(Oh, I am so going to get in trouble for this....)
I am married to a very modest woman. Tonya was raised in the Church, and she takes her faith very seriously. And part of the way she expresses her faith is in the way she dresses. That is, she does not want to present herself to society as a sex object. So even when we are in social settings where it would be completely acceptable for her to wear V-necks, or shorts that come more than a couple inches above the knee, she doesn't do it.
Or rather, she rarely does it. I remember that the college-age group at our previous church once went on a 12-mile hike in the Santa Cruz mountains, and she wore some comfortable, practical shorts for the event. Now, this was before she and I were dating, so I had no idea that we would one day be married. She was hiking next to someone else, about five paces in front of me. And after an hour or so of this, I found myself thinking:
Hm... that's a really nice pair of legs on that woman. I wonder why I've never noticed that before? I normally notice that kind of thing....The reason, which I realized much, much later, was that I'd never actually seen those legs before. Tonya has always been a very modest dresser; she dresses for comfort, propriety, and practicality--not to impress the people around her.
Now, this does have some advantages. When I fell in love with her, it wasn't because she had worked her Bene Gesserit ways on me. It wasn't anything that could have been described as a seduction. She just acted as herself, and after spending enough time around her, I decided that this woman is worth having.
(Or rather, if she did work her Bene Gesserit ways on me, it was so subtle that I still haven't caught on. Man, that woman is good....)
What then happened, as I was dating her, is that occasionally she would put on the war paint that I wasn't accustomed to seeing, because she was so rarely trying to impress people. And when she did, um... well, I would tend to lose about a third of my IQ points. :-)
The day we married she went all-out, of course. We had decided to have the pictures before the wedding, so everyone could get started with the reception immediately after the ceremony, and this meant that I did get to see her in her gown before the big event. I remember seeing this really, really pretty woman coming at me across the courtyard, smiling at me, and thinking for a split second: Oh, now that woman is really pretty. Too bad I'm marrying someone else toda--- just before my jaw hit the aggregate sidewalk.
So let's just say that Tonya's modesty has tended to deflect attention from her onto the young ladies around her who are trying to be flashy. But it also meant that Tonya has a whole arsenal of secret weapons....
During Sunday Morning class time, our church will occasionally hold Men's and Women's divided classes. This is partly because Men and Women often have different interests and different struggles, and partly because we men just start behaving differently when women are around. I'm not the only guy around who loses a third of his IQ points when a beautiful woman enters the room, after all. And sometimes we just don't want to discuss what's bugging us when there are women around to start pitying all over us. We want solutions, not empathy! It's a guy thing, I suppose.
In most cases when this happens, I find I'm especially glad I'm a guy. Men's classes are about exciting stuff: you have to stand up for the integrity of your family! You have to learn to be a leader! It's all about the manly virtues: Courage, Fortitude, Honesty, Strength in the face of oppression, Defense of one's family, that sort of thing. In comparison, the women's classes tend to be weepy affairs that share touching stories about heirlooms and relationships and the like. These classes so often are based around the theme of Women of the Bible. You should be loyal like Ruth! You should be brave like Esther! You should have wisdom like Deborah! You should be submissive, like Mary!
My wife is sick of it.
(Now, a couple of years back, one of the ladies--just for fun--decided to do a Ladies' Class on Bad Women of the Bible--Jezebel, Athaliah, Herodias, Michael, Sapphira, and the like. Now I would have shown up for that one, if they'd let me in. Too bad my church frowns on the practice of guys dressing in drag and showing up in the ladies' classes...)
Well, one of the classes that was inflicted upon the women of our church a couple years back was on the topic of modesty. The class made quite an impression, I'm afraid; it was being talked about--in fairly unfriendly terms--for weeks after. The woman who presented this class basically was stating that the way that women dress has a huge effect on the way that men perceive them, and the way they interact with them. And because of this, women in the Church need to avoid anything that might tempt the men to let their eyes linger...
For example, she went on, there's the issue of cleavage.
