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Monday, June 9, 2014


Hi Bro Jo,

I just had an uncomfortable confrontation with my mom over my younger sister's swim wear.

Perhaps I really do have a problem and am far too conservative?

Please tell it to me straight if that's so.

My mom was really snotty about it and I can't take it from her.

My sister's swim suit bottoms - I'll be blunt here - the angle that the legs and genitals meet and the line that is formed from that is wider than the line that the swim suit bottoms go. She HAS to be shaving in order to wear that.

Her boyfriend was over swimming tonight, and my boyfriend and his family are coming to be swimming soon as well. The suit made me uncomfortable, and I do not really want her wearing that suit while he's here.

I talked to him about it and he said he'll just make sure he only looks at her face and avoids looking her direction when her face isn't as visible.... but goodness the contention I just placed in the house... I don't like it.

My mom said to me "I am okay with my daughters wearing that, it's no different from the racing suits they wear in swim team" and I said "well, it goes against MY standards, but I'll respect yours because I live here" and she replied "yep, you'll just have to get over it!"

I feel like my parents' allowance of what their children can wear is decreasing as we all get older.

The length of shorts my sister wears and my mom allows her to wear... when my older sister and I were her age, we were scolded for wearing tank tops around the house (which we only did a handful of times).

My younger sisters lounge around the house in this daily.

It really bothers me, honestly.

But I'm not mom.

And I would never allow my daughters to wear these things. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE tell me if I'm being ridiculous so that I can fix myself. I'd rather it be me with the problem.

This makes me uncomfortable though, and I don't know where to turn, since obviously my mom strongly disagrees with me and I'm only going to get a biased opinion there.

Thank you.

- Concerned Sister

Dear Sister,

In general I'd rather see people control excess body hair than not control it ... but I also recognize that as a personal and cultural choice.

I don't think people should be mocked for how they naturally look (it seems like "excessive body hair" is a constant low-brow joke in TV, movies, and commercials) and I'm uncomfortable with people having . . . someone else (like at a salon) remove, shape or shave their pubic hair.

I don't think one can be "too conservative" when it comes to modesty, but I think those opinions are best kept to one's self and one's family.

What I mean by that is, Sister Jo will point out to our daughters when someone is dressed immodestly (we just spent a Saturday at a popular water park . . . lot's of discussion to be had there!) but she'll never go up to someone and lecture them about what they're wearing . . . or not wearing.

But I think there's more than just modesty at play here in your situation.

One is the concept of parents seeming "less strict" with younger siblings; the other is what sisters do around another sister's boyfriend (or husband).

I'm going to take the latter one first.

Sisters, especially younger ones, often try desperately to get the attention of another sister's guy. 

I think it's a sibling-rivalry / competition thing.  Brothers try to best each other with things like "who can lift the most" and sisters do things like "I'll bet I can get your boyfriend to check me out".

Not all the time.  But a lot.


Why do they do that?

I think part of it is a validation thing. As if to say "if I can get this guy to think I'm . . . pretty / sexy / whatever . . . then I am" and a guy that's not available (because he's with your sister) is a safe bet.

Hey, I know some guys who've misinterpreted what's going on and thought "I'm switching sisters!" only to be stunned that the flirty / immodest sister has no interest whatsoever.

Okay, not all the time is there no interest (eewwww), but I think it's more common that these girls are going for some kind of validation than that they're actually trying to pick up on the guy.

(Tangent: I don't believe that girls are clueless about what they're wearing or how immodest it might be; I do think many have no idea how prurient the male reaction might be, instead only sensing that they're getting attention, not realizing that guys' reaction isn't "she's pretty", but rather "I'd like to see her naked and do stuff"; that's the "natural man" reaction, the one we're reminded we need to keep in check.)

So your little sister may try to gain some validation by getting your boyfriend's attention.

Conscious or unconscious, I don't know.

But it is natural (which isn't to say that it's good).

And common. Any guy who's dated a girl with younger sisters for a while has experienced it.  I dated a lot, remember, and I experienced everything from innocent attention to beginner flirting to serious flirting to outright nudity.  (Nothing quite like having the girl you're dating catch you noticing her sister who is flashing you before your common-sense-look-away reaction overrides your instincts . . .)

The best part of that is that you're dating a Good Guy who, ultimately, is neither impressed nor does he care.
He prefers you!

As for your parents, specifically your mom (in this instance) . . . I don't think you're wrong in your assessment of the immodesty of your sister's swimsuit. (Sister Jo, who was a swimmer, always says "yeah, right, like anyone could swim in that".) But it does sound like your reaction may have put her on the defensive . . . and you know how that works out.

Do parents relax their standards as the younger kids come along?

I think sometimes we do.

Sometimes it's because we lighten up.

Sometimes it's because we're, as you older kids claim (both Sister Jo and I are the oldest in our sibling groups, by the way, so we know Exactly where you're coming from) being too easy on the younger ones. 

Sometimes it's because our parenting skills have improved. Being a parent requires discovering and navigating personality nuances to a degree that you can't know it until you live it; and I think the more you live it the better you are at it.

Sometimes we just mess up.

And sometimes, little sister, things are not as they are perceived. Heck, for all we know your parents are already all over your sister's case about something, perhaps more important, and they've chosen not to fight this battle because they're aware that it would be counter-productive to the bigger thing they're trying to do. 

Sister Jo and I don't always discipline the Jo Kids in front of each other, you know.

