modesty

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This is the book I’ve been reading lately. Or one of the books I’ve been reading lately. Its a very interesting history of the ideology of America as illustrated by our clothing (as revealed through clothing experts referred to as “Dress Doctors”). I’d highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys reading information. I LOVE information.

“Dress, the Dress Doctors said, is one of our social duties for two reasons. First, because the world has to look at us whether it wants to or not. Second, because the world has work to do, and an inappropriately dressed individual can be distracting. (page 78) Unlike today, when so many of us are eager to spill our deepest secrets to everyone and anyone and anything through social media, the society in which the Dress Doctors lived believed that much information about a person was privileged…It followed that the professional woman’s working clothes should strike “a note of dignity and formal reserve,” as this will keep people at the proper, respectful distance…The goal was to make clear that she was a considerate person who did not impose on others. (page 96)”

This reminds me of the definition of modesty.

Modesty = “The quality of not being too proud or confident about yourself or your abilities. Propriety in dress, speech, or conduct” (merriam-webster.com)

So, it follows, in my mind anyway, that appropriate dress is really about 1) respecting others by not forcing ourselves upon them (even forcing them to look upon us) and 2) commanding respect for ourselves by not assuming intimacy with others.

Interesting, interesting. What about all this newly fledged ideology that somebody other than me should determine intimate medical decisions for me? Or for my family? What am I talking about? Mandatory vaccines. At the heart of this discussion is a sobering lack of modesty, or a basic pride, that the someone who thinks they should make my decisions makes them better than I do.

And how did this come about? Is it the universally unflattering, plumber’s-behind-creating-jeans EVERY girl and woman wears these days. Maybe. Maybe its because we spew our personal details on social media to the point we feel deeply connected to near strangers. Maybe its because we have lacked propriety (the condition of being right, appropriate, or fitting) in ourselves for so long, that we can not respect others, nor can we command respect for ourselves.

However we came about it, the problem is now much uglier than color-blocked sweaters. I insist that we command respect to make our own decisions, and we take the responsibility of doing so. Let it begin with me.

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