This video is part of a collaboration series with Raymond the Relationship Blogger. We are hoping to do a video every week answering each other’s questions on sex to promote a healthy understanding of sex and sexuality and to show the differences in how we think about these topics.
“Their words told you that you weren’t enough and needed to change. Every step of the way, they took every opportunity to remind you of something that you are acutely aware of: you’ll never be enough for them. When they ran out of things to pick at, they made up flaws just so they could continue to put you down.” – Read More: The Truth
Make no mistake, this is not a Lightroom or Photoshop tutorial, this is an apology. I photoshopped my profile picture so you wouldn’t see my imperfections. After close to a year and vulnerablly discussing imperfections, I tried to hide mine from you.
A short while ago, I wrote a post for Bubba (my son) called Purity Culture: 5 Things I Want My Son to Know. This post touched on my own experience with purity rings and purity culture after being raised in a community with legalistic tendencies and what I wanted my son to learn from it. As you might imagine, purity culture was not the only area of my childhood that I have looked back on with skepticism. Modesty was one of the many ideals that was impressed upon me as well.
Modesty was a very popular ideal to focus on during my youth, and although both physical and spiritual modesty were discussed, the conversations heavily leaned towards physical modesty. After all, it was perceived as being measurable by inches of skin and this was far easier to enforce than being modest in spirit.
The various community events I attended usually upheld a certain dress code and while not everything within the dress code was unreasonable, there was a good bit that went beyond what was appropriate. There was a laundry list of rules that included rules on shoes, length of skirts, shoulders showing, the content of t-shirts and the neckline of blouses. Perhaps unsurprisingly, men were generally not included in these rules.
Women and girls who did not dress modestly were often treated differently and gossiped about. Even if they did adhere to all of the dress code, they could still be accused of being immodest by how they wore the clothing or walked in it by some unspoken and arbitrary rules that were also in place. While it was the general consensus that these ladies were “out to get attention” and there was no indication of thought towards why that might be. I personally tend to view someone’s clothing and jewelry as revealing what they think of themselves. If they tend to show more, I usually assume that they might be insecure and overcompensating, though I know that there are exceptions to this. Regardless of the reason, there was never any grace and empathy towards these “types” of ladies.
In order to enforce this dress code and gain more willing compliance (especially among the young ladies who were viewed as rebellious) among the group’s youth, incentives were used. Phrases like “Modesty is Hottest” were a way to encourage the desired behavior while simultaneously leading the young girls to believe that this behavior would draw Godly men into our lives.
There were more than a few times where warnings were issued about “tempting” the young men. “Men are visual and can’t help themselves” was a popular refrain that led me to begin fearing my peers and the possibility of being raped because of a bra strap slip. While this may sound outlandish, to a child who didn’t know better, it was terrifying. This influence was reinforced by literature and horror stories of girls who had been molested by men who claimed that the girls (most often legally below the age of consent) had been tempting or immodest.
When there was doubt on whether or not an outfit was modest, it was usually up to the fathers to decide. I remember thinking, “Do fathers just have an internal sensor for this sort of thing?” right before the sickening question of “What if I’m tempting to my Dad and that’s how he decides whether this outfit is okay?” I was always too afraid of the answer to ask.
Modesty, in the context that I knew it in, had a variety of negative ramifications. Aside from the seeds of doubt that had been planted against my male friends and relatives, I also developed a sense of shame about my body. If it was so terrible that it lead men to be unable to control themselves, then I needed to cover and punish myself for being a “Jezebel”. This manifested in an eating disorder that took root and poisoned my mind. I was conveniently able to conceal my withering frame under layers of “modest” clothing.
Although the eating disorder has been treated, the emotions attached to modest had not resolved. They spilled over onto my wedding day as I held on to anxiety about the strapless wedding dress I had chosen, which caused me some anxiety about my own husband and the level of self-control he possessed.
I was surprised to find the rules of modesty changed after I got married. I was no longer bound by a list and a ruler measuring inches of skin. My husband even picked out clothing for me to wear in public that I once thought was immodest. I was unsure of what to do with this new freedom, and a little bit daunted by it. I had always wanted to wear so many different things, mostly sun dresses and spaghetti strap tops, so naturally I set out to find some. While spaghetti straps may not seem racy to the general public, my first time wearing a dress with them was nerve-wracking. I felt gorgeous and confident, but also guilty because this outfit, I had been led to believe, was supposed to be something that would cause a lack of self-control in men.
