Consider the following food for thought, and not a hard-and-fast directive. So in case you were under the bizarre impression that some random essay written by a layperson has some moral force, then rest at ease. I repeat, this is not a directive! But you better listen to me, or you’re going to hell.
Top ten reasons I wear pants
1. I live in NH, where winter happens. Pants.
2. My husband finds most women’s pants to be more or less neutral, as far as their power to affect him in a masculine way. But he finds that most women’s skirts . . . affect him. So unless it’s the most wonderful time of the cycle for me: pants.
3. Three of my children are ages 4, 3, and 17 months. They basically live on the floor. To care for them, my choices are either (a) sit on the floor to be with them, or (b) bend over a lot to deal with them. Yesterday at library story hour, my little girls felt shy, so I sat on the floor to be with them. I was comfortable, relaxed, and modest. Pants.
4. Motherhood is a blue collar job. I don’t care what style of dress or skirt you’re wearing, there is no way to be modest while dealing efficiently with the routine emergencies that normal children engender — children who, as a normal mode of expression, flail their limbs around like some kind of oversized, malevolent eggbeater, right at your hemline. Today, I had to lunge halfway across the room to rescue my toddler, who had launched herself from an armchair at a glass gerbil tank. I was able to lunge without pausing to consider whether my movements were graceful and feminine; and I didn’t worry, while lunging, about flashing the men in the room. Pants.
5. Traditional nuns manage to work in skirts, and so do men and women in the middle east. So what? Their lives are hard; mine doesn’t have to be. Pants.
6. My husband, being heterosexual, does not actually want to spend his free time browsing around Dress Barn with me. Unfortunately, being a drooling idiot (that’s traddie talk for “woman I honor and respect”), I am utterly, faintingly, femininely unable to pick out modest and appropriate clothing for myself. What ever shall I do! There’s clearly only one option left for poor silly old me, and that’s to keep on safe ground. Pants.
7. When I show my husband a piece of clothing that I just bought, he admires it — but only because he loves me and knows I have no female friends to show it to. In reality, I might as well be holding up a coupon for fig newtons, or a vacuum cleaner filter: he just can’t see it. When I put it on, then he can see it. At this point in our marriage, I know what he’s going to like, so that’s what I buy. I dress to please him, not other men who might pass me on the sidewalk. Pants.
8. Why do I get the distinct impression that some guys, demonstrable experts in marriage though they may be, are being a teeny bit disingenuous when they couch their views on modesty in terms of respect for women? Why do I get the impression that if most women wore skirts, this type of fellow would suddenly be campaigning for more pants? Why, in short, do my spidey senses tell me that this is not about modesty at all, but about control? “Wear what I say, and I promise I’ll start respecting you.” Pants!
9. If you are so concerned about how I think about myself, then why don’t you ask me what I actually think, instead of telling me what you know I will think if I only listen to you? Not that you asked, but I’ll tell you how I think about myself: I think that my life got a lot better when I started making reasonable decisions for myself, instead of always wondering if I’m going to disappoint some hypothetical man. I care profoundly what my husband thinks about me, and naturally that affects how I feel about myself. Pants.
Women, if you want to wear skirts, and it means something to your husband, then go ahead and wear skirts. Skirts are not a sign of oppression and misery! I wish I could pull off the look, and to those of you who do wear skirts: I think you look nice.
But it’s not a moral issue. At all.
In the early years of my marriage, I tried so hard. I thought I had to make up for everything wrong I had done, and I thought I had to be a good example for everyone else who was still doing everything wrong. I scrubbed my floors on hands and knees, I made crepes from scratch, and I wore skirts every day. In other words, I made everything a lot harder than it had to be — and wasted lots of valuable physical and emotional energy in pursuing these ideals, while letting other, more useful virtues slide. Virtues like kindness, flexibility, and common sense.
I had three kids in diapers, and I didn’t have a car, so I walked everywhere. Wearing skirts did nothing for me but make me awkward, self-righteous, and cold. I guess some men find that appealing, but I’ve never heard my own husband pining for those days (the skirts were my idea, not his). Many women are able to wear a skirt and function well. I could not, and people who pressured me to try harder were doing me harm.
I think I’ve gotten beyond this phase, but the issue of skirts was a red herring that did a lot of genuine damage to my marriage, my self-respect, and my attitude toward other women. That’s why messages like this anti-pants one make me so furious. Yeah, lots of women dress immodestly — but lots of other women are treated like retarded pets by their Good Catholic Husbands, and I’m sick to death of it.
I’m sick to death of messages like the one I linked to gaining any kind of legitimacy among otherwise intelligent men and women. Some women like to wear pants, and some don’t. It’s not a moral issue. If it’s a moral issue in your marriage, than your marriage has serious problems that a change in wardrobe will not heal.
Skirts won’t change the world. I’ll tell you what will change the world: men loving their wives — their actual wives, not some bizarre, imaginary amalgam of the Blessed Virgin and Grace Kelly.
So, ladies, if your priest friend forwards the anti-pants email to you, please remember: one of the great strengths of the Catholic church is that it invites all sorts of men into its holy priesthood. One of these men is infallible — but the one who sent you this email is not. And the man who wrote the original message is not even a priest.
Pants, pants, pants!
UPDATE: Okay, ladies and gents, we just passed 300 comments. Thank you for making me laugh so hard today and yesterday. I’m closing comments now because I think everything has been said that can be said — although I really love the idea of Padre Pio duking it out in the confessional with Gianna Molla. I realize that closing comments make me “mean and nasty,” but what can I say? Pants will do that to a gal.