Our two youngest boys are setting the table for dinner, and I’m overhearing bits and pieces of their conversation. Parents can sometimes learn a lot when their children don’t know they’re listening.
“You just need to look away, Alex!” Will, 11, almost 12, tells him.
“I know,” replies Alex, age 10. “But when I do, there’s another woman right there!”
My wife, Julie, gives me a look. “You need to talk with them,” she whispers to me. “They’re talking about all the bikinis and G-strings at the pool.”
The pool we go to is located in a middle-class neighborhood. It’s not a high-end beach resort, or even a place frequented by co-eds on spring break. We’re talking parents and their kids, and plenty of empty nesters. And this is Colorado Springs – considered by many to be the “evangelical Vatican.”
But there’s also a lot of skin on display.
“It’s a pool, and it’s hot,” you say. “What do you expect? Swimmers and sunbathers to wear Jantzen suits of the 1920s – a baggy tank top sewn into a pair of swim shorts that extend halfway down the leg?”
I’m not qualified to prescribe specifics regarding a more modest bathing suit for ladies. What’s that old line – “Raise your hands & touch your toes. If anything shows, go change your clothes”? But as a father who’s trying to instill in his sons a respect for women, and not raise sons who reduce or objectify them to mere sexual entities, I can tell you that what’s becoming more common is not good or helpful – for anybody.
“We would never want our boys watching television shows featuring women wearing what many of them wear at the pool,” Julie told me the other day. She’s right. It’s a curious thing, isn’t it? Context certainly matters. Few people would stand in their underwear and talk to a stranger on their porch – but many of those same folks seem to have little issue wearing the equivalent and chatting by the water’s edge.
We live in a strange age that, on one hand, we’re both glad and relieved our children are attracted to people of the opposite sex – but that doesn’t mean gawking is ever a good thing.
Sitting down to eat that night, I attempted to channel my best modern-day version of Ward Cleaver, the 1950s sitcom dad who always seemed to have a wise solution to any problem facing his boys.
“About the women at the pool,” I began. “Sometimes you can’t help but see things. But just remember, it’s not the first look that usually gets you – it’s the second and third.”
“But sometimes it’s just difficult to look away!” Alex admitted.
I went on to assure them that it’s natural and healthy to be attracted to the opposite sex. But while practically every boy before them struggled to “look away,” that still doesn’t diminish the fact gentlemen are called to try to do so and resist the urge to gawk.
The apostle Paul was obviously dealing with versions of this challenge when he wrote, “I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God” (1 Timothy 2:9-10).
It might come across as sexist for a man to counsel a woman on how to dress, but modesty is always a good policy. Resist the urge to go along with styles that reveal what should be reserved for your spouse. Consider, too, that children are hopefully developing a sense of healthy sexuality and seeing too much, is, well, too much.
Finally, we need to discard any notion that modesty is somehow antithetical to beauty and attractiveness. In fact, true beauty is modesty in its highest form – classy, elegant, and refined.