Less is More! Cover Up! Mixed Signals. Women and Men: What is the Line?

I still remember the first time I was hit on by a man. It was at a gas station mobile and I was in high school. My short hair bob was perfect, my eye shadow brought out my blue eyes, and my pea coat kept me warm on the abnormally cold day. It was one of those rare occasions where I actually decided to wear makeup and clothing I felt confident in. The guy was definitely older and the first thing out of his mouth before asking my name was that I looked really beautiful. He continued to ask me very personal questions as I tried to get my gas pump filled with money and out the door. 

I walked out the door feeling extremely uncomfortable by the situation and filed the experience away in the “don’t wear makeup or nice clothing into gas stations” part of my brain. Now, every time I walk into a gas station, I am keenly aware of who is there and I keep eye contact with the men at the cash register to a minimum of “please and thank you.”

In India, they told me to cover my ankles because they are considered sexy. 

In Africa, they told me thick and fat women are looked up to because having weight means status and status in Africa is sexy. 

In the UK and Europe, it is okay to show midriff and bellies. 

In America, I recognize that less tends to be more, but I’m told to cover up because “you don’t want to lead a man astray with your sex appeal.”

Um. Hi. Excuse me, but… What?

I look at my ankles and think “they are just ankles.” I look at my stomach a majority of the time really grateful I can fit a full meal in there one minute, but then find myself wishing it were tinier the next. I love to wear crop tops in summer and I tuck my shirt in when I wear jeans and a belt. But I still walk into a room and worry if it’s “too much.” 

I remain silent a majority of the time due to the horrendous backlash I know is out there about this topic. Between being an active participant in a church and having really strong opinions about this kind of conversation, I fear my honest opinion will crumble or degrade the very principles I believe in. This is not the point, though.

I think the conversation is centered a lot on keeping women modest so men don’t crumble at the sight, but I think the conversation should begin more like a question: What is the line and when do I, as a single woman with strong opinions about my personal style, get to choose without having to worry about who’s watching or looking where they really have no right to be?

I’m aware of the space I take up in a room and you best believe I am fully aware that I have a certain appeal simply because I am a woman. But at the end of the day, my body is my body. Whether someone chooses to look at me is not my choice, it is theirs. 

I’m not in control of the eyes and mind of another human being, I am only in control of my own. 

I like crop tops because I am not ashamed of my body 95% of the time. I like high rise skinny jeans and tucking in my shirts because these pieces of clothing accentuate curves, legs, and other parts of my body that I am proud of. Yet, I can still go to church or hang out with friends feeling weird about it because I live in a headspace that is whispering in my ear “don’t you think it’s a little too much?”

And that’s not regular conviction about what I’m wearing. I truly believe that what I wear is not promiscuous in any way and yet this shame still lingers when I wear a tighter pair of high rise jeans that I love.

I recently wore a crop top sweatshirt and sweatpants. I felt so great about how I looked. I didn’t put a bit of makeup on my face and I had my normal top bun and headband look going on. I felt beautiful. 

Over the summer, I wore shorts and a crop top while eating my first ice cream of the season. My hair was down and I had makeup on my face. I felt just as equally beautiful there as I did in my sweatpants and crop top.  No one had to tell me I look nice and no one cat called me or beeped at me with their horn in either instance.

At the end of the day, I am naked beneath the clothes I wear just like you are naked beneath the clothing you wear. We come into this world naked and we leave it naked. I think that the way I decide to dress my body is my business and also my personal conviction. 

I see nothing wrong with showing a little skin sometimes. I think it’s okay to wear a pair of jeans I feel confident in. What I wear is enough. What I choose to accentuate with my clothing is beautiful. How I have been created and molded is unique. I should not have to walk around feeling violated by wandering eyes or whistling lips. I have no control over that, though. Where an eye looks is a matter of the heart behind the person whose eye is looking. 

I understand I am beautiful, but the sound of a whistle or knowing someone has looked anywhere other than my face doesn’t make me feel beautiful for the ways I should be recognized for. I speak for many when I say I am more than a physical object.

Would you take a moment to see beneath the surface and into my soul?