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July 16, 2007
Habits

I'm looking forward to our new church sanctuary because it will have pews. Right now we sit on folding chairs, which is part of the reason why I had to stare at the pimply ass-crack of the young woman in front of me, until I left to sit in the lobby, where the view was brighter and the sermon sounded kinder. She was a visitor, and some grace must be afforded, though the regular member who brought her treated everyone to more than we needed to see of her lime-green underwear.

At this point, please play in your head the voice of a nasally overindulged teenage girl, complaining that you just can't buy pants any more that don't sink low on the hips. Now, please slap this girl, as well as her mother and father. Cathartic, isn't it? You certainly can buy pants that don't expose your butt, and while you're at it you can pick out some shirts that don't expose your poochy belly and your brave little bellybutton hardware. On behalf of civilized society everywhere, I'd like to say that we are all tired of being the captive audience for your self-obsessed, half-naked prancing.

So what do you say we all start buying clothes that fit? This goes for boys as well as girls, because I'm also tired of seeing the waistbands of boxer briefs, inevitably exposed by boys who really should still be wearing tighty-whiteys and sucking on pacifiers, so nearly tangible are the umbilical cords that their mommies haven't bothered to snip.

Just to be clear, children: none of us cares to see your underwear. We don't need to see your cleavage and your bellies and most certainly not the canal that you regularly swipe with toilet paper.

I blame the fathers, because it works for me. When a girl dresses like a slut, I'm inclined to believe that she's craving attention from men. Why does she feel inadequate, Dad? When a boy dresses like a slouching ingrate, I'm inclined to believe that he's not been shown how to comport himself like a gentleman. Why doesn't he understand how men carry themselves, Dad?

At the funeral last week, there was a boy in flip-flops. I wish someone had escorted him out. I think I would like to work on becoming the kind of man who does that sort of thing. It would be a vain effort, but maybe shame can only be brought back one person at a time. I'm not arguing for a return to slacks and ties at all times, but can we at least preserve some dignity? Can we put on shoes for a funeral? Can we cover our asses for an hour in church?

"Dad," Caleb asked me Saturday, "why do some men wear earrings?"

"They want people to pay attention to them, because they aren't man enough to be themselves."

"They want attention?"

"Yep. When I was a college boy I had an earring, because I wasn't man enough."

"But now you're man enough. You look like a man."

"Caleb, something I've learned is that being a real man doesn't depend on how you look, but how you behave."

"You're a real man, Dad."

"I'm trying, anyway."

And that's the truth. Maybe it's what cheeses me about girls who show any stranger their underwear, and boys who don't bother to put on shoes when a body has to be put in the ground — they don't even try. It doesn't occur to them that there are times and places where their comfort and self-expression are unimportant. They are ill-bred, which means that their parents are doing a poor job, and maybe more of us should say so.

Posted by Woodlief on July 16, 2007 at 10:22 AM


Comments

Thank you for saying it Tony! You speak for many of us.

Posted by: Lynne at July 16, 2007 10:52 AM

Wow.

Posted by: Scott at July 16, 2007 11:00 AM

Right on. Can we add praise and worship singers who insist on leading worship barefoot? It is gross on boys and even worse on girls.

Posted by: T at July 16, 2007 11:41 AM

Hi Tony,

Lord, I wish we lived closer to each other. I would have our boys (2 boys and 1 daughter) hang out every week and we would start our own version of Boy Scouts in the neighborhood. Teach the fathers who Jesus is and help each other bring up our boys to be men. And find a safe place for the girls to become women. At least I have my dad to help me and my brother in law and his three kids.

Posted by: Jim Ratajski at July 16, 2007 11:45 AM

I'm with you to a point. I don't enjoy looking at other people's butt cracks either, but slow down there tiger.

Posted by: Abigail at July 16, 2007 11:55 AM

That's interesting you were pierced in your "yute". Any tattoes as well? A tattoo seems to be more popular now than 10-15 or more years ago. I can't stand needles so no tattoo or piercing for me.

Keep in mind some kids have rebellion so ingrained they may not even be cognizant of showing respect in certain situations demanding decorum. God forbid you should bring it up, though, as you would give the appearance of being an old fart and only judging their outer appearance rather than their "inner beauty". If they do hear you at all depending on how loud the ear buds from their i-pod are cranked up ...

Posted by: Marc V at July 16, 2007 12:45 PM

Huzzah! My Mrs and I have season passes to Sesame Place and are regularly exposed to examples of what we would like our children to avoid.

