Those who can't - cant.
I'll be cantoring at mass this weekend. (get the joke?) Say a little prayer for me. I used to do it regularly for about 8-9 years. It never, ever got any easier to sing in public. As in, when you hear me sing, you'll know I'm a trained instrumentalist. Yes, it's in tune and the rhythms are correct. That's about all I can say. I know bad cantors are a dime a dozen in the Catholic Church (unfortunately), but G-d sure is funny when I ask Him how I can be more involved in music and in my parish.
I think I've come full circle on the modesty debate/issue. As a kid, women were "less than" men, and seen as the source of/responsible for all male temptation. Not only was fashion pretty unflattering in the '90's, but I didn't know how to make myself look my best. Looking back at pictures, I realize I was never as fat/ugly as I thought I was. I just didn't know how to dress and do makeup well.
Fast forward to college, and I lost a little bit of weight, fashions slightly changed, I was away from my parents, and modestly generally went out the window...not to the extent that it could have due to my self-hatred and incredibly low self-esteem, but looking back, I cringe. I enjoyed the male attention I got, and I used myself and others physically. I was okay with drawing immodest attention to myself in some contexts - like when there was drinking involved. (a really bad combo)
Now, here I am, having gone through a conversion and reversion of sorts - first to Catholicism, then to a deeper understanding and practice of the Catholic faith. I'm now married, and I feel very drawn to dressing more modestly. My senses feel assaulted by what others wear (I work on a college campus, so this is a regular occurrence). I don't want to dress like a frump, but I've pretty much gotten to the point of never wearing sleeveless, layering so as to avoid cleavage, and wearing longer and longer hemlines of skirts. I've even stopped wearing heels for the most part. My swimsuit last summer (which was the most comfortable I've ever been) was a swim shirt and swim trunks. I don't feel any shame in this. It's not like I think I'm tempting others by my rabid attractiveness. I don't feel like I'm responsible for the thoughts of others, so much as I feel less and less comfortable showing that skin. I want to look "normal," but I am actually more comfortable the more I cover up. I have joked with my husband that I will simplify my wardrobe and get more and more "modest" to the point that I'll be wearing a habit one day...even though I'm married. I see the beauty in covering up.
I'm still on a journey about what this means for me. Will I become one of those "no pants/skirts only" women? Will I keep my hair long? Will I start looking frumpy? I don't know that there's any one answer or hard and fast rules. Height, age, etc. often affect rules about length, for instance. I don't judge what others wear. I pray for them when the outfit distracts or tempts me to lust. I just know that I'm on a journey to understanding modesty, in the context of my vocation to marriage and to chastity as a virtue. I think there is a lot to be said for looking relatable, attractive, and yet, modest.
Dawn Eden has a lot of good thoughts about this in her book, The Thrill of the Chaste. I also found this article (cited in her book) as a balanced discussion for a starting point.
In this crazy society, where anything goes, anyone can see anything at anytime, and liberation is seen as license. It's hard to know how to be relatable to others while still being as modest in clothing as I feel called to.
~3~If the Shoe Fits...
This article contains some vulgarity, but it makes a great point. Are high heels sexist? I'm only 35, and I'm 5'3". I've worn heels since I was 12 years old because I'm so short. Especially in the workplace, I've always worn heels to be seen as more authoritative, professional, to be taken seriously, and not be treated like a child. I've worked on college campuses for several years. Wearing professional clothing and heels has helped distinguish me from being a college student. I always cited the statistic I heard once that the majority of CEO's are over 6 feet tall, and height (plus being a man) helps in the workplace. However, in the last few years, I've had to do a lot more walking just to get to-and-from my bus stop and/or car. I can't do the heels anymore on those long walks. They are excruciating, impractical, and I refuse to carry two pairs of shoes around all the time in order to walk in one and wear the others at work.
Is eschewing the high heel part of the next wave of feminism? I admit, I feel dorky and frumpy in many of my flats, but my feet thank me. I don't think I have the ability to move up in this current job, so I don't care that I'm not wearing heels and asserting myself physically. I'd love to stay committed to this as a lifetime cause, but I still wear my heels for special occasions. I look at the shoes men wear, and they are just comfortable, practical. Aside from men having slightly large and wider feet, why aren't women's shoes the same as men's? Can I wear a comfortable, practical shoe without feeling less feminine?
There are laws in England which require women to wear heels. It was recently protested. As part of the uproar, some men wore heels for a day to see what it was like. Watch the video here, it's rather humorous and absurd to see men wearing heels, yet it's completely normal for women to do the same.
I have to say, even in Catholic circles, this seems to be a problem. I was going to join a Catholic young professionals group in my city until I read some of the dress code requirements for networking events, which included heels for women among the description of what is "business casual." Maybe that is the standard professional definition. I doubt there is dress code "bouncer" at the door, but it's disappointing to see it in print. ::Sigh:: - I give up.
The Thrill of the Chaste by Dawn Eden
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo
I am happily married, but a few short years ago, this article by Matt Fradd would have resonated on every level with me. It's slim-pickins' out there for Catholic women (men I'm sure, too, but I'm not a man, so...) I don't want to be a smug married person. I truly understand how hard it is out there to be single, to feel called to marriage, to feel like there are zero prospects unless you change who you are or lower your standards. I can say from observing some people close to me that it's far better to remain single than to marry the wrong person. Similarly, as Matt Fradd points out, there is a cross in every way of life, including marriage, even if that's what vocation you're called to.
The butterfly is my personal symbol, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez wrote my favorite book, One Hundred Years of Solitude. In reference to a fictional event in one of his books, mourners brought hundreds of yellow butterflies to the site of his burial in Colombia. I love it. More here.
~7~Quote of the week:
“Spiritual living is accepting reality at any cost” - Simone Weil