While I continued to have mixed emotions about the new wardrobe freedom I had, I soon had a bigger and more emotionally taxing situation to deal with. I was pregnant, and pregnancy is known to be counterproductive to modesty. Between exams, ultrasounds, cervical checks and actual labor and delivery, I was repeatedly traumatized and modesty, as I understood it, had been stolen from me.
In a similar way to purity culture’s take on virginity, I saw modesty as something I could not get back, and my actions showed that when I went against my own comfort and judgement by breastfeeding uncovered in public because I felt like I had nothing special to lose anymore.
The emotions that I’ve felt throughout my life regarding modesty have been many and varied. Among them have been frustration, anger, resentment, empowerment, comfort and confidence. Unfortunately, I’ve experienced more of the first few than the last. While I never believed that modesty was bad, or purposefully wanted to rebel from it, I felt it to be a burden throughout my young life.
Only recently, after careful consideration and intentional blocking out of the spectrum of opinions, have I been able to listen to my own conviction on modesty. I came to my own conclusions and see clearly that you cannot enforce a definition of modesty that goes against someone’s own conviction and expect to have good results.
Here are 7 things I want Bubba to learn from my journey:
- Modesty is defined different ways to different people.
- Modesty, in the sense that I knew it, had unintended (and generally bad) consequences.
- Generally, if an adult is obsessing over a child’s outward appearance (in this case, clothing), there is a certain level of unhealthy behavior going on.
- Fear of men and their levels of self-control was one of the “side-effects” of modesty as I knew it.
- Your definition of modesty might change as you age, and that is okay.
- Modesty isn’t just about girls.
- You don’t have to be a slave to your mind and body, please learn self-control.
I hope you are able to learn from these mistakes, Bubba. <3
New Crunchy Mom
Hi there 🙂
People seem to have a problem with stretch marks.
Don’t believe me? Just type “stretch marks” into Pinterest. I’ll wait here…
What’d you find? Probably the same thing I did.
Hundreds of articles on how to get rid of stretch marks, right?
Do it yourself creams, “natural” beauty tricks, homemade lotions. Maybe even a few links to people trying to sell you their miracle salve. If any of these work, it’s probably only minimally.
Let me fill you in on a little secret…
Stretch marks are normal.
Yes, some people have been gifted with smooth, unblemished skin and they will never be the bearer of a single stretch mark.
But many of us who aren’t so genetically gifted are very familiar with stretch marks.
When I think of stretch marks, I usually think of pregnancy. I got them on my legs, abdomen and breasts while I was pregnant. They are still there, even if they are a little faded, at 4 months after delivery.
I didn’t get my first stretch mark from pregnancy, though.
I got it from anorexia.
I dropped 20 pounds in a very short amount of time. One day shortly after I had lost that weight, I looked down and noticed deep, purple slashes buried in my thighs.
It hurt to see that. I didn’t know that could happen with a large weight loss in very little time.
I wore longer shorts to cover up the marks because I got teased about them.
As I gained the weight back, they faded and ultimately were unnoticed by anyone but myself.
Then one day, I noticed my twin had them too.
She had gotten them during a growth spurt and like me, had been trying to hide them as best she could.
Years went by and I got married. I remember my wedding day I placed my garter as far away from my stretch marks as I could without it falling off.
My husband didn’t even notice them until I pointed them out!
Then I got pregnant.
Oh boy, these weren’t like the stretch marks I had before. They were deeper, darker and way more noticeable, even after delivery.
I housed a rapidly growing little boy for nearly nine months, so this was to be expected.
The ironic thing was, they didn’t bother me. My husband was a bit shocked when he first saw them, as were a few family members. I told them that the stretch marks didn’t bother me.
By doing that, I taught them how I wanted to be treated. I didn’t know it at the time, but by telling them it wasn’t a big deal, I influenced their opinion of them.
The stretch marks were only a big deal if I made them one, or if I let other people make a big deal out of them.
There are things you can do to help with the appearance of stretch marks, like drink an appropriate amount of water and eat plenty of fruits and vegetables.
But ultimately, they don’t matter.
They may not be your favorite part of your body, but they are only as big of a deal as you make them! They are a part of your story and a part of your beautiful body. <3
New Crunchy Mom