The trouble is, when a woman's neckline is low enough, we men are hardwired to have our eyes lock on and track the lower vertex of the neckline. It's sad, it's unfortunate, it's shame-worthy, and it's absolutely inevitable. And the neckline doesn't have to be all that low for this to happen--sometimes all it takes is for a well-endowed woman to be wearing a T-shirt with a V-neck, and all the guys will notice--hey, there's an opening there.
So this intrepid female instructor proposed the "Bean Test" for a woman to determine if her neckline is too low: Have her husband stand a couple of paces away, and have him try to toss a bean down her front. If he can do it, there's too much cleavage there.
As I said, we guys heard about this class secondhand for weeks from a bunch of fuming women (many of whom were younger women who liked the current fashions). I think that most of us secretly wanted to start trying the Bean Test out--strictly to determine how good our aim is, mind you. This is for Science. ;-) Of course, there's a fatal flaw to the Bean Test: while they may not admit it in front of their wives, the men are nevertheless very aware of their strong motivation "unintentionally" to miss.
Sadly, because of my wife's aforementioned propensity for modest fashions, I never had the opportunity to practice the Bean Test. (That, and the fact that my wife would be highly unamused if I started chucking beans down her cleavage.)
Well, my wife went shopping for maternity clothes the other day.
Believe it or not, this is a significant occurrence. After all, this is not her first pregnancy--couldn't she just pull out her clothes from the last time? She's not the one to say, "Oh, these clothes are so 2002. I want something modern!"
The trouble is, this will be (with the Lord's blessing) our fourth baby carried to term. We're not sure of the exact number, but we think it's actually Tonya's sixth pregnancy.
She has--no kidding--worn out many of her maternity clothes. As in, worn holes clean through them! What does it say, when a woman is pregnant for a big enough proportion of her life that she actually wears out her maternity clothes?
So she went and got some nice looking maternity blouses. Significantly, these blouses looked nothing like that denim tent that she wore the last several pregnancies. One of these in particular caught my attention: it's a V-neck, with an Empress waistline (as most maternity blouses are), in a deep, rich burgundy color.
My wife reports that it's actually one of the more modest of the V-necks available. If so, I find that amazing, and either a sign of terrible derpravity, or something that totally rocks, depending on your point of view and your opinion of the desireability of pregnant women.
I distinctly remember having a reaction to the one I had when watching my future bride's legs on that hike so many years ago: You know, those are really nice. I wonder why I've never noticed that before? I normally notice that kind of thing....
Now, part of the issue is that my wife, being pregnant, has a changing body shape. This often causes strain in marriages. Some women feel big and unlovely when they're pregnant, and some men prefer their wives thin and petite like they were before. But I--ironically, considering how slender my wife was during our dating years--somewhere along the lines developed an appreciation for the Rubenesque. (I suppose it came from my college days, when I dated a somewhat overweight woman who was nevertheless a spark plug. Somehow I got imprinted by this experience. Talk about Bene Gesserit....) But what this means in the present, is that so far as my admittedly unusual tastes are concerned, my wife is at her loveliest when she is expecting. She gets all curvy....
(Maybe that explains why she gets pregnant enough to wear out her maternity clothes.)
And then she starts dressing in what for her are the equivalent of low-cut blouses, and I start becoming aware of that Secret Weaponry of hers and begin losing IQ points.
Now what's a guy like me to do in a situation like this? I mean, aside from tossing beans at my bride?
On the one hand, she's pregnant. This means that I as her Loving Husband, must be Supporting and Appreciative. And boy howdy, I'm appreciative.
On the other hand, if I'm too appreciative, her modesty starts kicking in, and she goes back to denim tents. No more secret weapons, no more beans.
And if I try to hold back on the appreciation to keep from overdoing it, there's the risk that I'll overdo it the other way and not appreciate her enough. Then she starts to feel like I'm neglecting her and the family, and I have to start demonstrating my love to her in other ways, like cleaning the dishes and folding the clothes. That's a risk, too.
Man, I could use the rest of my IQ points about now...