Among my friends, I am not known for my political correctness. I jokingly say that my life motto is like Ben Shapiro, with an added twist: “Facts don’t care about your feelings, and neither do I.” Now, that is not entirely true, as I am usually the best listener in a group, and really care about my friends and want what’s best for them. However, we all know that sometimes, we need to speak the plain, unadulterated truth, no matter what the consequences. Departing from my usual quasi-academic writings, I want to take some time to discuss something very important for a young Catholic man who may or may not be looking for a young Catholic girl: modesty.
Here is some unfiltered truth: a girl will not find a guy who respects her when she can’t respect herself. As one of my college friends (who reminds me of Thomas Aquinas in both girth and intellectual powers) once said, “No guy wants a girl in prostitute shorts.” I am not trying to judge anyone here, but I think we could also say that no guy wants a girl who will put him in a near occasion of sin.
Some people say that traditional modesty makes a girl think poorly of herself, or takes away confidence in her body. As usual, the exact opposite is true. The feminine body is a beautiful thing, but wouldn’t it make sense that she would save as much as she can for the man she marries? Wouldn’t any other course of action “cheapen” the gift? I know that most young women are not immodest on purpose, but because they don’t know any better. That falls back on the parents, who should have instructed their children to be saints. Isn’t it weird, though that a man is talking about this?
Not according to JPII. He said (here), “God has assigned as a duty to every man the dignity of every woman.” It would be hard for me to love someone as I ought when she doesn’t love herself as she should. While it is true that having a woman civilizes a man (e.g., he starts brushing his teeth, stops picking his nose, etc.), a good relationship is reciprocal: the man constantly reaffirms the real feminine dignity of his girl and respects her primarily for who she is, not what she shows.
Like other virtues, modesty is a mean between two extremes. While the one extreme is obvious (go to the beach and see), the other extreme is more faceted. True modesty does not require dressing like an Amish or Muslim girl. I am not a fashion expert, so I leave it to you to do your own research on the happy medium of authentic modesty. A few months ago, I asked a girl what her thoughts were on common female beach attire. She gave me an insight that opened a whole new way of thinking on the subject for me. She started with something I already knew by saying that modesty is the veiling of what is sacred. Then she said that the womb, as the home of new and developing life is the most sacred, and therefore must be veiled without question. That got me thinking of the Ark of the Covenant. It too was veiled for all, except the man who, as a representative of the covenant of the people with God, could go in to view it once a year. What is more sacred, a gold box (with some awesome stuff in it), or another human being, made in the image and likeness of God? The parallel should be clear. Only one man should see his wife, and that man ought to be bound to her in the covenant of marriage.
Now before I am accused of taking a one-sided view of the issue, I am happy to affirm that modesty is a man’s virtue too. I was raised well by my parents, and so I haven’t been caught running around dressed like a gay boy. But, when I came to in-person classes for the first time last semester and started noticing some of the nice Catholic girls on campus, I quit dressing like I was just coming from a pick-up basketball game and started dressing more business casual. While there is nothing wrong with T-shirts and shorts, it sends a slightly different message than classy shirts and clean pants. The right kind of girl is probably going to think more of a well-dressed man than a casually-dressed man.
To conclude, modesty is a very important but often-ignored virtue. Honestly, I’ve only heard two homilies about it that I can remember. There is a lack of clear teaching on it, both from the pulpit and at home or in schools. I would encourage women to dress modestly because they want to find a man who loves them for who they have become as a daughter of God, not for how closely they resemble Britney Spears. Men ought to have the same respect for themselves as they have for their beloved. Finally, remember that speaking the truth sometimes results in alienation. But your conscience will be at peace, and you will find out who your true friends are. Sometimes, it’s good and necessary to rattle the cage a little bit.