Nothing like seeing a 50 year old woman with 'My grandson is the shiznazz!' tattoo on her rear ... visible because of the Brazilian thong she is wearing. My children did not notice.

Posted by: mdmhvonpa at July 16, 2007 1:51 PM

First, tattoos and piercings have been part of human history for eons.

Second, I have met many older people who wear expensive suits and dresses (to church especially) who are not half the human as some young people who expose their cleavage or butt crack. I'm tired of stodgy old people singling out my generation for their poor dress. I'll make a wager. If I hold the door open for 100 people, 50 of whom are older, well-dressed folks, the other 50 young and "poorly-dressed", more of the younger people will actually acknowledge me and say "thank you" than the old people. I often dress poorly, yet I believe I am much more mannerly, polite, and thoughtful than most people who dress nicely.
You say that those who dress with their skin exposed or earrings are seeking attention. When is there a more attention seeking event than a wedding or prom where people wear what you deem to be "proper" clothing? Tony, you seem to worry a lot about what other people are doing with their bodies.
For you to assume that your brand of child-rearing is better than those who allow their children to dress how they wish is ridiculous. Perhaps the way you raise your children will shield them from the true goings-on of the real world. Who is to say which form of child-rearing is most effective? Should you be slapped for that? No. Dressing badly mixed with a crappy attitude is one thing, but dressing badly by itself should not indict young people or their parents.

Posted by: Randall at July 16, 2007 2:16 PM

Thank you for this. I've lost track of the number of weddings and funerals I've gone to in the last five years where a substantial number of the meretricious congregants showed up looking like they were en route to the beach via the beer store. I have only half-facetiously thought that a suit (or at least jacket and tie) should be placed on the Endangered Species list, so rare is the congress too few men enjoy with them. They once were, and ought again to be so regarded, as the uniform sine qua non of a gentleman properly so called. (Only years after immigrating to Canada did my grandfather decide he could dispense with the jacket and tie when he was...mowing the lawn!) If I were emperor of the world, I'd go further and re-institute the requirement of wearing black or something very somber for funerals, and of allowing a year of formal grieving.

I agree that fathers could help matters, including spiritual fathers. I've seen considerable improvements when pastors, acting pastorally (ie., with tact and evident love, rather than in a cantankerous or sanctimonious or, worse, Puritanical fashion) will instruct people on what is appropriate and what is not. This can be in the bulletin, through a short announcement, or in one-on-one sessions with, eg., couples preparing to be married. (Our priest asked us to ensure the wedding party and family, insofar as we were able, did not show up immodestly dressed to our wedding.)

Posted by: Adam DeVille at July 16, 2007 2:20 PM

I have but one word to add to your post.

A-friggin-men!

Ok. Maybe that's a compound word.

Posted by: Cordeiro at July 16, 2007 3:11 PM

Randall,

A few points of logic:

Slavery, infant sacrifice, and halitosis have also been part of human history for generations, but that hardly seems an argument in their favor.

The fact that there are well-dressed rude people does not mitigate against dressing well, any more than a cannibal who uses a napkin and asks you to pass the salt mitigates against table manners.

The fact that you are mannerly is commendable. It doesn't excuse you from dressing appropriately. In fact, not dressing well in many circumstances is in itelf impolite. It's a way of saying that you don't think well enough of others to make yourself as presentable in their presence as they have done for you.

A wedding should not be about seeking attention. I don't think I've ever criticized what people wear at proms.

"Tony, you seem to worry a lot about what other people are doing with their bodies."

I think a proper reading of my essay reveals that I am irritated by people showing me their private body areas regardless of my interest. Don't turn this into some Puritan chastity campaign on my part. You're free to do whatever you like with yourself in the privacy of your closet. Just cover up before you come flip-flopping into the grocery store.

"Who is to say which form of child-rearing is most effective?"

I really have no patience any more for this argument from libertine nihilism: I want to do what I want, so who is to tell me otherwise? Just to be clear, nobody is forbidding you from presenting yourself as a slob. My contention is that the rest of us should recognize you for the slob that you are, because in the context of a church service, or a funeral (among other occasions), it's evidence of your disregard for others, as well as for the traditions on which civil society is based. A proper recognition of the foundations of civilization would lead you to turn your question on its head: Who am I to disregard social niceties?

