Sunday, June 23, 2013

Modesty Schmodesty

Or, Why I’m Fed Up With the Bikini Question

This blog post has been percolating in my subconscious for several years, and the summer solstice brought it to the forefront. I’m not going to tackle “The Bikini Question” head-on, but rather examine some aspects of modesty that aren’t talked about as much. In many ways this is a letter to my younger self, who wondered and worried about this so much.

Presented in numerical form, since lists are one of my favourite things.

1) One-piece bathing suits are inherently more modest than bikinis
In this video, Jessica Rey talks about the evolution of the swimsuit, noting that its inception was a “bathing costume” of many layers that was accompanied by a small hut on wheels that allowed women to enter the water without being seen in their outfits. She goes on to say that “we have certainly come a long way since then, from practically wearing a house of 36 square feet, to wearing about 36 square inches of fabric.” (Math is hard.) So yes, a 36 square inch bikini would be pretty “itsy bitsy.” But just exactly how many square inches does a bathing suit have to be in order for it to be modest? I have seen many, many one-piece suits that are just as, if not more, immodest than a two-piece. So who decides how much coverage is enough? Do we need to have a panel of pastors rate each style on a scale of hell-bound to angelic?
Furthermore, I’m certain that there are men who are more attracted to a girl in a one-piece. I’m not talking about a “I am attracted to her dignity and self-respect” kind of thing, either. I mean they just think one-piece suits are visually and sexually more appealing. “But Emma,” the masses say, “this one-piece is covering up my extremely erotic belly button.” Sorry, ladies. The world is full of all kinds of people and they all have different desires.
And honestly, can we really say that any bathing suit is modest? Let’s go with the popular “bikinis are the same thing as underwear!! gasp” argument. Would you wear a leotard and a microskirt to church? I don’t really think so. But that’s the same amount of coverage that you’d get from what would probably be considered a modest swimsuit. Even if I wore a wetsuit from knees to neck to elbows, it would still reveal all my curves. I think it’s time to acknowledge the fact that virtually all bathing suits are immodest, regardless of what they’re called.

2) Modesty is a sacrifice that women make to protect men
Now hold on just one diddly darn minute. Rachel Clark talks about this topic here, and it makes me want to have a quiet talk with her. I am responsible only for my sin. If I wear a bikini despite clear convictions that they’re not for me, I am accountable for that sin. If a man lusts for my stellar bod (regardless of what I’m wearing), he is responsible for his sin. And like I said earlier, some men may be just as stumbled by a girl in a one-piece. There are even perverts and sexual deviants out there who think random stuff is super hot. If I believed that my clothing makes me responsible for the way men treat me, I would wear a burka and never leave the house. I think this train of thought is particularly distressing because it’s an easy step to justify sexual assault with “she was asking for it because she wore a revealing outfit.” I cannot say it enough: how a woman dresses does not make her culpable for someone else’s sin. The heart of modesty shouldn’t be about women doing men a favor – it should be about honouring God and proclaiming His gospel. That being said, we all are to help one another not to stumble. This applies to both genders in every part of life, not just modesty.

3) Angels and Demons
Women’s modesty understandably generates a lot of discussion, but therein lies a dangerous double-standard. Men are expected to lust. Women are not. I don’t want to get into comparisons about who struggles more; I want to suggest that men should consider their modesty, too. Many Christian girls are conditioned as early as the womb that physical lust is such an unnatural, heinous crime that they can barely even allude to it even under duress – but we still experience it. Brett Harris talks a little more about men’s side of modesty here.

4) Swimsuit-Shaming
Bathing suits, and modesty in general, are a really hot-button topic. It’s easy to get defensive of one position or the other. One side shouts, “Don’t be so old fashioned! Womyn can wear whatever they want and be proud of their bodies.” The other side insists, “Have some self-respect! You look like a French whore in that tiny thing.” (That was obviously a dramatic reenactment.) No matter what our convictions about modesty are, we all need to treat each other with understanding and love. So you’re a hardcore one-piece girl; that’s awesome, but it doesn’t automatically make you more virtuous than the girl across the pool in a bikini.

