Emma and I have had some unusual experiences lately regarding our ideas on modesty and marriage. We're still trying to understand what happened.
THE FIRST ONE
We had been shopping at a Houston thrift store. When we finally narrowed down Emma's purchases of dresses, skirts, blouses, and jumpers, it was near time for the store to close. This meant that a long line of people squeezed together at the counter to check out. As the clerk held up each of Emma's items to fold it, I noticed all the ladies in line staring at the clothes. Then they started glancing at Emma and back to the clothes.
They began commenting.
The clerk held up a modest but very feminine long white dress with pink bows--"How cute! how sweet!" the ladies exclaimed. Then the clerks joined in. At this point I could tell that something emotional was going to happen. Emma turned to smile at the ladies in line. That did it.
"Oh, God bless you!" a little old black lady said. A tall white lady behind her seconded her emotion.
"And you're with your mother! Praise God! How old are you?" the black lady asked.
"OH GOD BLESS YOU! I lost my son last year, and now I am all alone." Emma and I each gave her a consoling hug. The atmosphere was so emotional now, that it reminded me of a Baptist tent revival. As we completed our transaction and exited the store, all the other ladies were beaming at us, and the black lady continued to bless us. It was hard to leave her! I felt like we ought to put her in the car with us and take her home.
Emma and I got to the car, looked at each other, and basically said, "WOW! What was that?"
THE SECOND ONE
A few days later, we went to Emma's pattern drafting class. The teacher had invited everyone to swim in the pool, so Emma put on her swimsuit. She made it a couple of years ago for the Beck summer camp. It is made out of Lycra and is completely lined. It has a knee-length, swingy full skirt with built-in long shorts and a separate t-shirt style top with built-in bra. When the sewing ladies saw it, they swooped down upon her and started bombarding her with questions while pulling at the skirt and analyzing all the sewing details. They could not stop talking about her workmanship or the cuteness or the modesty of the suit. It went on and on and on. I was beginning to wonder if they were going to let her swim. Finally, they let her go, after making her promise to bring her swimsuit pattern the next week.
THE THIRD ONE
At the next class, one of the ladies told Emma that she thinks about her often and wonders about why she dresses so modestly. She wanted to know if Emma dressed that way because I made her, or if Emma wanted to herself, or if it was because of religious reasons. Emma told her that she dresses modestly for all three reasons. Then the lady asked Emma what she was going to do for college. Emma told her that she would either study music or get her fashion design certificate. Immediately, this lady told the teacher that Emma was interested in fashion design and asked her to advise Emma.
The teacher looked thoughtful and then said very seriously, "You're going to have to get a lot meaner, Emma. And you're going to have to develop a killer instinct." (This is the lady who told Emma that she has a flashing neon sign on her forehead that says, "I'm innocent and naive.")
"I don't think I can do that," Emma admitted softly.
I could see that the ladies were concerned now. They were worrying about how Emma would be able to support herself if she couldn't get mean and competitive enough to be successful.
Taking the plunge, I told them that Emma had no plans for a career. She would utilize the music and/or the fashion design skills at home, as she wanted to marry, stay home, and have babies. I waited for the uproar.
I was amazed. Except for one, the ladies all work outside the home. They all wear pants. Several are divorced. But they were completely supportive.
Things got quiet. Ready for things to return to normal, I turned to my book, Man of Steel and Velvet. Suddenly, I could feel the teacher's eyes on my back. "Oh, no," I thought.
Then it came--the dreaded question.
She asked me what I was reading.
I gave her the title, not wanting to discuss the subject matter.
"What's it about?" she persisted.
"Uhhhh," I said, floundering. It's-a-guide-for-men-to-teach-them-how-to-be- masculine-and-function-as-the-head-of-the-family," I blurted. "I bought it for my son."
"Oh, every woman needs a strong man," she answered. I peeked at her. She was calm and seemed to be sincere.
"Uh-huh," I agreed, still nervous.
"That's right," a couple of the other women chimed in.
"What next?" I worried to myself. I began to suspect that I had entered The Twilight Zone.
Emma left the room to try on her muslin.
"So when is Emma getting married?" the teacher asked.
"Oh, in a couple of years probably," I answered, knowing that Emma firmly believes that old maidenhood begins promptly at 20.
"That's perfect," the teacher said. "Here is my idea. We are going to design Emma's wedding dress as a class project."
"What? Are you kidding me," I asked.
She assured me that she was not. All the other ladies got excited. I was still in a state of shock. Somebody said, "Yes, that will give us enough time to do all the hand beadwork."
Emma came out of the changing room, and the teacher told her about the project. "Have a sketch ready next week of your preliminary design," she instructed Emma. I could see that this bewildering news had Emma wondering what all had happened while she had been changing clothes.
On the way home after class, I told Emma that those ladies must really care about her.
"I know," she said, amazed. "I can't believe they are willing to take on this project for me."
We started thinking about the events of the last few weeks: the ladies in the thrift store, the reaction to the modest swimsuit, and now not only the acceptance of Emma not pursuing a career but the encouragement to marry young that the wedding dress project symbolized. "What is going on?" we both wondered.
This is the theory we came up with: Women are finally recognizing that feminism is a failure. They are sick of all the ugliness, and they are becoming hungry for modesty and femininity. The problem is that they don't consciously know it until they actually see a young lady who dresses and acts that way. I think it has to be a young lady because she also has to represent hope for the future. Of course all this is just conjecture, but something is definitely going on.
What do you think?