How Modesty Made Me Fat

by Sierra

This isn’t a story about how modest clothes allowed me to “let myself go” and conceal a growing figure. It’s not even a story about how wearing modest clothes kept my self-esteem at rock bottom and thrust me into a too-close relationship with Ben & Jerry. It’s a story about how modesty doctrines impacted my mind, in ways that had real, negative effects on my body. Modesty was one of the reasons my defining relationship with my body became whether or not I was “fat.” Modesty was one of the engines that pushed me into a full-blown eating disorder. It’s not just a dress code: it’s a philosophy, and it’s one that destroys young women, mentally and physically.

Modesty taught me that my first priority needed to be making sure I wasn’t a “stumbling block” to men. Not being sexually attractive was the most important thing I had to consider when buying clothes, putting them on, maintaining my weight (can’t have things getting tight!), and moving around (can’t wiggle those hips, or let a little knee show). Modesty taught me that what I looked like was what mattered most of all. Not what I thought. Not how I felt. Not what I was capable of doing. Worrying about modesty, and being vigilant not to be sexy, made me even more obsessed with my looks than the women in short shorts and spray tans I was taught to hate.

Modesty taught me that I was always on display. There was no occasion in which it was acceptable to be immodest. Not the beach, not at the pool with friends, not in my own backyard (sunbathing was out because a neighbor might glance over and see me). This took my normal self-consciousness as a teenage girl and amped it up to an impossible degree. I once had a bee fly down my (acceptably loose) shirt and, in flailing around to get it out, had a family member comment that I’d just “flashed” my own grandfather. I was horrified for the rest of the week. That’s not normal. The normal order of priorities is getting dangerous animals out of your clothing first, and then worrying about making your own relatives perv on you second. Not so with the modesty doctrine. I should have let it sting me, apparently. Getting stung was the lesser risk.

Modesty was not just about dress. It was also about moving like a lady. Knees together, butt down, breasts in, arms down. It is impossible to get physically fit while adhering to ladylike movements only. You might be able to run, but only if you wear two sports bras to keep anything from jiggling inappropriately. You certainly can’t do anything with weights. In college, I had the chance to join a horseback riding team for a couple of semesters. I soon realized that staying on the horse required starting some kind of fitness regimen. In the gym, I found a couple of hip abductor/adductor machines that were handy for building the thigh strength necessary to grip the horse. The problem? I was so embarrassed that somebody might walk in front of me while I was on the machine with my legs spread that I started going to the gym the moment it opened in the morning and avoiding exercise when men were present. In this instance, modesty was literally keeping me weak. Eventually, I grew comfortable enough with my own body to exercise without worrying about other people happening to look at me. Now, I do an exercise routine that would have scandalized my old self: squats, deadlifts, and barbell rows. I have so much more energy and my mood is so much improved – plus, I can move my own furniture! But I couldn’t have got to this point without dumping the modesty doctrine. Because I couldn’t concentrate on hauling iron while worried that some perv behind me might happen to glance my way and pop his gym shorts. That’s not my job anymore. I’m not responsible for men’s souls, because I no longer think of myself as an object to be looked at and evaluated.

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The Destiny of a Virtuous Daughter ~ Part 4: Have Mercy on Me, a Sinner

by Starfury

At 15, I was finally given the female role models I had longed for. My family converted to Eastern Orthodoxy, and I embraced it wholeheartedly. No longer did I have to pray only to God, but I had the Theotokos to turn to.. someone who could understand me as a girl. After our conversion, my prayer to God (whether the Father or the Son) diminished greatly, and I prayed often to both Mary and St. Katherine the Great-Martyr.

I was searching for unconditional love and acceptance, and it was hard to see it in the God who would stand judging you when you died. It was easier to find it in a woman who watched her son be crucified.

Regardless, I was determined to do things right. I still had to be the perfect daughter, only this time I had confession to help hold me accountable. I wasn’t content to just be Orthodox… I had to be the best I could. I made the effort to fast more… not just from meat, but from dairy as well, and during the Great Fasts, I abstained from fish on Wednesdays and Fridays.

