You've probably become afraid of dressing attractively since you read the section on modesty.
"Some believe that attractiveness itself is a stumbling block - that beauty and femininity are somehow fleshly and worldly, even sinful. Some of us wondered if we should conceal ourselves in drab, shapeless, asexual burqas and communicate our holiness through our plainness. But did God command us to dress modestly because He wants us to look ugly?" (pg. 106)
- Well, yes, after reading the book up to this chapter, I had decided that being attractive to men was a major issue that should be avoided in the Botkin worldview.
- The problem, as I see it, is that CP life is uncomfortable with both sexual attractiveness AND sexual unattractiveness in women. If women are sexually attractive, they are drawing men into evil. If women are not sexually attractive, they are derided as being masculine. Somehow, women are supposed to be attractive, feminine, pretty, but not visibly sexual.
"In our teen years, we both felt uncomfortable with the "beauty" we saw around us - the glamorous women in clothing and make-up advertisements - and decided that fashion and beauty wasn't for us. It was hard to separate the objectively beautiful faces of the women in the pictures from their garish make-up, scanty clothing, and suggestive poses that ruined the image; the whole picture just looked trashy. To be on the safe side, we took to wearing baggy jeans and huge hooded sweatshirts (with the hoods up - burqa meets monk's cowl. How much holier can you get?) - and were satisfied that we would never make anyone stumble. (...) The Bible praises several women for their beauty - Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, Esther, Abigail - and never indicates that beauty itself is a sin or a stumbling block. But in our attempt to avoid looking worldly, trashy, or seductive, we took the easy way out (hide), rather than study the mind of God on the subject of beauty. Our shapeless shroud did guarantee that we were obeying a couple of God's precepts (modesty, and um, set-apartness), but at the complete expense of others - like femininity and beauty." (pg. 106-107).
- I can understand the sentiment; the vast majority of teenage girls feel uncomfortable about how their bodies compare to media portrayal of female beauty. I took comfort in the fact that I could see that the real women in my life were each lovely in their own way and that I was lovely in my own unique way, too.
- The reason I grew out of baggy, hooded sweatshirts and jeans was four years of college science classes. Going to class in t-shirts and jeans was a lot of fun at first; my high school had a business casual dress code so jeans were a new experience for me. Over time, though, having to wear clothing that could get chemical stained, sweaty, muddy or crumpled made me want to wear a skirt or nice dress for a change of pace.
- I imagine that Rebekah, Sarah, Esther and Abigail each spent a good portion of their lives looking rumpled, dusty, stained and/or wearing baggy clothing. Keeping a kosher home while raising children could not have been easy. Preparing every meal from raw ingredients, caring for livestock, nursing babies and preparing fibers for dyeing, spinning and weaving takes a ton of energy and is messy.
- I find the inclusion of Esther on that list to be unintentionally ironic. I'm guessing that Esther was wearing clothing that appeared quite worldly when she went before the king.
"Beauty is given as a blessing from God; it can be cultivated in worship of God; it can become our source of strength and pride and be used as a weapon against God; and it can be taken away as a curse. Deliberate ugliness, as well as nakedness, can be a fashion statement that says, essentially, "I'm in a really bad place with God right now."(pg. 108)
- I would not feel comfortable deciding that deliberate ugliness says "I'm in a bad place with God". That's a easy cop-out to allow you to decide that anyone who is dressed in a style you personally don't like is a sinner or a heretic or just a bad person.
- Unintentionally, the Botkin Sisters are setting up a terrible precedent when they oversimplify a bunch of Bible verses down to "beauty can be taken away as a curse." That is sliding perilously close blaming disabilities on personal sins which contradicts the teachings in John 9.
