The three of them stood at the Wendy’s counter. Eyes would flit off in one direction, then the guy closest to me would look me square in the face for a nanosecond before returning to that object of fixation.
My son and I had stopped for lunch at this Wendy’s on our way home from a visit to the doctor. Eerily quiet place. None of the customers said a word, though at least fifteen people sat at the tables.
I finally followed the blank stare of those three young male employees after one overfilled a drink, his attention shattered. What consumed their thoughts?
A table of four 50-ish men, a table of two teenage guys, then two construction guys over in the corner, a table with a stunning example of the female of the species, a table of….
Oh. Oh my.
That male instinct kicked in and my head immediately swiveled back a table for one brief second. When I snapped back around to pick up my food, the tallest counter guy greeted me with one of those smiles.
She was about 19 or 20, a gorgeous young brunette, shades of Jennifer Connelly at about that age. Wearing a pair of loose bell-bottoms and a peasant blouse, she munched casually on her meal, oblivious to the stares she drew.
Her choice of outfit was perfectly acceptable on the average woman. The church pastor’s wife could wear that same outfit to the church picnic and no one would think twice. But on this young woman, the ensemble bordered on obscene.
My son, of course, picked a table right next to hers. He seems to have that affinity for beautiful women, so I positioned myself so she wasn’t in my field of view. This left me with the perfect chance to watch the other men in the restaurant—and besides her, it was only men.
The 50-year-olds, all of whom could have been her father (as could I), stole glances like kangaroos popping up to scan for predators. The oldest of them gave a leering chuckle every so often. The table of teen guys practically foamed at the mouth and stared…and stared…and stared…. A man sitting by himself with what looked to me like a Christian book, finally spotted her, then raised his book over his eyes, only to drop it surreptitiously twice every minute to steal a peek. The construction guys said nothing and, believe it or not, appeared uncomfortable. A few guys sat behind me, so I couldn’t watch them, but I could guess their behavior.
No one said a word.
When she finally dumped her trash and walked out, an audible sigh rose up among every guy there, and they started laughing and talking among themselves for the first time since we’d sat down ten minutes before. The table of 50-year-olds proved to have Aussie accents. Two of them looked my way with one of those “Did you see her?!” expressions that’s universal among men.
A whole host of posts on modesty have sprung up in recent days on Godblogs everywhere. Everyone feels compelled to comment on the fashions worn by women today, especially as the weather heats up and the clothing shrinks to beanbag-sized swaths of fabric strategically placed.
No matter where you turn, someone pontificates about modesty and which fashions are wrong and which are right. Lists of approved styles are posted, and everyone feels better about being the modesty police.
Useless. All of it.
Modesty isn’t necessarily in clothing. That young woman in Wendy’s could’ve been in a burlap sack and men would’ve gaped at her nonetheless. We could give her Godblog fashion advice till we’re blue in the face and she’d still be slaying guys in her Gothard-approved denim skirt, formless white blouse, and flat, white tennis shoes.
Modesty begins in the heart of both the clothes wearer and the watcher. You can put a prostitute in a tasteful evening gown, but she’s still a prostitute. Clean up the inside and the outside changes by default.
People complain about today’s sex-soaked culture. However, I lived through the 1970s, and I can vouch that the summer fashions then were far more lascivious than the standard attire of most folks now. But even then, not all of the standard modesty advice worked. We modesty police can recommend that women spurn bikinis and go with the tasteful one-piece, but I recall that Farrah Fawcett wore a maillot in her famous ’70s-era poster and that didn’t keep a gazillion teenage boys from plastering her poster up on their walls.
No, the outside is not the source of the problem.
The biggest lie in American Christianity consists of 30 percent of Christian men admitting they’ve seen pornographic images. The truth is that the other 70 percent are too ashamed to admit it. Our entire culture is pornographic, so how can anyone say they’ve never seen such a thing? Or just as bad, thought such a thing?
No matter what we preach about modesty, too many of us are running around with unclean hearts. Sure, your pastor’s heart may be 99 percent clean, but God’s still concerned about that remaining one percent.
Most of us would long to be 99 percent clean inside, but our shame over only being 15, 27, or 45 percent becomes the hidden secret that no one lets on. Instead, most of us are like the guy in that Wendy’s who hid behind his Christian book, but made sure he didn’t lose out of the fun, either.
I suspect that more men will read this than women. To you, I ask: What is it going to take for us to move beyond where we currently are with respect to modesty? Given the society we live in, we’re at a supreme disadvantage with regard to modesty, but that’s still no excuse.
To the women, though, I want to ask how we got to this Girls Gone Wild culture we have today, where so many young women act like hookers. Is it solely the fault of lousy fathers? What’s more sad than a 40-year-old woman with a strategically placed tattoo who dresses like her teenage daughter? Shouldn’t modesty accumulate in the heart over time? At least a little?
I feel for a young woman as physically attractive as that one in Wendy’s because she’ll inevitably attract jerks and probably scare off the kind of decent guy she deserves. But regaling her with the kind of clothing we approve is not going to change her lot unless those of us around her change on the inside.
Yes, put a modest young woman in some Frederick’s of Hollywood get-up and she’ll lose some of that modesty. But clothing is not the only issue here. It’s the simple answer, but not the one that strikes at the heart of the matter.