5) In Conclusion
I’m not even going to tell you whether I wear a bikini or a one-piece, because that’s not the point I’m trying to make. I honestly believe that the modesty difference between the two is marginal. What we must remember about modesty is that as Christians, we have direct access to the Holy Spirit. God convicts our hearts individually! Instead of turning modesty into a legalistic analysis of how many square inches an item is, we need to approach it with a spirit of humility and gentleness. Modesty is much more about our heart attitude than how awesome we look in something. 

Friday, May 03, 2013

Dreamcast: The Scarlet Pimpernel

Let's take a moment to enter an alternate universe where I am the casting director. Notice that I said the. Because in this alternate universe, I am the only person in charge of casting movies that I want to see. And just at the moment, in this alternate universe, I am casting The Scarlet Pimpernel.

Percival Blakeney: Ioan Gruffudd

somewhere in this parallel reality Benedict Cumberbatch is crying
The reason I chose Ioan Gruffudd is because he can do silly and serious with equal deftness. I know, I know, he's not tall enough. But if movie magic can make Robert Downey Jr not look out of place in the Avengers line-up, I feel like we can achieve equal results here. Ioan is funny and versatile and even though his name is too Welsh to pronounce, he's my only choice for Sir Percy.

Marguerite Blakeney: Natalie Dormer

i think she knows a lot of secrets ok
She's pretty in a really unusual way, which in my opinion makes her perfect for "the most beautiful woman in France." Plus there's something sly about the way Natalie smiles. I just think she looks fascinating, and Marguerite is everything that is charming and witty and interesting.

Chauvelin: Martin Freeman

hedgehog filled with rage
Don't be fooled by how adorable Martin Freeman appears to be. Despite his fluffy and endearing persona, he is actually a grumpy old man. I think he would portray Chauvelin's quiet creepiness extremely well... plus I just love Martin as a baddie.

Armand St. Just: Aidan Turner

googling him was a real trial
This is mostly because I always imagined Armand with big wooby puppy-eyes. There is nothing else I can say here.

Sir Andrew Ffoulkes: Tom Hiddleston

a puppy is born every time he smiles
I didn't know about Tom Hiddleston when I first read The Scarlet Pimpernel. It's possible that I may have seen him in some BBC stuff, and therefore my subconscious was in play when I created Andrew Ffoulkes in my mind. But if you don't think that Tom Hiddleston is the perfect actor for this character, I'm not sure if we're speaking the same language.

Suzanne de Tourney: Imogen Poots

ignore the fact that her name sounds like a cute way of saying "fart"
She's blonde. She has delicate features. But she's actually pretty tough. I know Suzanne kind of comes off as a ditz in the book, but that's just because she's young. My personal headcanon for her relationship with Sir Andrew is that he's this lovable, affable delight, and she's much more socially savvy and gently steers him through society.

The Comte and Comtesse de Tourney: Colin Firth and Elizabeth McGovern

you'll always be Darcy to me
Who else but Colin Firth? I'm actually going to make a confession here: no dreamcast of mine is complete without him. In my alternate universe, he is in every movie ever. And of course, Elizabeth McGovern is a classy lady.

Well, that's it for the major players. Perhaps another day I'll return to this for some of the other characters, but for now please enjoy my dreamcast! 

Friday, March 29, 2013

Greener Pastures

So I started a new job on Tuesday.

Now, don't get me wrong -- this is good. Like, super good. It means I'm in the home stretch of paying my dues. It means I have the potential to grow and grow and grow. It means in many ways, I'm now my own boss. It means better hours, better pay, better clientele.

But it also means a new job. Ugh, scary.

One quick thing you should probably know about me: I'm scared of everything. I'm scared of burning my lips on hot coffee and I'm afraid of talking on the phone and I'm terrified that my car will be stolen. Don't get me started on being home alone when it's dark out. Ghosties and gremlins and filing my taxes. Most of all, new things frighten me. New faces, new places, new stages. So a new job is a mingled thing. It's good, and it's scary.

