My seven-year-old and I are jockeying for the sink in the bathroom, half-clothed in pajamas, post-shower.
"What do you mean, 'sexy?'"
I'm sort of stalling, sort of not. Chances are she does mean something other than the worst-case scenarios running in my head.
I'm not surprised by her question, though. I'm in better shape now than ever, at age 37, thanks to Pilates training and the international community of fellow students I've discovered in its quiet discipline. The central tenet of the original exercise regimen, developed over decades by an actual guy -- holistic fitness fanatic Joseph H. Pilates -- is that you feel intimately how your body moves and work to balance and challenge it. His favorite workout wear (circa 1920) was a pair of short white shorts -- in winter. He was also photographed performing his exercises in a loin cloth in summer.
By comparison, my full-length yoga pants and tank tops look like space suits. But still, it's more skin than I let my daughter show at school, usually in observance of the 'noodle strap' rule (no tank tops or shirts with spaghetti straps).
"I mean, did you wear sexy clothes?"
Oh, boy. Here we go.
"What is 'sexy'?" I parry.
My goal is not to dictate what my daughter does or does not show of her own body, within reason. She's very tall -- her head nearly brushes my shoulder. She has long legs, even by elementary standards. People are going to look at her most of her life, if she continues to grow at this rate.
But I hope she's riveting even if she's not the tallest woman to enter a room.
There is a certain life force -- a purpose, a passion, an ease -- that moves the most striking bodies out there. And I'm not talking just about athletes or celebrities who are good in front of cameras. It's command of one's self that only comes of practice, self-confidence, and strength -- inside and out.
You pursue it on your own, challenged entirely by your own resistance. As in Pilates practice, you cannot better yourself simply by contrasting your abilities with those less able. It's all within you.
Or it isn't.
Anyway, I hope that's what my daughter means.
I let a few beats pass, knowing she will kill the silence in short order.
"So, how old were you when your parents got you a phone?" she says, showing her hand.
I'll take it. You just worry about having the maturity to manage a cell phone, just a while longer.