I was shopping with my best friend a few years ago in downtown Lake Geneva (Wisconsin) when we came across a cute clothing store. This was right at the beginning of my brief love affair with dresses, an addiction since squashed by my dog walking job. But back then, I stood, pretty much pressed to the glass, and stared at the most adorable dress I had ever seen. It had yellow and black horizontal stripes, and just looked really super cute. I dragged my friend into the store to see it. Flipping through the hangers for my size, I’m fairly certain that I squealed in victory when there was precisely one that would fit me. And then I held it up to myself. That dress was SHORT. I mean, it was SHORT short. The hem would hit above my knees. I put it back on the rack without bothering to try it on, and we left the store without buying anything.
I posted a Facebook status as we were walking away, searching for other fun things to buy. I don’t remember the exact wording, but I wanted my friends to convince me to go back and buy the dress. And they came through. They valiantly tried. But I did not go back and get the dress.
For most of my life, I was taught that it was my responsibility to keep men’s eyes off of me. The rules for this were overwhelming at best. Don’t wear anything too low cut. Don’t wear anything with too short a hem. Don’t wear anything too tight. Don’t wear anything see-through. So, what could I wear? Anything that wouldn’t “cause a man’s eye to stray.” That’s a direct quote—I’ve heard it said so many times. But why is it MY responsibility to keep a man from looking at me? Isn’t it that man’s responsibility not to look in the first place?
Easy. It’s not. Being modest and afraid to wear anything that would show the slightest bit of skin certainly didn’t save me from being hurt in the past. I recall a heavy coat and jeans and a variety of not-revealing clothing items on my body. That didn’t stop him from being an asshat, and it certainly didn’t protect me. Case and point, I was hurt because someone else couldn’t control himself. It was not because of me or anything I was wearing. It seems ridiculous to place so much responsibility on the person being looked at over the person doing the looking. We can’t control who looks at us unless we want to stay home all day and never leave the house. We can only control who we ourselves look at.
I’ve been on an anti-modesty kick lately. It’s hot out. Sometimes it gets close to 100, and I’m out walking dogs from 10am to 6pm pretty much every day. Old Navy had a sale last weekend—47 cent (33 cents with the extra discount!) active wear tank tops and discounted sports bras. This week has been a treasure trove of anti-modesty. Shorts that are as high on my thighs as shorts can go without showing any butt and active wear tank tops over sports bras. Yup, you can see my skin. Nope, I don’t care. Because I’m hot, and if I can find a little way too cool off without being naked, I’m going to do it. It’s not an invitation to men to stray. For real, it’s just me staying cool. I’m going to wear what I want to wear, and if you don’t like it, don’t look. It is really just that simple.