After a tepid first day, in which I was pretty much an unpaid receptionist, I felt a little spooked. Oh no, I thought. This isn't going to work. There were layers upon layers of insecurity all starting to boil and bubble and stir. I won't get into all of it, because it's ugly. The point is, I was not a happy camper on the drive to my second day of work. The only things I could think about were how alone I felt, how insignificant my contribution seemed to be, and how much I wanted to go back home.

God works in funny ways. This time, He reached through the radio and put His arms around me by means of a song that has been very comforting many times before -- Home by Phillip Phillips.

Settle down, it'll all be clear
Don't pay no mind to the demons
They fill you with fear
The trouble it might drag you down
If you get lost you can always be found
Just know you're not alone
I'm gonna make this place your home

I think God can redeem what might have been intended as a frivolous, worldly song and use to to speak directly to us. There have been lots of times when I've heard songs on the radio and felt the voice of God saying "Hey, listen up, the rest of these lyrics are not applicable, but I'm saying don't you worry child directly to you." So hearing settle down, you're not alone, you might feel lost and overwhelmed but I know exactly where you are while I was wallowing in self-doubt -- well then!

I wish I could say that poof! That made all the difficulties of a new job just disappear, or that my fear completely evaporated, or that I'm now raking in fistfuls of money. Those things haven't happened. But I serve a God Who not only has the grand design in place, but also paints with a fine brush. I am grateful that my God cares for me in even in such a little thing as being afraid of new places.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

I May Have Met Mr Collins IRL

Not too long ago I went to a contra dance at State. Once upon a time, I went with a a big group of people so it was quite the social event, but in later years that group has dwindled and often I go alone. When that happens, I like to bring a book to read during the twenty-minute intermission because a) I don't want to talk to anybody and b) books are awesome.

This time I had Fahrenheit 451 laying face-up next to me as I sat during the first waltz of the intermission. I was on the floor, huddled over my cell and obviously not interested in human contact. Mid-text, I noticed a pair of sneakers walk up purposefully and then stop, facing me. I gave it a hot minute, hoping the sneakers would go away, but after a moment I realized I shouldn't be rude. I glanced up with my practiced combination of a winning smile and a questioning quirk.

"That's some pwetty heavy weeding matewiel," said the person attached to the sneakers -- a somewhat acneic, soft-featured manboy that had gotten lost in the gap between puberty and adulthood. I wish I could say that I'm making the lisp up, but I'm not.

Stunned by his gracious opener, I fumbled for words. "I...? enjoy... it?" I finally managed, every syllable a question.

"That's pwetty sewious weeding matewiel for yow fwee time," he elaborated, as if reading classic novels outside of school is either to be commended as high learning, or shunned for pretension.

Still reeling from the sheer awkwardness of the whole situation and struggling to control my wild fight-or-flight instinct, I too attempted to clarify my side of our conversation. "I'm... re-reading it?"

"That's pwetty sewious weeding," he said again with a sanguine nod. "I myself am mow into manga."

In that moment, time slowed down and everything came into crystalline clarity. He is actually chatting me up right now. This is genuinely his actual real-life pick-up line. Bless.

"Ooh," I said slowly, closing my eyes and tilting my head back in a thoughtful yet mildly horrified gesture. I have to emphasize the fact that I closed my eyes for no more than one second, because in that second that it took me to close my eyes and then open them again...



He didn't acknowledge me for the rest of the night.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Ongoing Quest for the Perfect Cardie

Today I unironically bought a literal boyfriend cardigan... meaning it's literally a cardigan for a man, as in I pretended to have a small boyfriend for whom I was buying a cardigan when in reality I was just buying a man's cardigan for myself. 