Posted by: Tony at July 16, 2007 3:16 PM

So at what point did it become improper to wear sandals or open-toed shoes such as Jesus wore during church services? Whose arbitrary system of what is considered decent are we using? Just because you uptight, conservative-types have beat everyone to the punch by impuning your standards does not mean it is the correct standard. I'm not trying to paint you as some Puritan necessarily, if you are then that is your own problem. There are plenty of people out there who do not care if someone's crack or cleavage is showing.

Posted by: Randall at July 16, 2007 3:54 PM

Randall,
I wasn't talking about sandals. And the point in my reply is that these standards of decency aren't arbitrary, whereas the I-can-wear-whatever-expresses-the-wonder-that-is-me attitude is. You've got it completely backwards, in other words.

Inappropriate dress is rude because it signals an unwillingness to make one's comfort and self-expression secondary when decency demands exactly that. It also distracts people from the purpose at hand -- much like, for example, misspelling and misusing a word in a written debate. It evinces a slovenliness that suggests one doesn't care about how one presents oneself. You're perfectly free not to care, but you aren't free to dress like a slob or slut and then take offense because the rest of us think you look like a slob or slut, and say so.

"There are plenty of people out there who do not care if someone's crack or cleavage is showing."

Yes, and these people go to strip joints when they want to see that sort of thing. They generally aren't sitting with their young sons in church, trying to focus on something other than themselves for a short while.

Posted by: Tony at July 16, 2007 4:19 PM

How about gum-chewing? I see so many people chewing gum at church and everywhere else, even the most formal occasions--not just young people, but their parents and people older than their parents. It really bothers me--it looks so bovine.

Boy, you really struck a nerve with this one, Tony!

Posted by: Julia at July 16, 2007 4:35 PM

Oh Tony, my first response is a hearty AMEN! Then I must say, what my husband always says "The cows are out of the gate". It's much harder now to get them rounded up and in their right place. I'll give you permission to straighten up anyone you feel needs it. We all should be bold enough, and kind enough, to say what needs to be said. Love doesn't allow your loved ones to act inappropriately in public or private. It sees that they are taught for their own good and the good of others.

Posted by: chronicler at July 16, 2007 5:54 PM

Great points! But, there's a picture of my great-great-great grandfather from Germany who had both ears pierced with earrings in them. I guess back then it was fashionable too :)

Posted by: Steve Bogner at July 16, 2007 6:47 PM

One more thing: you say that young people who show up inappropriately dressed at various occasion are "ill-bred, which means their parents are doing a poor job...." Tony, you seem to be way too eager to blame parents when their children are obvious screw-ups. When does this become the child's responsibility? Certainly in no way do I wish to absolve the parents from their responsibility, but at some point, young people really do make their own choices, much to their parents' chagrin, even if they have been properly taught.

I fervently hope that your boys always follow your example and and never stray from your teaching--but they may turn out to be crack-showing, gum-chewing (my pet peeve), flip-flop-wearing little nincompoops too (at least for a while!)

Posted by: Julia at July 16, 2007 8:02 PM

Hi Randall,

Answer this for yourself: should people feel free to come to any event in any manner of dress (or undress) they choose? It seems that if one takes your perspective to its logical conclusion, there is no reason to put any societal restriction on anything. Would you be offended if someone showed up naked to your mother's funeral? I suspect you would, in which case you are imposing your "uptight, conservitive" standards on them.

Tony isn't asking everyone to wear high collars and not show their ankles, he is just pleading for a return to some common decency (which appears to not be terribly "common" anymore).

Posted by: Paul at July 16, 2007 8:19 PM

Hi Julia,

I audited a theology class, and the professor made the comment that how one comports one's self in a church service communicates something about their attitude toward the church, and thus toward God. He called it a "theological act" when one strolls in 15 minutes late, sipping their latte (for example).

Posted by: Paul at July 16, 2007 8:22 PM

I'm assuming that if you are against sandal wearing to funerals, you are against sandal wearing to church. So you are talking about sandals. You keep talking about decency. Whose code of decency are we using, and why is your code of decency the one that is supreme? We can reach an agreement and say that by your code of dress and behavior, butt cracks and flip-flops are unacceptable at certain places. This does not make them immoral, nor does the fact that these people wear such attire make them immoral either. It just means that you don't like it. Your original piece should have just read "I saw a girl's crack at church, and I didn't like it." I couldn't argue with that, but when you start calling into question their and their parent's decency as human beings I have to step in and disagree with you.
Setting out each day to piss people off intentionally through your wardrobe is one thing, wearing something because you want to enjoy the latest fashion or be comfortable is another. They involve differences in attitude. If the flip-flop wearer at the funeral did it because he wanted to make everyone mad or draw attention then you may have a point, but you can't assume that.

