Last Saturday night, I nearly choked on a french fry and I blame it all on the girl with the short skirt. My boyfriend and I were sitting at the In & Out burger joint on Seaward, enjoying a late, on the fly dinner when this tiny skirt (with a normal-sized girl attached to it) walked in. The skirt was so short it could have been a washcloth. Or a handy wipe. Or maybe even an Ipod cover. Whatever it was, it hardly qualified as an item of clothing.

I have to admit that I stared at this girl. I couldn’t help it. I felt drawn to her perilously short hemline. It was like watching a train wreck. And then I looked around to see if she was creating stirs among my fellow burger-eaters. Yes. I could see that others were staring at the micro-skirt as well.

But the denim dish towel (which was so short that its hem was hidden by the flannel shirt she wore over it) and its owner were eclipsed a few moments later when a whole passel of lingerie-clad girls descended upon the restaurant. They trickled in, in groups of three or four, until forty girls wearing Victoria Secret’s latest styles surrounded us. These girls wore a colorful array of fishnets, corsets, thigh-high stockings, garter belts and slinky nighties. There were boys with them, too, but their clothes were unremarkable. At this point, I blushed. (I have a problem with empathetic shame.)

Having just finished my late dinner cheeseburger, I was not prepared for this display of risqué fashion. After all, this was In & Out which (despite the double entendre of its name) has always provided me with a quintessentially wholesome dining experience. I mean, usually In & Outs are packed to the gills with family units, not half-naked chicas.

I looked at my boyfriend across the table for answers. “What’s going on?’ I asked. “I have no clue,” he said. I felt like I’d stumbled into a twisted sorority initiation ritual but this was a public place and these girls were too young for college. And how did all these girls know to meet here, wearing next to nothing? Was this a typical Saturday at 10 p.m. at In & Out?

I asked a girl wearing jeans and a sweater sitting next to me, who kept talking to a few of the wannabe strippers, “Are these high school kids? What’s going on?”

Rolling her eyes and looking back at the group, I realized she saw me as that stupid adult who asks teenagers obvious questions and I instantly felt very, very old. “Oh, yeah. They’re in high school,” she said.

I scanned the crowd, feeling lecherous. There stood one girl (clearly under 18) wearing nothing but white silky panties, thigh-highs and a bustier. I’m all for the freedom of sexual expression and French lingerie but not on teenie boppers who are on display at a fast food joint. Call me a prude.

“It’s like an after party. There was a pimps and hos party that broke up. This is where everyone comes later.”

“I know this probably sounds stupid,” I said “but do their parents know they’re dressed like that? And why aren’t the boys dressed up?”

She mumbled some answer and rolled her eyes. I felt like a dinosaur. I even had the sudden urge to say things like, “When I was in high school, grunge was cool and we tried to wear as many layers of clothing as possible.” But I restrained myself and just took in the scene. The girls seemed both proud and slightly embarrassed, trying feebly to pull any long clothing over their thighs. I tried to imagine these girls sneaking their lingerie purchases home, using money to buy the little nothings from fast food jobs. I visualized their parents’ reactions if they stumbled into the restaurant now.

Watching the girls huddle and talk and the customers (especially the males) gawk, made me both intrigued by the eternal game of teenage subterfuge and a little melancholy. Do cell phones, text messages and e-mail make it easier to sneak around? I guess the scene could be chalked up to just another form of good, old fashioned rebellion, but watching the girls so carelessly flaunt their bodies still made my naked hippy-raised heart sad. Is this the result of shows like Nip and Tuck? Or should I be encouraged by this neo-feminism and see it as a reclaiming of female sexuality?

I still have no conclusions. Finally, the whole spectacle was a memorable, David Lynch-esque moment that could easily make it into a future novel and the invasion of the teenage bra and panty wearing mob definitely won out as the highlight of my weekend. But just before we left, I checked in with the In & Out fry guy who was calling out order numbers to see if this was a typical Saturday night. “Yeah, this is a pretty normal crowd. But” he said, scanning the skimpily clad eye candy, “they’re not usually dressed like this.”