dean song "Let Them Be Little" resonates with you, you're in for stressful times. According to a study in the journal "Pediatrics," more and more girls are reaching puberty at an early age - some of them as early as seven or eight.

Wait, it gets worse. According to Britain's Telegraph newspaper, there are unconfirmed reports of tainted infant formula causing some Chinese girls to begin developing breasts at the ripe old age of four months!!!!

When I had a play date with my best friend from fifth grade, I felt uncomfortable about his little sister running around topless; but if the trend of ever-earlier puberty continues, things will get really weird - especially for expectant parents. ("The baby just kicked. No, wait-I think she's adjusting her bra.")

It will get really awkward when parents have to give their daughters the "birds and bees" talk and get a response of "What's a bird, dada?"

What's causing the change? Some experts attribute it to childhood obesity playing havoc with hormone levels. Maybe fast food chains need to adopt new slogans, such as "Eat fresh -- then you can be sure it's the morning sickness" and "Make a run for the bikini wax."

Many scientists think that chemicals in the environment are to blame. Now, I won't go so far as to say that the mystery ingredients in our air, water, food, and plastic containers could trigger such changes; but as the proverb says, "Give a man a fish, he'll eat for one day. Teach a man to fish and he'll eat for a lifetime. Teach a man to inject the fish with all sorts of creepy additives, and your descendants will be messed up for generations."

When you realize that little girls are made of "endocrine-disrupting chemicals and pesticides and phthalates," "snips and snails and puppy dog tails" don't sound so bad, do they?

Whatever the origin of the accelerating physiological shift, I shudder to think of the loss of innocence as the toy and children's books industry try to adjust to the new paradigm. Candyland will be replaced by the new board game FeminineHygieneAisle. Ken and Chrissie and the gang will hang out at Barbie's Dream Planned Parenthood Center. Bookcases will contain favorites such as "Goodnight, Moon. Good Morning, Morning After Pill."

But, seriously, folks...we need to prepare for the real social consequences of early puberty. As pointed out by correspondent Delia Lloyd on the Politics Now blog, longer exposure to estrogen may increase the chance of breast cancer. Early development can also lead to low self esteem and negative body image, which can segue into eating disorders, depression, and attempted suicide. Puberty is a traumatic enough phase, without it coming several years earlier than nature intended.

What can you do? Pressure Congress to fund further research of the issue. Be aware of the chemicals that are going into your system. Watch for signs of premature puberty in your daughters and granddaughters and be ready to give them a shoulder to lean on.

Don't sink into denial. If you simply must have objections to the above plan of action, at least "let them be little."

Note: Danny Tyree welcomes e-mail at tyreetyrades@aol.com.