-The V-neck comes up really high, apparently guys don't like showing off their cleavage???
-Elbow padding! or whatever that extra layer of fabric over the elbow part is called 
-Pockets! More importantly, pockets that are big enough for your entire hand instead of a finger and a half
-Super sturdy buttons, these things might as well be made of titanium compared to the flimsy shiny buttons on my ladies' cardies

-The sleeves are made to accommodate manly muscles so my slender feminine arms are sort of drowning in here
-Not soft, but then again there's no point for a MAN'S cardigan to be soft when it's just going to rub against their manly hairy arms
-I realized the reason that the V-neck often comes so low on women's cardies is to create the illusion of a slender waist -- needless to say this cardigan has no such froufery, in fact I think its general shape is that of a pumpkin

Final verdict:
Boyfriend cardigans as marketed to women are sort of the same thing as Chinese buffets: they are comforting and delicious, but nothing like the real thing.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Books: Mrs Miniver

I'd like to talk about books.

Because books have shaped me. Books have grown me up. Books are a road-map of where I've been, and of where I've dreamed of going. So I'm going to slowly, quietly examine the books that loom large to me. I will write love letters to the books I love best.

Starting with Mrs Miniver, of course.

Every summer my family goes to the beach for a vacation, and for a few years we stopped along the way at a big antique store in Burgaw. The old tables and rings and quilts didn't interest me much, but on the second level, in the dusty lighting, they had a selection of books and magazines. I have perfected the Bookshelf Shopper stance, which involves standing with your head tilted to the side so as to read the sideways titles of the books.

I'm not sure why I picked up Mrs Miniver. It was a rusty brown hardback with scuffed corners and water stains. The gold lettering on the spine was so faded that I flipped to the title page. I'd never heard of the book, or the author. I read the first few pages anyway.

I fell in love.

Mrs Miniver is a series of newspaper columns originally published in 1937, written by Jan Struthers. They were later published as a collection two years later, just after WWII broke out. The columns center around a seemingly ordinary, but actually quite remarkable housewife named Caroline Miniver. What makes the stories sing is that they are grounded in truth -- the Minivers are thinly disguised versions of Jan Struthers' own family.

I think books should leave you with greater understanding. When you step into a book, you should walk out a little deeper, a little broader, a little taller. Every time I read Mrs Miniver, I come away looking at my world and my people in a gladdened way. Somehow Jan Struthers helps me understand why I love certain things, or how I think of certain ideas, or even what it's like work hard and long on a hot day. Mrs Miniver as a character lives deeply and enormously in each moment.

I have a hard time explaining my love for this book. As Mr Knightley said, "Perhaps if I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more." All I know is that when I read Mrs Miniver, it feels like home.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

In Awful and Surprising Truth

 I sometimes think that I don't matter to God.

I feel like God has checked me off His list, like, OK, now that I've saved Emma's eternal soul, I can put her over there and let her do her thing. She'll figure it out eventually. In my mind, God has essentially put me into daycare while He does much more important things. I feel like everything is up to me because I shouldn't bother God with my small heartbreaks and nosebleeds and temper tantrums. I take what seems like God's silence as forgetfulness.

Well Emma, let me be the first to tell you that you're completely wrong!

In one of the Elisabeth Elliot's books, she says that Christ must be our first love. I used to think that meant that Christ was the one we loved first, as in a fixed point in time. Like He was a high school sweetheart. Um wow Emma you have some really stupid preconceived notions about theology. Reading that book, it struck me like a lightning bolt. First love means the epicenter, the core, the foundation of all other loves. My love for Christ should inform my love for everything else, and it should inform me about Christ's love for me. After all, "we love because He first loved us."

As this realization washed over me, I felt troubled. Christ is not my first love. I am my first love.

I cried out to God. Help me fall in love with you. I can't bring anything. Almost immediately, I strongly felt the need to read about Christ, to learn about Him. To rediscover what He did for sinners, and for me. I began to research God's promises.