And, as painful as this truth is to hear (I know), y'all are different, and we parents can't all discipline you exactly the same.

Sure would be easier if we could!

So what can you take away from this?
1. Your guy isn't going to be . . . lured . . . away by your little sister, and that's not likely her intent anyway. He's a Good Guy. 
2. A sister is a girl, and girls often have this need for outside validation, and that makes them do dumb stuff. (Guys do dumb stuff, too.) 
3. Parents are people, and when they're put on the defensive they're less likely to respond positively to our arguments, no matter how correct we may be. 
4. Your hope as a parent is to create a standard of modesty for your children that exceeds that of your parents. (My advice here is: start young, never give in, and have all clothes modeled -including the "stretching and bending tests" in front of the parents; girls AND guys.) 

Now go mend things with your family.

That means apologize.

Even though you're right.

Once you rebuild that bridge, and communication is back open, people will be more likely to come around to your point of view.

Just don't push them.


- Bro Jo


Anonymous said...

When it comes to saying something about someone else's standards, it's a very fine line between inspiring someone to live a higher law, and seeming like you have a 'Holier then Thou' attitude. You must first have a close relationship with said person (in this case, the sister), and you must also have the spirit with you, and their best intentions at heart. Even if the modesty of the suit is the issue here, if the underlying tones of it are, "I never could have gotten away with that when I was your age" or "Mom is so unfair" etc etc, the message will come across wrong. OR, even if the underlying issue really is 'this makes me super uncomfortable,' it has to be addressed in the right way.

I had a similar situation with a roommate in college who would listen to music I didn't think was appropriate to EVER listen to, very loudly, in our apartment on Sunday. I felt like my agency to keep the Sabbath Day holy was being taken away, which made me very uncomfortable. I reacted quickly and without consulting the Lord, which turned out very poorly. She told everyone I thought I was better than her (not true!!), and we never had a good relationship with this roommate the rest of the Semester.

It just has to be taken care of the right way!!

Arthur Lee said...

Things like this makes me wonder...don't people have tact anymore? If I were to approach this situation, I would have started the conversation along the lines of "that a new swimsuit?"

Then, moving on to about the crotch area the writer is so concerned about with some tact. You could easily bring up the "not enough coverage issue" by mentioning shaving habits, maintain good looks while wearing that suit, etc.

If the sis doesn't cue in, it's not likely she'd change for anything.

Paul didn't bust out criticising the Greeks for worshipping false deities when he preached to the gentiles. The writer of this letter should probably do the same.

NeuroEvolutionary said...

What does shaving have to do with any of this? My wife shaves because she finds it uncomfortable any other way; she has since she was 12.

I don't think her sister is honestly trying to do what Bro Jo's accusing her of. Some people find different things comfortable. I wear jeans low on my waist because I find it more comfortable, mostly because I pouch stomach; my wife wears her jeans high waisted for her own comfort. Her sister may just prefer not to have her bathing suit digging into her skin where her legs and torso meet.

Bro Jo said...

If clothes are so tight that their uncomfortable, one might want to consider making a change.

- Bro Jo

NeuroEvolutionary said...

Well, it's not about tightness but where the seams are. Womens swim suits are a snug fit if they are fitted right, but it's kind of the same like when I played baseball in high school. I stopped wearing a cup unless I was playing behind the plate because it was uncomfortable. Other guys on the team didn't mind them. It's sometimes a matter comfort.

Bro Jo said...

It can be very difficult to find clothing (and athletic equipment, actually) that fits right. As a husband and the father of daughters I can say that it's unfairly much more difficult for girls and women.

That said, I do not think that one should sacrifice modesty for the excuse of "comfort". Nor do I buy into the argument that tighter clothing is more comfortable than loose clothing.

You'll note above that I wrote above that I'm an advocate of managing excess body hair.

I also think that we Latter-day Saints make an awful lot of excuses for dropping our modesty standards, especially when it comes to swimwear.

- Bro Jo

Anonymous said...

Bro Jo,

Your last sentence in your previous comment may have answered the question I'm about to ask, but I'll ask anyway.

First, background to the question. There was a YW in my ward who was 17/18 when I first turned 12 and entered YW. I really looked up to her because she was an exceptional young woman who was a straight A student, Laurel President, Captain of the Volleyball Team, and had a very strong testimony. She always advocated the Church's standards, especially modesty. Fast-forward a few years to when I was 17/18 and she was getting sealed to the missionary she had waited for while at college. Sometime after her honeymoon was over, she posted pictures of the affair on facebook. And what I saw kind of shocked me because of the kind of person she was. She was wearing a bikini with her new husband at the beach, snorkeling, on ziplines, etc.

I know that that should hardly be shocking, as we see it everywhere, but that got me to thinking. Are bikinis considered immodest? I always thought they were, but when I looked at the old and new versions of the FTSOY, neither said anything about swimwear. A few years passed after this, and one of my fellow YW was sealed earlier this month. With her honeymoon pictures, she too was wearing bikinis in her pictures, when she had had strong standards in regards to modesty previously.

I don't wear bikinis personally, but the Church doesn't have specific rules about swimwear, does that make them okay? Or should we try to cover up as much as possible to stay modest? Does the circumstance change at all when we get married? Is wearing something like that for the eyes of your spouse acceptable?

Thanks in advance!

Bro Jo said...

Dear Anon,

Those are great questions, and deserve their own post.

I'll post my reply on Friday, July 11, 2014.

Don't miss it!

- Bro Jo