I felt guilty going to confession, and I found myself spending more time alone in the woods in tears. I felt that I was doing the same things wrong, that I was struggling with the same sins over and over. I wondered if the priest kept count, if he thought I would never learn… I was trying to do my best, I really was. I followed daily prayer, I read my Bible, I said the Jesus prayer over and over on my prayer rope, I learned about the saints and their feast days, I attended every Liturgy and daily service I could.

There was still something that I was doing wrong, there had to be. I still struggled with my temper, I still wanted things that didn’t quite line up with wife and mother, and my mother and I still had a rocky relationship.

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The Destiny of a Virtuous Daughter ~ Part 3: Pop Guns & Purity Rings

by Starfury

Growing up, I read books like The King’s Daughter, Dear PrincessBeautiful Girlhood, Waiting for Her Isaac, and The Courtship of Sarah MacLean over and over. I would plan out having twenty six children, so I could use every letter of the alphabet when I named them. I would try to devise my own homeschool curriculum based on the ones I had used, and what I liked and didn’t like about them. On top of all that, I was writing my own Proverbs 31 devotional.

And yet, somewhere in all of this, I was still punching things into a ”computer” on a tree, and yelling for everyone to get out and climb the Jeffries Tubes because of a warp core breach. Rather than make a hoop skirt, I made a Confederate general’s uniform for the end of unit celebration. I was almost fifteen, the homeschool convention was happening over my birthday, and I wanted two things: a Vision Forum pop gun, and a purity ring from Generations of Virtue.

I got both.

They probably assumed the pop-gun would do little harm, after all, I had seven brothers and probably wanted to use it on them, until I tired of it and returned to my books and daydreams. The people at the Vision Forum booth looked a little more wary when they saw my dad hand the pop-gun over to me, but I didn’t care. After all, I’d grown up fashioning blasters out of Legos with my brothers, so we could play at Star Wars or Star Trek. Now I just had a gun that actually made noise when you shot it!

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Daughter of the Patriarchy: Daybreak

by Sierra 

By the time I turned in my final remedial math exam, my family had settled into a tiny rental house in Pennsylvania. I was now eligible to start community college, getting prerequisites out of the way while finishing up my high school diploma. For my first semester, I was registered for Basic Problems of Philosophy (my mother, snickering, said, “There are a lot of problems with Philosophy,” implying that it was a godless discipline), and Earth Science.

Community college was a dazzling experience. Not only could I drive myself there three nights a week and not have to worry about tiptoeing around my father’s ever-simmering rage, I could talk to normal people face-to-face. I became painfully aware of the conspicuousness of my long skirts and hair, and went out of my way to dress up for college. I preferred to have people think I was simply overdressed than advertising my religion.

On the first day of my Philosophy class, our professor walked in – a tall, lithe woman wearing a fedora. “You may call me Professor V.,” she explained. “You may also call me Dr. V., if you need medical assistance, which I can provide.” She had three doctoral degrees, she explained. My eyes kept widening as she introduced herself. She seemed like a creature from a higher dimension: poised, collected, professional, and utterly unlike any other woman I’d ever known. Our first exercise was to probe the foundational source of our own identity in a one-page essay. I answered that, as a Christian, my identity came from within the imagination of God, the source of all Creation. I wrote easily, but afterward began to think. Was I being honest in my answer? Or was I only reproducing someone else’s thoughts?

Integrity became an increasing fixation in my life. Every day, I worked an eight-hour shift at Wal-Mart, and despite my best efforts to vary my wardrobe and to solicit comments on being overdressed rather than appearing strange, inevitably somebody noticed that I didn’t wear pants. “It’s Biblical,” I sighed. It was a shortcut other women had taught me to say when I didn’t want to have a long conversation about my dress. “If they’re thirsty, they’ll keep asking,” my mother and her friends had instructed. Inwardly, I was sick of inspiring thirst.

