How often I’ve been at Mass and suddenly found I had nearly intimate knowledge of a complete stranger’s body.
“My eyes! My eyes!”
Oh, the things I wish I could “unsee” sometimes.
Form fitting clothing, barely concealed skin. It’s one thing to encounter something revealing on a beach — at least you know to expect it. But there’s something jarring about contemplating the Blessed Sacrament, and then out of the blue be aware that someone is wearing a thong. Or not wearing a bra.
I shouldn’t know that. I should not be able to tell. But the fact is I’ve encountered women at Mass that were wearing clothes that were so revealing that they might as well have been naked.
This is not a missive against the female body. I’m married to a woman I am physically crazy about and believe me, she is aware of it. The joy of reveling in each other is a wedding gift from God, and we aren’t returning it.
But the Mass is a place of sanctuary, and I have often had to shield my eyes from the parade of flesh that is so common in the summer. It’s a true temptation because men are visual creatures. Lust enters through our eyes. Once we see something, we have a very hard time unseeing it. A particularly provocative image can stay in our minds for years. Decades. This is why porn is a billion dollar business.
It’s no mystery. We live in a culture that glorifies the flesh. From the time we are children we are bombarded with images of female beauty that leaves little to the imagination.
When we enter the dating world, we can be attracted by the same thing. Taking a ride on the metro can be such a cavalcade of inappropriate clothing that I’ve taken to keeping my eyes down as I walk.
And yes, we look. And we look all the time unless we’ve learned to guard our eyes.
Form-fitting clothing puts a women on display. And while that can provide a momentary thrill in men, in the end the cumulative effect is to place physical urges (as wonderful as those are) above modesty.
Before we were married, I was grateful for the way my wife-to-be dressed. It showed me not only that she had respect for herself, but for me as well. And that she had respect for her brothers (and sisters) in the faith. She once told me a piece of advice she would give all Catholic girls: “If you have to keep tucking in your brown scapular, you’re showing too much.”
Now, when it comes to daily life, please keep in mind that I am not talking about the occasional errant bra strap or inadvertent flash of leg at a summer barbecue. These things happen. But the trend these days is toward skin-tight clothes that leave almost nothing to the imagination. Throw in a bare midriff and suddenly I know way more than I need to.
I am not suggesting prudish behavior. I’m not suggesting dressing like a man. There is a middle ground. A woman in properly-fitted clothing has a certain air about her. I can tell she cares about how she looks and that she is trying to cultivate an image of self-respect and presentability.
And modesty, when understood, can be a very attractive thing.