"We can technically cover ourselves and still have the appearance of evil (...) in our clothing choices. Bad affections, bad associations, or the desire to be seductive can still be seen even when our bodies are not. For example, even 'modest' clothing can send the clear message, "I'm a punk rocker on the inside." We can end up looking like the wholesome version of the wrong things (the "modest" Lady Gaga, a "pure" Bratz doll) - a lot of which, of course, has to do with our face and bearing." (pg. 106)
- I'm getting a clearer picture as to why so many CP/QF families get deeply into feminine wear from the late 1700's-1800's. It's safe. Girls can put on a ton of layers but still look stereotypically feminine. The fact that the clothing options recreated today were worn mainly by a small slice of the emerging upper-middle class for the short transition between being a child and being old enough to be out doesn't come into play much.
- It's doubly funny when the modest design is of the tea-dress fashion. Those first came into usage because men (often royalty) were having affairs with married or unmarried women during the daytime. Corsets and other detailed designs are really difficult for one, untrained man to put a woman back into so a new, easier to replace style came into being. (Thank you to my theater costuming buddies for that tip.)
- I find it amusing that the Botkin Sisters see "I'm a punk rocker" as a major sin to be avoided. Punk rock was really an edgy motif in the late 1970's to mid-1980's. The problem with that is the mid-1980's were when the Botkin Sisters were infants. If they wanted dated cultural elements that they could remember, I'd stick to Garth Brooks' "Achy Breaky Heart" (might be a bit early), Whitney Houston, Shakira, Ricky Martin, any grunge band and the entirety of emo bands. Actually, I think I would adore that paragraph if it was rewritten as a warning about emo....that could be fun.
"If we just really, really, really want boys to notice us and desire us and think we're really pretty, cute, fun, eligible, available, etc. then we need to do more than change our ways; we need to change our hearts. (...) If our desire is to allure, then we can fold our hands and look demure all day long and people will still call us flirts. And we'll wonder why." (pg. 109)
- If you are sitting demurely with folded hands and someone calls you a flirt, the problem is in the eye of the beholder, not the behavior of the young woman.
- At least the Botkin Sisters are being honest here - as a young woman in CP worldview, you are going to be judged and found wanting on your behaviors towards young men. Be ready for it.
"By that token, if someone calls you flirt, or complains about your clothing: please take it as an opportunity to examine yourself, even if you know you weren't batting your eyelashes or tossing your hair (and even if it wasn't their place to say it to you.) It doesn't necessarily mean you were guilty, but it's never a bad idea to follow Lamentations 3:40 "Let us test and examine our ways, and return to the Lord!" (pg. 109)
- Dear God....they've formed a modest dress recursive loop! Dress conservatively and you are offending God therefore you dress more modernly; modern dress tempts men therefore you dress more conservatively and offend God. You can't escape......
When in doubt, keep your parents nearby!
"We've asked our parents to help us keep an eye on ourselves, and we try to regularly check in with them to see if they've noticed any slip-ups in our behavior or dress. In a similar vein, having our parents or siblings around us as we interact with the opposite sex makes it harder to let go of ourselves in the first place (and makes it a lot harder to "put on a front" or a different self" (pg. 109)
- My first concern is that this set-up never teaches young women and men to mind their own behaviors. Since their parents are always watching over their shoulders, young women and men never learn how to enforce group expectations without an authority figure present. That's a huge problem because parents are not going to be present for the rest of the offsprings' lives.
- My second concern is that this set-up never allows home schooled teens / young adults to try out different personality traits away from their parents. The assumption is that young people act completely like themselves or the best version of themselves in front of their parents. That's not always the case! I've known plenty of teenagers who show a much kinder, easier-going self in front of teachers or other students than they do in front of their parents as well as vice versa.
- My third concern is how this dynamic plays out after marriage. Both sets of parents will not be present in the new home after the wedding. Will both members of the couple be able to act exactly the same for the rest of the lives? I doubt that highly. My husband and I both act slightly differently around our families of origin than we do when we are alone together.
Well, that's this chapter. Half way done with the book!
Thanks to the Punk Rock/Emo digression, I've had the Big Bang Theory scene where Leonard walks into their apartment singing "Boston" from Augustana after a breakup.