Posted by: Randall at July 16, 2007 8:53 PM

Randall,
Sorry, when I see "sandal" I think something other than flip-flops. The latter are clearly slovenly, unless one wishes to believe that there is no such thing as slovenliness. That seems to be at least part of our disagreement here; I believe that the word slovenly is invested with meaning, and that if it applies to anything, it applies to someone who cannot cover her butt cheeks in a church service, or to someone who can't be troubled to put on real shoes at a funeral. If you'd like to motion for abolishing the concept of slovenliness from human civilization, I suspect a great many wise people would take issue with you.

I think this is the best answer to your question: Who decides what code of decency applies? It's certainly a fair question, and of course it immediately thrusts us into the realm of the subjective, in which you assert a fairly common college-level logical fallacy, that the absence of an objective standard proves the absence of any standard. The standard of decency is subjective (I don't believe this, but it makes our discussion simpler), in that well-meaning people can disagree. But it seems we can go a bit further. How many well-meaning people (i.e., people who have some interest in living in a society where words like appropriate and slovenly have not been purged from the lexicon, for fear of bruising some free spirit's tender feelings) would agree with you that exposing your ass crack in a gathering of people who agree in the Bible's injunction to modesty, and to refraining from tempting one's brethren, is in any way decent? Really, I don't think I'm asserting a peculiar or abstract or extreme moral code here. I'm asserting that if decent means anything, it means you cover your ass in church.

On the question of morality, I believe I referred to these children as ill-bred, and thoughtless, and self-centered. I don't believe I've consigned them to hell. I'll stipulate that if these are the worst of their sins, I've sinned worse in just the past week. The difference is that I care if I'm offending someone, or transgressing a fairly universal standard of decency. They seem oblivious, and you seem indifferent.

Nor do I question the decency of their parents as human beings. We're presented with clear evidence that the parents have done a poor job in an important area of their lives. It doesn't mean they should be strung up. But I don't think it means we all should keep quiet and pretend it's okay, because it's simply not okay.

You seem to want to make this a matter of intentions, i.e., if the young person doesn't mean any harm by it, then it should be acceptable to the rest of us. Surely you can see where that line of thinking leads. Suppose we're talking about farting at the dinner table? Or perhaps taking a piece of food off your plate? Or interrupting people as they speak? Nose picking, and wiping it on the tablecloth?

All of these, by the way, are things I've seen on a semi-regular basis with my toddlers. By your logic, I needn't train them out of it, because they don't mean any harm. It seems that much of what we train young people to do and not do has nothing to do with their intentions, and everything to do with attuning them to the reality that: a) their actions have consequences beyond their intent, and b) comfort and self-expression and stylishness are not anywhere close to the top priorities in a meaningful life.

Posted by: Tony at July 16, 2007 10:05 PM

Paul, you are right. I would be offended if someone came to my mother's funeral nude. I guess that makes me an uptight conservative like Tony, only not to such a high degree. Honestly I would not be mad at the person if they did it because they always go places nude. I would probably think they were very weird. If someone streaked at her funeral, I would be angry. If someone came naked in order to make people mad I would be angry as well.
Really, my main argument was against the vitriol Tony was spitting against the parents of young people who dress "inappropriately." I know his belief that those parents should be slapped may not be his true feeling, but the fact that he seems so disgusted with these people caught my attention. Calling people's manhood into question because of an earring is a little too far. Tony was acting as if, because he now has children and has lost that earring, he is now better than those people who dress poorly and have earrings.
I guess I'm tired of the younger generation and their parents receiving jabs and jeers from all directions for every transgression they may commit. I never hear people like Tony, in writing or conversation, talk about how plain evil some older people can be. I come into contact with miserable, rude, worthless old folks all the time who are given passes by society because of their business status or church membership. I guess Tony call talk about butt-cracks, and I can talk about assholes.

Posted by: Randall at July 16, 2007 10:13 PM

I think that it's interesting that Randall seems intent on making this issue out to be Tony attempting to impose his "superior" moral standard upon the rest of us. The truth, as I see it, Randall, is that, Tony is merely pointing out a few (albeit, blatant) recent instances in which he's observed inconsiderate youths breaching commonly accepted standards of social conduct.

