Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Beyond Rubies

I am thinking again about my friend Calvinist Cath--dear me, how embarrassed she would be if she realized she was becoming an official Good Role Model--because of how she found a husband without doing anything. This is someone who completely rejects what the world says about women, looking instead to the Gospels and Saint Paul. She doesn't wear lipstick, let alone fake tan, and her clothes, though feminine, are modest, unpretentious and plain. No miniskirts on our Cath, ever. And if I remember correctly the only reason she never cut her hair short is 'cause St. Paul said women shouldn't. I assume she is as slim as she is because she doesn't overeat and she does a lot of walking, especially on Sundays, as she would never take the bus on a Sunday, as it would entail participating on someone else's wrongful Sunday labour. At any rate, I think we can safely say that Cath never practised any mean arts of attraction--as they would have been called in the 19th century--quite unlike your humble correspondent, who got her first lipstick at twelve.

But my friend is no shrinking violet. Naturally studious, she achieved a doctorate in a difficult field. Laudably hard-working, she won a good post. She is a pillar of her church community and corresponds with other members of her ecclesial community worldwide, expounding on theology and recommending theological tomes. She also serves in more traditionally feminine ways, until recently by helping her minister's wife serve Sunday supper to guests, which is how she met the handsome young man who has recently become her husband.

In short, she lived her life according to the tenets of her Calvinist creed, in total contrast to the great majority of Edinburghers her age, even when it looked like there may never be a husband on the horizon. Action and belief were totally consistent: Simone Weil would have admired her greatly.

Now, to shift to a Catholic point of view, if a Protestant lives with such integrity, who are we as Catholics to justify wearing immodest clothing or keeping bad company or "making mistakes" or stuffing our bodies with silicone, all in the hope of winning a husband? I see no reason to wear our skirts to our ankles, but perhaps the hem ought to skim our knees? And who are we to complain that the boys pay attention only to the girls who wear the trampiest costumes to the college Hallowe'en party? You wouldn't find Cath dead at a college Hallowe'en party.

Spiritually speaking, I am very lucky I was not a beauty in my youth, for I never had the opportunity to develop an addiction to male attention. However, from an early age, I certainly wanted to get it, which I thought I could do by wearing short skirts and a lot of make-up and cutting my unusual hair short and actually calling boys up on the phone and laying in wait for my crush objects after school at the bus station--poor little creature. Little did I know I would not meet the Love of my Life until I was thirty-seven. What a lot of expense, effort and sorrow I would have spared myself if I had paid more attention to Scripture and behaved more modestly.

Thanks to Cath's good example, I have given up blogging (if not emergency grocery shopping or taking the bus) on Sundays, but I don't think I will give up make-up. I enjoy the theatricality of make-up, even though B.A. thinks he likes me better without it. And I will continue to suggest that women choose pretty over plain clothes, and not feel that the calves need always be covered up. Short of bikinis and push-up bras (I am not a fan), I think a good rule of thumb is that if a piece of clothing would have been okay in 1962, it is okay now. But flying in the face of all my "You should look like this" and "You should do that" is the image of Cath, who did nothing but live her life as a Christian with integrity and service and attention to what St. Paul said about women's appearance and thereby, thanks to God's inexorable plan for her, found a husband.

Picture: That's Lady Jane Grey, who in this rendition looks surprisingly like Cath. Gracious! What a coincidence.

P.S. As far as I know, I am Cath's most frivolous Catholic pal. Two of the others became cloistered Benedictine nuns, which is a great comfort to my lipsticked self.


Domestic Diva said...

Love Cath's integrity!!
My gripe is that I cannot find a skirt to hit the knee. I'm not wearing any mini skirts, but I do wish I could find them an inch or so longer. I love, love, love the Duchess of Cambridge's style, but if she would wear her hems just a little longer, the rest of us might be able to find a knee-length skirt in stores.

Seraphic said...

Ha! I have no trouble, but I'm 5'2".

Anonymous said...

Don't bash a good push-up bra, they can help make clothes that wouldn't fit right fit, they give just enough lift in some areas. I don't like it when women right off a piece of equipment as immodest when it can be a useful tool to help modesty! If you are "ahem" a little lower than the rest of nature, sometimes things like darts and princess seams don't fall the right way. But a little umph, can fix that, and suddenly the shirt fits right! It isn't gapping or bunching or pulling (which can happen even with a loose shirt if you are busty). Yes, don't wear it with a plunging neckline, but sometimes a good bra can make a world of difference in how your clothes fit depending on your body type. Clothes should fit well.

Rant over. Delete if you find inappropriate please! Thanks!


Seraphic said...

Oh, I didn't think of that. Well, as a cosmetic correction, I don't see a problem.

Ally said...

Speaking of the Duchess, I am still waiting for anything resembling anything she has ever worn to make it to the American south, other than nude heels I can't wear because my feet are narrow and all heels I wear must have straps or they won't stay on...

Everything here is either too young and/or immodest, or frumpy. There's very very little in between, and classy stylish looks like the Duchess would be much appreciated. (A girlfriend and I were just having this conversation the other evening after having both tried recently to find appropriate Easter dresses...my friend at least has the benefit of a fabulous yellow hat that will go with whatever she finds to wear, but I unfortunately was not blessed with the ability to pull of hats very well...)

Julia said...

Ally, might you just buy something online?

But yeah, I get it. There are really only a couple of shops I bother shopping at, one of which is a small direct factory outlet that sells 1960s-style cotton dresses at really great prices.

Wilderness girl said...

Thanks for this gem, Seraphic! And thank you, Cath, for your example!

I've been a reader but this is my first comment.
This morning a kind of a grey thought invaded my mind (something that tends to happen when you are on mini-holidays trying to rest in the countryside with your parents) leaving me a bit upset and disappointed: "Maybe some friends are right when they say that I've been hiding. Do I really expect someone to find me the way I live?" Of course, the fact that I am actually in the middle of nowhere right now doesn't really help preventing these thoughts from occurring... But then I read your post and, if nothing else, I felt I was on the right track!

We, the reserved, apparently calm and somewhat shy girls, and all the other too, need these testimonies to encourage us in our lives. I'm happy these wonderful stories continue to happen in real life and, thanks to Internet, can spread widely and fast.

And I agree that sometimes and in some places it's very difficult to find decent and pretty clothes that really make the most of you.

Congratulations for this community!

Ally said...

I'm currently in a fluctuating size that leaves me concerned with purchasing clothes online without trying them on (and even when I was a more typical size, I learned that the measurements on some sites bore little resemblance to the actual clothing - based on waist measurement back then I should have already been wearing a size 6 or 8 when I was wearing a size 2 (and even then had problems with things gapping at the waist, so clearly their waist measurements bore no connection to reality))

That said, it may come down to that one of these days... That or find the time to sew more...