Recently, we were at the pool with my VERY FIT friend Mrs. X and her five children. Mrs. X was in a fairly skimpy bikini. After 5 kids, she still has the figure for it.
At the pool that day, instead of asking Mrs. X for a juice box himself, my 5-year-old son asked me to go ask her. Twice I told him it was his responsibility to ask her if he wanted a juice box. Finally, as I was becoming impatient, he told me, “Mom, please ask her for me. I’m embarrassed to, because Mrs. X doesn’t look modest.”
We aren’t the modesty police in our house. The girls and I all wear shorts and tank tops, among other things, in the summer. But it was instinctive to my son that cleavage and midrift are not OK.
Fast-forward two weeks. Yesterday, I was watching the children play in the sprinkler with our wonderful neighbors who are Orthodox Jews. Their girls are 10-year-old twins and 6, and they wear pretty, knee-length skirts. They are highly creative with plenty of spunk. And their mother and I discussed how modesty in dress seems to correlate with ladylike posture and gentleness in demeanor. Orthodox Jewish women don’t wear tank tops or shorts.
I am not going down the path of over-scrupulousness in dress. We’re all in agreement that the goal of our vocation is to be in the world: in our appearance, to blend in or better. Slouching around town in ankle-length denim jumpers and white sneakers with unkempt hair and without makeup doesn’t do anybody any good. But really, I’m wondering if shorts and tank tops are the best I can do as a 30-year-old Christian mother with several children. I find that it’s impossible to buy stylish shorts that aren’t too short on me, and tank tops just aren’t that dignified. Who needs to be seeing my mid-thighs or my shoulders? In the summer, skirts just above the knee and lightweight shirts with cap sleeves are just as cool and much prettier. Lightweight dresses are easy and breezy. Exhibit A: my husband’s and children’s compliments when I dress this way.
Not all summer styles befit Catholic mothers. As I make new warm-weather clothing purchases (rare!), I am shifting toward more feminine and modest alternatives.