The point here is that, culturally, there are behaviors that are commonly considered innapropriate. I say culturally because social norms are informal votes that we, as citizens, cast by speaking our mind, saying what we think, and most importantly, by doing what we perceive to be culturally acceptable. My point here, Randall, is that, Tony is NOT attempting to impose his perspective or moral viewpoint upon you, or upon anyone else; he is lamenting a blatant and egregious breach of socially acceptable behavior-because we, collectively, as a society, by and large say, BY OUR ACTIONS, that it's low-class (and, frankly, repugnant) to show ones rear-end in church, or to not afford the deceased the respect of dressing with a bit of reverence.

Now, Russell, does that mean that you must dress this way? I guess not. This isn't law, by any means. But don't be upset when Tony, or Paul, or Julia, or myself looks at you disapprovingly the next time you show up to a funeral in flip-flops. And don't be offended when I ask your daughter, who happens to be showing off her rear in church next week, to please either pull up her pants, or to use my son's burp rag to cover up the exposed parts. Because we're not trying to impose our own personal moral code; we're enforcing the cultural standard.

Posted by: PJ Green at July 17, 2007 12:00 AM

I agree, our society of tolerance and acceptance is rapidly erasing all of our social safety nets. The rules that we can count on to maintain our decency and decorum are fading into a haze of relativism.
Take language, for instance. These days even the most conservative among us uses words like "ass" without even blinking. Even smarty pants thirty-something writers with an amazing command of the English language type out the words "ass-crack" as if that were a socially acceptable term that they would use in front of their mother.
I don't mean to be a fuddy duddy. I think the word ass can be very expressive, as in, "You are behaving like an ass."

Posted by: saralee at July 17, 2007 8:49 AM

For the record, Saralee, I did blink.

Posted by: Tony at July 17, 2007 9:43 AM

The only thing I took issue with was your answer to Caleb re: earrings on men. You did come across as a bit of an old crank, not that that's necessarily a bad thing.

I wear an earring on occasion. I do not under any circumstance intentionally show off my underwear band in public. I see a bit of a difference there.

I do think that there's a line one crosses in getting tattooed/pierced. On one side of the line you can still get a job as something other than a roady or circus freak, on the other you can't. Regardless of which side of the line you're on I will love you. However don't yell if you have problems gaining meaningful employment should you step across.

I understand and know from personal experience that it can be difficult to find fashion that still looks... fashionable and not look like a tramp. We used to have a shop for teenage girls in our care. It's at that point that you have to decide which is more important, looking fashionable or looking respectable.

Posted by: scott at July 17, 2007 10:30 AM

Amen, Tony. The truth of the matter is that we all fashion ourselves via clothes, hairdo, and other accoutrements (earrings, tattoos, etc.) both for practical reasons (no one expects people to wear a suit to the beach, though folks once did) and for what we might call expressive reasons, that is, we're looking to send a message to others. So when people wear slovenly clothing to church, say, they're not doing it for practical reasons but rather expressive ones. And what exactly is it that people are expressing when they wear the same outfit that they might head to a club in? Of course, many are just plain thoughtless and don't realize the message they're sending, but others for some reason seem to think that there's something more "authentic" about being in church in very non-churchy clothes. The bottom line to me is that most folks who are dressing like slobs do it out of a kind of narcissism that goes out of its way to ignore others and the respect and care we owe to them.

Posted by: Michael Simpson at July 17, 2007 1:05 PM

I was struck by Randall's comments about old people. I don't know where he spends his time, but I don't meet many rude old people. If they are rude, I do not know anyone who gives them a break because of how they dress or their church membership. In fact, I see the opposite. I see old people in general being portrayed in a negative light. I have seen TV shows (The Simpson's come readily to mind) and movies that make old people an object of ridicule. When we speak about appearances we can never be sure how wonderful or evil that person may be who doesn't fit our standards. We usually don't have the opportunity to know them, but first impressions speak volumes. For example, most of us shy away from people who look threatening. God had very specific instructions about how the priests were to dress. Why was that? Couldn't the priests due their duties in their underwear?

Posted by: Donna at July 17, 2007 1:32 PM

I confess to taking offense to the easy way you use the word "ass" but agree with the sentiments about showing said ass off etc.

