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Monday, October 7, 2013

How Do You Ask a Girl to Dress Modestly?

Hey Bro Jo,

First off, let me just say I'm a huge fan of yours.

Your straight-up advice has helped me tremendously as a battle my teenage years.

I live in (location withheld). We don't have the greatest abundance of Mormons, but at least a fair-size stake.

What I'm getting at is that I don't exclusively date members of the Church, and have been known to take out friends from school, work, etc. I don't have a particular situation or happenstance I need advise on, but I do have a question.

Because I date a lot of nonmembers, modesty often is not observed by some of the girls I take out. I've been caught in numerous awkward situations when I'd pick a girl up and they're not necessarily modest (nothing drastic, mind you; I do pick who I date wisely). My question is if there's a way to non-awkwardly communicate to the girls I date that I would be much more comfortable if they dressed modestly.

I've had my fair share of hinting, but I've also been blatant. I took a nonmember to Mormon Prom, and I strait up told her that she needed to find a dress with sleeves.

But as far as more casual circumstances, I'm not sure what the most tactful approach would be.

If you have any advice, I'd really appreciate it!


Shooting for Tact

Dear Shooter,

Thanks for the kind words. I think it's great at your age to include non-Mormons in your Casual Group Dating. All four of the Jo Boys who have been where you are have said that some of their best dates were with non-LDS girls and some of their best dating buddies were non-LDS guys.

Some day, perhaps, we'll have to discuss why . . .

Getting girls to dress modestly is a very sensitive subject, to be sure.

For non-members AND members alike. (Let's be honest here, it's not like every LDS girl you know is the Princess of Modesty all the time, either, right? I've taught seminary, and I've traveled around a bit . . . and I've been to high schools . . . and middle schools . . . I know what goes on and what gets worn . . . or Not Worn, as the case may be.)

1. You don't want to embarrass her or (yourself), so you need to figure out a way to say something that doesn't come across like you're staring somewhere that isn't her eyes or thinking things that, while natural to think, aren't to be entertained in the minds of priesthood holders

2. You don't want to be seen as a judgmental self-righteous jerk

3. You still want her to go out with you and have fun. And those are tough things to do. My first piece of advice is to Be Understanding. Not everyone is going to have the same standards you do, and making them feel "unworthy" to be your date is not the way we love people into the Gospel or encourage them to follow the prophets.

It's entirely possible that when she put on the immodest item of clothing that she:

A) was trying to look nice for her date with you

B) didn't understand how revealing it is (much to my continued shock and horror, Sister Jo assures me that while many girls - and women - know full well how revealing their clothing is, many still have no clue as to just why they're getting the attention we men are giving them); and

C) doesn't have parents that have any clue as to why what she's wearing is a bad choice (again, much to my consternation as before, Sister Jo tells me that there many parents out there who are clueless, or worse, enjoy the fact that men and boys ogle the "sexiness" of their daughter - twisted, I know, but true)

So you need to draw a line and be careful what you say.

This is not a girl you're interviewing for a Temple Recommend, so ease up a bit and allow her to exercise her own discretion and agency.

We guys have a responsibility to keep our hormones in check.

Her choice to be sexually enticing does not excuse our thoughts.

My own feeling is, roughly speaking, if she's pushing one or two of the modesty rules, let it go and govern your thoughts and eyes.

If she, however, looks like a lingerie model, then yes, say something.

I can hear you asking, so I differ to "For the Strength of Youth" if you have questions about what's modest and what's not. As it says:
Immodest clothing is any clothing that is tight, sheer, or revealing in any other manner. Young women should avoid short shorts and short skirts, shirts that do not cover the stomach, and clothing that does not cover the shoulders or is low-cut in the front or the back. Young men should also maintain modesty in their appearance. Young men and young women should be neat and clean and avoid being extreme or inappropriately casual in clothing, hairstyle, and behavior. They should choose appropriately modest apparel when participating in sports. The fashions of the world will change, but the Lord’s standards will not change.

(I think the whole section needs to be re-read more often,)

As for what to say when you're in that situation where you show up to pick up your date and she's . . . crossed the line by showing too much, I offer these things that the Jo Boys suggested:

"Wow, you look great! Would you mind wearing something, like a sweater, as well? I intend to show you total respect tonight and, I've got to be honest, that top is going to make it difficult for me to keep remembering that you and I are good kids"

"I know this is going to sound awkward, and I don't mean to make you uncomfortable, but could you please cover up just a little bit more?"

"You know, you're so pretty you don't need to show off that much . . . of you. We have time, why don't you go change into something less revealing."

"Hey, you know it's going to get a little colder tonight; I think you should grab a jacket"

"Wow, you clean up great! Can I ask you to put a little more clothing on, please, so I can focus on my driving?"

And, this is very important: when she's changed into something else more modest, no matter what she looks like, be thankful and complimentary! I recommend "my gosh, you are a beautiful girl!"

When I post this, I'll ask our readers on both the blog page and the Facebook page to mention what they've said, what they've heard, and what they've been asked that has worked. I'm sure we'll get some great input!

Now, I need to tell you that Sister Jo's perspective is that you should have anticipated what type of girl she was and how she might dress before you asked her out.  If there was a serious concern then you should have asked out someone else.  She doesn't see how you're going to say anything without sounding like a heel, and thinks you should just deal with it.  You asked her out, you owe her a date, and if you're dressed modestly and planned an appropriate activity,  and told her what you're going to be doing (very important), than she may even ask if she should change when she sees what you're wearing.  If you're out for a short time and realize that you just don't have the self-control or maturity, then apologize and take her home, being polite the whole way.

Besides, she says, it's supposed to be a Casual Group Date, so how much trouble could you be tempted to get in if you're following The Rules?  (Guys go together to pick up and drop off the girls, two couples or more, stuff like that.)  She suspects that your problem is one, if not all of, these three things:

1.  You're being too much of a judgmental self-righteous weenie

2.  You're asking out girls you shouldn't

3.  You're not following the Dating Rules to begin with.

Now, she doesn't know you (neither do I), so don't take any of that personally.  If it stings, it's because she's right, and if she's wrong (which is rare) then it doesn't matter.  And while Sister Jo and I don't entirely agree on all of that - I can see situations where a guy asks out a nice girl and then is surprised at how little she's wearing when he picks her up- it should be noted that she's much smarter than I am, and we could both benefit from listening to her.

She says that while she never had a guy comment to her that what she was wearing was inappropriate, in a date situation if he said something to her she'd be embarrassed and horrified.

So . . . see?  Very difficult line.

I probably didn't do a very good job explaining to her that your question was hypothetical . . .

And she also makes a very good point that it's not just girls that have problems with modesty.

Good luck!

Thanks for the email!

I'll post the concept on the Facebook Page today.  It will be interesting to see what our readers there and the comments here have to say about this one.


- Bro Jo


Christopher Cunningham said...

Way to go Sister Jo!

Jenni said...

I will admit i didn't read all of the arguments but I was having a similar discussion with my mom the other night that if a young man picks a girl up and she is dressed immodestly or in a way that makes the young man feel uncomfortable he has every right and should say something. If I were ever dressed in a way that a young man was uncomfortable around me i would hope that he would tell me.

Bro Jo said...

The consensus on the Facebook page seems to be that, unless it's someone you know very very well (like a spouse, sibling or other relative) that no guy should ever make a comment to a girl about modesty.


- Bro Jo