This brings me back to my first point: feeling forgotten. God doesn't put me into daycare. God is effecting all of His promises on me -- to prosper, to complete His work, to protect, to strengthen, to save. The Bible says nothing about God upholding His word when it's convenient for Him. It says that His steadfast love endures forever and He will not forsake the work of His hands.
"In awful and surprising truth, we are the objects of His love. You asked for a loving God: you have one. The great spirit you so lightly invoked, the "lord of terrible aspect," is present: not a senile benevolence that drowsily wishes you to be happy in your own way, not the cold philanthropy of a conscientious magistrate, nor the care of a host who feels responsible for the comfort of his guests, but the consuming fire Himself, the Love that made the worlds, persistent as the artist's love for his work and despotic as a man's love for a dog, provident and venerable as a father's love for a child, jealous, inexorable, exacting as love between the sexes." -C.S. Lewis

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Things I Don't Understand #2

The Glasses Makeover.

I know I discussed glasses last time.

It's just that this one really gets me.

Let's begin our movie with a mildly successful young woman who is wearing glasses and possibly has frumpy hair. She is single and lonely, but probably has some endearing qualities that make you wonder why every guy in sight treats her like a toad. At some point during this movie she is going to experience a "glasses makeover" and obtain contacts, an attractive and loving partner, and a raise.

That's because our heroine was obviously too boring and uncomely to deserve good things when she has *cue gasp* GLASSES (oh the horror).

Alternately, we have Clark Kent. Everybody knows who Superman is. He's awesome. He's got super powers. He can FLY. But if this same person is wearing glasses, well, no one would suspect such an unassuming and unprepossessing man to be anyone special. But when he takes those specs off... SUPERMAN!

Generally my reaction to that moment goes something like this:

lol ok this is an exaggeration
Because come on, Hollywood, take off your hipster frames and see the light. Glasses are AWESOME and I don't want the heroine to get contacts just so that people will realize she's the most gorgeous person ever. I like my glasses, and I don't feel prettier when I take them off.

Here I shall list several reasons why glasses are great:

1. This is obvious, but come on. It's an accessory. FOR YOUR FACE.

2. Have you ever just not wanted to pluck your eyebrows? Never fear! Your glasses frames will cover up those pesky hairs!
Or lack thereof! Mr. Quinto's eyebrows have been partially shaved to accommodate his Vulcan makeup. But you wouldn't know if I hadn't told you!

3. They help you see! I know contacts do that as well, but I think glasses are cooler. They were invented first and without them, some of use would wander around like this.
lol where am I guys

So in closing I just can't understand the "glasses makeover" that some films feel necessary. I know there are much worse forms of discrimination out there but give a little love to my bespectacled brethren! 

Monday, February 20, 2012

In the Interest of Full Disclosure

I think nooks and kindles and every form of e-readers are an abomination.

A book isn’t quite a book unless it’s a book.

Books aren’t just meant to be read, they’re meant to be held and sniffed and stacked and dog-eared.

You don’t just look at the words, you cry and your tears leave that little round ripple on the page.

Books shouldn’t be in glass cases, they should be tucked in your shoulder bag or tossed on a bedside table or wedged into your coat pocket.

Books are roadmaps of where you’ve been; they stand on the shelf as the quiet companions of your past. They are the guardians of your memories. They are the most faithful lovers.

You can’t plug in a book. Books don’t run out of batteries.

You can keep your tablets and nooks and cold, slick readers. I shall stick to paper and binding and books.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011


I am standing in line at the New Hill post office, minding my own business. I have two books in my arms because I need to buy a box to ship them in. I hear the bells on the door jingle, but don't give it much thought.

"You have the most BEAUTiful hayer," comes a hushed and happy voice.

"Oh, thank you," I say, turning around to see an old woman, wrapped head to toe in scarves, jackets, socks and boots.

"It's really beautiful. Merry Christmas," she goes on. "Are you shippin books? Ah am not an avid reader, but Ah am tryin to be. That is so good that you are a reader. Ah am Cecilia. What is your name?"

"I'm Emma," I say, absolutely unable to stop smiling at the wondrousness.


"Emma, E-M-M-A."

"OH Emma, hello Emma. Is thayet your husband out thayer waitin for you?" She points to an old man with a white beard in the pickup outside.

"No, no, I'm not sure who that is."

"Well thayen how did you get here? Ahr you from New Heel?"

"Yes, I am!"

