My habit of hiding started young. While all the other girls changed their clothes while still carrying on loud conversations with each other, I turned stone-faced and serious.
This was no time for chit chat. I welcomed my inner engineer to help me squirm and wriggle my way out of my school attire and into my gym shorts and shirt. It took skill and years of practice to master. I wanted to make sure no one saw any part of my body besides part of an arm or a leg.
I could not understand how girls could waltz around naked in front of each other in the locker room, laughing and talking about what they had for lunch. Their confidence was not lost on me and although I would never say it, I was jealous. Their apparent freedom tempted me many times.
Maybe I should try taking a shower without my swimsuit still on?
Maybe I should put my clothes on without hiding in the bathroom stall or with a towel draped over me?
For years, I cloaked my behavior in the word- modesty.
And it took on many forms beyond the women’s locker room.
But one more story before I move on because I think there is something incredibly revealing about the way we view our actual bone and flesh bodies.
My husband and I attended a wedding I will never forget. It is seared in my memory not because of the beautiful ceremony or the delightful company of friends we were surrounded by, but because of what she wore. And I’m not talking about the bride.
No one could miss her.
Long hair. Long legs. A thin frame. A friendly face with big eyes and a perfect smile. A tiny pencil dress that accentuated her shape and wrapped tightly around her (waaaay) upper thighs.
It shocked me because I thought it was an unspoken rule amongst us women at weddings- don’t distract from the bride. I always took that to mean- don’t take as much time or thought in your dress and make-up as she does.
This is her day, not yours.
Be modest in your apparel and appearance.
My husband, like every other man at the wedding I’m sure, took notice of her. Even I was distracted. We talked about it afterwards…I can’t believe she wore that? Why? Did her hubby approve?
This woman was well known by many of us at the wedding. She and her husband were the leaders of the local prayer house in our small city. I didn’t have many interactions with her, but the ones I did have were pleasant. She was encouraging, talkative, creative, caring, and down-to-earth.
That dress though. Why did it immediately change my picture of her?
Was she trying to turn heads, flaunt her body, her freedom, her confidence?
Or perhaps, she was just being her normal, fancy self. Maybe, in her defense, the length or tightness of her dress was not an issue? Maybe it didn’t feel overly revealing or overtly sexy for her to wear to a wedding with friends?
I will never know and I’ve come to realize I don’t need to know.
But what I do know is this: The sheer thought of showing more than a few inches above my knee makes me uncomfortable. Not to mention the work it would take to make sure everything is clean shaven and smooth and at least a little tanned.
I am content in my modest tendencies- hiding behind my long hair, flowy pants, a nice smile, and my rambunctious young children.
It makes me cringe though. Have I made modesty an excuse to stay wrapped up in the full coverage dress, the frumpy pajamas I wear every night, or the fears I carry when it comes to being myself with all my burning desires, thoughts, and darkest issues?
I am not the woman wearing the extra short pencil dress or the naked, chatty lady with saggy skin in the community swimming pool changing room, but maybe it’s time to be?
Maybe instead of taking the stance of an observant judge, questioning critic, or envious competitor, I could simply step into my own skin without shame.
Would it be possible not to blush at the sight of my body being seen by others around me? Would they even notice? Could I say what’s really on my heart without drowning in regret for the next forty-eight hours?
Could I write the words down without immediately wanting to delete them for fear of who would read them?
Could I let my hair down and be a human like everyone else- becoming, growing wild, and ever-evolving in this world without obsessing over who’s eyes are staring me up and down or automatically thinking of myself as too presumptuous, provocative, or conceited?
When I become aware of this moderate self-regard, which I’ve always thought was Christ-like, I notice how it makes me want to sit down, stay inside, don’t stray too far from who I’ve always thought myself to be.
The sheepish, shy six and sixteen-year-old within me still pushes me around- keep squirming under that towel, wrestling with your tangled up limbs and wet swimsuit, certainly no one needs to see all of you. You would be distracting. You would be embarrassed.
You would turn heads and take all the attention.
This isn’t your day.