Besides ModestyBy Fr. Francis Ongkingco
“Mom, are you busy…?” Charlene peeked into the kitchen where her mother was bustling with preparations for the family celebration.
“I’m obviously not busy, dear, but for your sake I will be less busy,” she stopped mixing the ingredients for the cake.
Charlene couldn’t help giggling when she saw her mother’s face dotted with flour and some streaks of chocolate.
“Young lady, you didn’t come here to amuse yourself with the clown-of-a-mother you have!” She pulled a stool for her daughter to sit on.
“So tell me, who’s the lucky guy?” Her mom tried wiping off the flour but only managed to spread it more across her face.
“[GRRR!] Mom, it’s not about a guy! It’s about Stella, who commented that the dress I wanted to wear to our ball was indecent.”
“In what way, dear?”
Charlene pulled out the picture of the design she clipped from a magazine.
“Wow! That’s quite a daring attire to wear to a ball, young lady!” her mom gave her back the clipping.
“Does daring mean it’s indecent?”
“How to address a dress?” her mother mumbled. “Some people would casually say, ‘after all it’s only a dress.’ But what we wear must project the truth about the person –body and soul– rather than distort it.”
“I don’t exactly get you there, mom,” Charlene said as she dipped her finger into the icing.
“Sorry, I was thinking aloud. I meant that no one intentionally wants to be indecent. Otherwise she would be…you know what I’m referring to, honey?” she winked at her daughter.
“Yes, mom I understand….”
“So, when does a dress become indecent? Like I said, if the one who designs or wears it has indecency as his main motive. But I would still give them the benefit of the doubt that many think (perhaps, ignorantly) by what is ‘artistically and fashionably beautiful.’ Still, this is something very subjective.”
“So the intention is what makes something indecent, then?”
“Yes, but since we cannot read people’s motives, we can never be their judge. However, one cannot simply capriciously make things without thinking beforehand how a particular design upholds the person’s good and perfection.”
“What does that have to do with clothing?”
“You may design the most fashionable and expensive dress, but it does not uplift in any way the dignity that objectively corresponds to the person.”
“Simply said, you can’t make someone wear something that degrades his or her integrity, even though that person may think that she’s pretty literally wearing nothing.”
“Oh, I get it!” Charlene said. “It’s like the Emperor’s new clothes. Everyone just played along admiring what were actually his underpinnings, until someone pointed out the plain truth.”
“That’s a nice way of putting it: ‘clothes aren’t just materially beautiful by themselves, but they become more beautiful if they contribute to the real beauty in the person.”
“Then, where does indecency come in, mom?”
“Let’s take things from a more positive perspective, shall we?” She turned around to check the temperature of the oven.
“Modesty and decency are like the fence that safeguards the person’s purity and dignity,” she explained.
“They’re like a wall around the water reservoir of a city. Imagine, if there was no fence? Then animals would drink there or worse they could even drown. It ensures the ‘purity’ of our drinking water.”
“So clothes are like the ‘fence’ that protects the person?”
“Now, you’re getting it!” her mom snapped her finger. “Of course, I would rather say that clothes ‘wrap’ the gift that a person is.”
“But weren’t Adam and Eve created naked by God?”
“Yup, but their state of original innocence only lasted until they committed sin. Sin led to the disorder within man’s nature. One of these disorders is lust. It can arise internally through our desires and thoughts, but it is mainly triggered when one is exposed to what I would call unreasonable nakedness.”
“That means there are sacred moments when nakedness is not sinful or against the person’s dignity. For example, for a patient who undergoes a medical examination or the beauty of self-giving in marriage when the spouses become one flesh.”
“Oh, I see–!”
“Indecency contradicts and destroys these sacred moments when the gift of self is distorted into an object of lust and pleasure. Thus, when we find ourselves in a ‘naked’ moment, we instinctively ‘cover ourselves like we were protecting something intimately valuable.”
“Like Adam and Eve using the leaves?”
“Yes, because with the sin of lust unleashed, our nakedness becomes the trigger that ignites the animal in man, and he becomes unreasonable when his passions override his reason.”
“But what about animals, they don’t wear clothes?”
“First, we aren’t animals since we have reason, will and freedom; second, animals can’t ‘lust.’ Their reproductive functions are determined for them. Man, on the other hand, can abuse his generative faculties by seeking only what is pleasurable in them.”
“So you mean, even if I don’t intend to be indecent, I could cause someone to think indecently when I wear something too revealing of my body?”
“Wow! Young lady, I can see that your own homework!” Charlene’s mom said proudly. The delicious odor of turkey filled the kitchen as she opened the oven to check how it was doing.
“But how much is too much?”
“Charlene, honey. I think we’ve had enough for the moment. But I think you’ve gotten the point pretty well. For now, I will add that what we wear reinforces our identity and this also can educate others in values. Let’s chat about that ‘too much’ when we do our shopping together.”
“Okay, mom. Thanks a heap!” Charlene stood up.
“You’re welcome dear.”
“What were you wearing when dad first saw you?”
“You’re really want to know?”
“It was also during a party…,” she paused.
“You have a picture of it?”
“Girl, better than a picture, you will see me wearing it tonight!”
“Wow! Wouldn’t you look Jurassic with it?”
“That doesn’t matter, dear. It’s enough for your father and me to recall that night that spelled a difference in our life and our love.”
“One last thing mom….”
“Can I wear something similar to my ball?”
“You know, maybe a guy like dad might show up,” Charlene winked at her mom.