I felt as though the Holy Bible were plastered to my chest. There was nothing I could do to avoid mentioning it. I began to obfuscate when strangers and friends confronted me. “It’s religious,” I said sometimes. Other times, “I just like skirts.” As I looked around at my coworkers in cute jeans and tank tops, I felt less and less inclined to “witness” and wanted desperately just to go about my business without incurring questions from strangers.

I couldn’t see the other girls as evil, depraved, captive or on the prowl to destroy men with their bodies. I saw people that I liked, people I wanted to be like, and the conspicuous nature of my dress burned in my conscience. “I don’t really believe wearing jeans is wrong,” I dared to think between fearful bouts of repentance. “This skirt I’m wearing is a lie.” But I quickly stuffed those thoughts into a hidden place in my mind, a place it would be safe to probe later, when I wouldn’t have to explain a pair of jeans to my mother or to God.

I want to be authentic, I thought. I wanted my actions to reflect my beliefs. And yet there was no room to examine my own heart in private, to sort out what I really believed about women’s dress. Every time I got dressed in the morning, I took a stand for the Message by donning yet another floor-sweeping handmade skirt. To dress otherwise would be to send up a battle flare, declaring my apostasy in one stroke. I’d be set upon instantly by a horde of Message women, all reminding me why Brother Branham said women shouldn’t wear pants and praying that the Lord would lead me to repentance. “Aha!” I could imagine some of them smirking. “We knew she wasn’t saved. She’s probably Serpent’s Seed.” I wasn’t ready for the drama I knew would instantly fall on me, so I hid as best I could: by wearing fancy skirts and answering, “I’m comfortable this way,” while inwardly chafing at the failure of my integrity. Wearing skirts meant always performing: I never had a moment’s privacy to sort out what I really believed.

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When Promises Become Dreams: Doing Marriage God’s Way

by AfricaTurtle

The title of Sierra’s Post “When Dreams Become Promises” stirred thoughts in me of another Dream, of other Promises that have brought their own dose of pain and disappointment and reality into my life: Dreams of an enduring, godly marriage and the Promises I made to God and myself in order to lay hold of that dream.

I made my first promise at the age of 14. “I promise to never date a non-christian”. It was the call to action given by a speaker at the summer church camp I attended that year. I knew it was right, I knew it was what God expected of me. How can “light fellowship with darkness”? Why would I build a life with someone I couldn’t hope to spend eternity in heaven with? What a heartache that would be! What a burden to bear, to be “unequally yoked”! I knew that God wanted what was best for me. I knew I could trust him. I knew I would never “compromise” my walk with God by dating a non-Christian.

The second promise came only a few, short years later, at the age of 16. “True Love Waits” was the name of the campaign. It was pretty popular that year in various area youth groups and on a national level. I still have the card that I taped to the inside cover of my Bible that year: ““Believing that true love waits, I make a commitment to God, myself, my family, my friends, my future mate, and my future children to a lifetime of purity including sexual abstinence from this day until the day I enter a biblical marriage relationship.” Signed and dated. For my 16th birthday I even asked my dad to buy me a “purity ring”, a ring I would someday give to my husband to show him how I had saved myself for him, and him alone.

Then as I went through high school and built friendships with other “like-minded” and “strong” Christians, we started talking about “casual dating”, why it wasn’t good, the emotional repercussions and so on. We really believed it was important to only consider dating someone who we believed we could actually marry. By this time I knew I had a call to foreign missions so this drastically reduced any dating “options” for me. Not too many guys I knew were interested in heading off to live in the jungles of Africa!

I believe it was also around this time that Josh Haris’ book “I Kissed Dating Good-bye” started to appear in Christian circles. I had pretty much already concluded that casual dating was not for the “mature” Christian. My father had no interest in “choosing” my spouse for me. (Not that he was unconcerned, he just always said “you’re the one that has to live with him, not me! ) So while I never committed to courtship, in the purest sense, I was, nonetheless, convinced God would lead me to the “right man” at the “right time”. This was something I was leaving in his hands. I didn’t “trust” myself with a decision this weighty, I definitely knew I needed God’s guidance, direction, and seal of approval.
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