Wednesday, April 13, 2011

My Immodest Past (and The Modesty Survey)

I don't remember how or when it was that I stumbled upon The Modesty Survey, but I do remember that it was a great encouragement to me, a little convicting, and it gave me some motivation in an area of my life I had been neglecting for quite a few years.
As a little bit of background for you, when I was a toddler my mom put me in jeans. I just didn't like the feel of them pinching my middle, and lavished in the praise I received from everyone I met when I wore dresses. What toddler doesn't like to be told she looks like a princess? So one morning my mom was getting me dressed and I told her I didn't want any more pants at all. Only dresses. I think it took a while before she realized I was serious. I wore sweatpants to bed when all my nightgowns were dirty and rarely did I wear any sort of pants for day-clothes. My dear Nana made my sister and I each a new dress each Christmas and Easter so I wore my pretty made-with-love dresses everywhere all the time. It just felt right. Then when I was a few weeks shy of my 13th birthday we moved and I had to start all over with making friends. My first friend, and for a long time my only friend, lived on a ranch. Baling hay and branding calves were all in a day's work for her, and being in her company I began to be invited to ride horses and such, and she would add, "And um... wear jeans, OK?" because she just couldn't imagine how I'd be able to do anything safely in a dress. So I bought jeans. And wore them when I was visiting my friend. And despite still doing farm chores in dresses at home, pretty soon, when the majority of my public activities went from being done in dresses to being done in jeans, I just only really kept up with buying a dress that fit for Church. The majority of my wardrobe became jeans and tank tops. Practical for sweating out in the sun riding horses but not really modest. But I wasn't thinking of that back then. I am ashamed to admit that my focus was not on being modest. I was becoming a hormone-laden teenager and began to dress to draw the eye and unfortunately I got it. I had alot of guys trying to flirt with me until they realized I wasn't going to do what I was advertising (by my attire) for. I can't say as it really hit with all clarity until I was much older. Teenagers are by nature (or culture?) very insecure, selfish, and attention-seeking. Despite being a Christian, I was no exception. I thought that if boys didn't flirt with me and try to get me out of my clothes then I must be ugly. I was told that they would do just that if I were to show more of myself by wearing less. And so I did. But I always felt uncomfortable, fidgety, and guilty when I was not wearing a modest outfit.
For a little while in my mid-teens, my parents started driving 2 hours to church every weekend to go to a Mennonite-like church. We were expected (by my parents) to wear long dressed and a bandana on our heads to church so as to not offend the congregation or cause their younger members to stumble. I remember that despite the brevity of our time with that congregation, seeing the other teenaged girls dressed so contrastingly to popular culture, and also contrastingly so full of confidence and joy and beautiful radiance, it made a deep impression on  me.
I did not immediately switch back to all dresses. In fact it was long after I was married, and not too distant in the past, when I began to wear skirts often once again. I did have a slow journey to more modest pants-and-shirt wearing before I wound up back in skirts. Part of what propelled me back toward modest dress was the previously mentioned Modesty Survey. I think I was feeling convicted about modesty from a sermon I heard and did a search online to find out if a woman in pants is really a stumbling block to a man! I didn't really expect to find a clear answer, so imagine my shock when I found The Modesty Survey! The quotes, the details, the honesty and vulnerability of the men... well it's really something that I think will blow you away or boost your modesty resolve as it did for me.
Click HERE to view The Modesty Survey for yourself. First take note of how many signatures there are of men supporting us women in choosing to dress modestly. I love that. This is a survey of 1,600 teen boys and men. First click on Overview and read about the men who took the survey and how to read the survey. Then go back and click Survey Results. Select a category from the left column and a "question" from the right column and scroll down to see the graph results and statements from men on this concept. Hearing how some men feel about some types of dress, and about modesty and women in general, brought me to tears. Tears of hope and regret. If only someone had showed this to me as an insecure teen! How much of those awkward guilty fidgety days spent out in public trying to look like a piece of hot sex so I would be worth something (backwards much?!) would have been avoided! How much confidence would I have gained and inner beauty been able to shine through if I had only known! And yes my Daddy did try to tell me how guys think but I wasn't really close to my dad and with the whole world telling me otherwise, I honestly didn't believe him. Or maybe I didn't care, or didn't want to. I thought that whatever his ideas and opinions were, they were of people my dad's age. He wouldn't know anything about what real guys my age now this decade think. Times have changed... I wish there had been a Modesty Survey for me back then. But it's not too late to raise my daughters to be confident modest women! I wasn't raised to wear dresses, grew away from my parents, was expected to date and wear makeup. My parents' change of heart on these matters didn't come until I was around 16 years old. But my own daughters are still tiny. I have a head start at being able to nurture modesty and confidence in them. I have the advantage of knowing now that what I do now and in the future affects my future relationship with my kids, whether they will try my and their father's words of experience on life.

I am drafting a sort of statement of modesty for myself and my girls. It's a work in progress. Perhaps I'll share it in my next post. :)

4 comments:

  1. I look forward to reading your modesty statement! As a mom of girls, I strive to teach them to be modest as well as set an example for them to follow.

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  2. Thank you Tracey! Setting the example really is so important, isn't it?

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  3. Very interesting. I like your "realness" in this post. I also struggle with all this same thing. My mother hated dresses and would not buy me dresses. I grew up with many Pentacostal friends and loved the simplicity of the clothing (although I think many use too much "adornment", especially in the hair). I do not like makeup or think most people need any of it, yet I wear it. Society dictates our choices, yet our society is not what we should be letting dictate our choices.

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  4. Thank you Shannon! It is a journey that I'm definately still on. I am still praying and searching regarding the headcovering. I am still catching myself sometimes wearing something that I realize is too low cut or form fitting. I have not shunned makeup altogether. I do wear mascara and skin-tone eyeshadow about twice a year, usually if the hubby takes me out on a date. I never put alot of thought into makeup but like my original reasons for wearing dresses only, I stopped makeup because I was more comfortable without it. It's all a journey and I am sure God will get around to cleaning all these areas out and giving me purpose and reasons for the conclusion He brings me to. It can be hard to remain open to His changing me and I'm a very stubborn person. ;p

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