"Well thank God for you!" She seems genuinely relieved that I am a local, as if my soul is safe and all is well with the world. "Did you know that Santy Clause works back thayer? Hello Santy Clause!"

The post mistress peeks around the client she's helping. "He's already gone to deliver the mail, Cecilia. Rob's back there."

"Forgive me Rob, Ah thought you were Santy," Cecilia hollers through the outgoing mail slot, then nods at the post mistress. "That is Mae. Mae can do anything. Do you see her royal gloves? She wayers purple gloves because she is a hero. She stands in the gap for the Master."

I am awed. Clearly Mae is a powerful woman of God.

Cecilia continues. "The Post Master, thayet is."

It is my turn to be helped, so I hand over my books to Mae. "Do you have a box that could fit these?" Since Mae can do all things through power of the Post Master who sustains her, it does not enter my head that I will leave with anything other than success.

Mae looks troubled. "I'm not sure we have the right boxes," she says as she rummages about.

"Oh," I say, a little crestfallen. If I can't get a box at the New Hill post office then I will have to go to the Apex location, which is the stuff of nightmares during the Christmas season.

"Ah have a box," Cecilia pipes in. "Ah pulled it from the garbage on Thursday. Let me go geeyit that box for you." She hands her parcel over the counter and disappears outside.

I'm not sure what to think. Mae has clearly experienced this before. She calmly continues to look around. "Well," she says, "the best I've got is priority shipping, which is five dollars."

"I don't mind five dollars." She hands over the box and I try to assemble it while she begins rustling for some packing tape. I soon see, however, that this box is too small. "I don't think I can fit both books into it." Just as I am handing the box back, Cecilia reappears -- wielding a cardboard box festooned with tape and labels.

"Thank God for this box," she's saying. "And thank God for you for needin this box. Ah think this is just the right size."

"Well, Cecilia, I'm afraid we don't have any tape to package up the box," says Mae patiently.

Cecilia is still busily tucking my books into her raggedy but quite functional box. She stuffs some crinkled newspaper into some of the negative space. "Ah read this paper last week and this article was very good. It will keep the books from shiftin. What is thayet about tape?"

"We are all out of tape," Mae repeats.

"Well you have some right thayer on the wall." Cecilia obligingly points to the displays of tape rolls for sale.

"Well those are three dollars each--" Mae begins.

I am just about to say that I don't mind buying a roll of tape since it will get used eventually, but Cecilia waves her hands in the air and says, "This young lady cannot afford that. Ah have some clear duck tape at my house. Ah will go and get it for you. Did you know that clear duck tape is the strongest? It is like regular duck tape, but clear." She double wraps her scarf against the bone-chilling 50 degree air and marches purposefully out the door.

Mae starts to weigh my package. "I'm sure she'll be right back," she says. "I'll just print up your shipping label so that you can pay and be ready to go."

I have just signed the receipt when Cecilia bursts back in. "This is clear duck tape. It is the strongest kind of tape. Here, you hold this box closed and Ah will put this duck tape on it."

She stretches a long piece of tape over the seam of the top. At this moment, the Post Master (who is actually a lady) comes through the front door. "Sue," Cecilia says in a voice of delighted doom, "thayer is no tape here. Ah had to get this poor young lady some tape so she could mail her books."

Sue looks a little baffled. "We have rolls of tape for sale, Cecilia."

"Forgive me Sue, you are right. Ah should not have said thayet. You are right, Ah do not know what Ah was thinkin." Meanwhile, Cecilia has been deftly mummifying the box. She pauses to survey her handiwork. "Ah will just put one more piece on. Thayer, Ah feel much mower secure. You have been so smart, shippin these books this way. Look, they are goin to Raleigh. You have saved so much money on gas this way."

"Cecilia," I say, still quite overcome by delight and respect for this woman's generosity. "Thank you so much. You are truly the kindest person I have met in a long time."

"Well, you are from New Heel. People don't treat each other right anymore, but you are New Heel and I will take cayer of my people." She goes in for a hug and I cannot refuse. "Goodbye Emma," she says. "Marry Christmas. Happy New Year. Happy Hanukkah!"