Just this morning my 19 year old came down stairs, in white stretch pants that look as if they've been painted with pink paint and a pink top - cute outfit for casual wear - but she was on her way to a funeral! I threw a fit and told her she was not going like that - she came down again in blue jeans - nice ones but still jeans and she ignored the 2nd fit I threw and flounced out the door.

Now Tony I didn't teach her to dress (or act) like that!

Posted by: A W at July 17, 2007 2:12 PM

I think often the way we dress can be a distraction to others. A number of years ago I spent the entire church service wondering what the t-shirt in front of me meant. Best I could tell it was some techie joke involving frogs. It wasn't immodest but very distracting.

I really feel sorry for those girls. They may one day come to share Tony's views and be horrified that people allowed them to sit like that for an entire church service. Perhaps their parents are not interested in parenting or like my parents, expect the church to take care of their raising. That doesn't excuse the girls. I feel this was a missed opportunity however. That the girls got to church dressed like that seems to indicate their parents know and don't mind how they dress. While it may be obvious that the parents are doing a poor job, I wonder if the Church isn't doing a poor job too. A woman could have approached the girls and exhorted them to cover themselves for the sake of those behind them. I think being part of the body requires us to love each other, even those not related to us. "Let the older women teach the younger women..." comes to mind. Unfortunately we are not all blessed with wise and loving parents and desperately need the love of Christ's Body. I wonder what the outcome of the morning might have been if someone had been a servant to those two girls. It could have made a lasting impression on a visitor as to what Christ's love looks like.

By the way, pews only solve this problem if people lean against the back.

Posted by: Linda at July 17, 2007 2:50 PM

Okay...I knew ass-crack and church pews didn't seem to go together in the same post.
The sad thing you don't get Randall is that especially for a girl to show private, intimate parts of her body means she has problems valuing who she is. THAT IS A MUCH BIGGER ISSUE THAN A SUPERIOR ATTITUDE that Tony "seems to be taking". And in reality, I think for Tony, on a different day, he might have had a soft spot for this girl and where she must be coming from and the life she lives...or doesn't live and and felt sad for her. Instead he got mad at her parents...because that is where he is in life.
Believe me, a have a pre-teen that doesn't want to show her stomach and wear short shorts....and I love it! She is beautiful and sweet and needs no ones approval but her Dads and occasionally mine.

Posted by: angela at July 17, 2007 2:51 PM

Tony,

I think you've said some things that needed to be said. I concur with your sentiments, but have reservations about the manner in which they were expressed. If we are talking about propriety and civility, wouldn't it have been a better choice to not express your sentiments in such a crude manner? The a** word is hardly necessary and only brings you down to the level you are criticizing.

Civility in speech, propriety in dress.

Posted by: Rhoda at July 17, 2007 3:58 PM

The reason I've gone with "ass-crack" is that I want to convey in print the same shock that comes over many of us when we see it first-hand. I think gratuitous profanity is poor form, but I part ways with many friends in that I believe we shouldn't dress up reality for fear that it will offend.

This offers an interesting juxtaposition (I think) for Randall. I'm simultaneously arguing for the covering of cracks, yet for the uncovering of them in text. In short, I am willing to offend in order to call attention to an ugliness in the world, and I believe that's acceptable. At the same time, I believe it's wrong to offend simply for the sake of offending, or because one doesn't care whether one offends others or not.

It's always a judgment call, of course, the extent to which we tell the unvarnished truth about the world, and the words we use to tell it. Profanity is, to me, useless for the same reason that cliches are useless. But sometimes it has its place in conveying truth, in my view.

Posted by: Tony at July 17, 2007 4:14 PM

Totally thought provoking, Tony, and for the most part I agree completely with what you've said and with your follow-ups to other posters.

The very first thing that struck me when I was reading this post, however, was the parable of the Rich Man, Poor Man. There is a very fine line between accepting someone--warts, ass cracks and all--and speaking out because of improper attire. Jesus looks into the heart and soul..we unfortunately see what that heart and soul is clothed in, and it can be a distraction to us poor, mere mortals as we try to focus on Jesus and accord Him the honour, and worship without distraction--which is why we're in church in the first place.

However, modesty in dress and respecting 1-oneself, and 2-the people around you is something that's needing to be taught. And spoke out about.

So what I'm trying to say is well-done Tony :)

Posted by: Rachel at July 17, 2007 5:30 PM

I believe you all are missing my point. The fault lies with me though.

First, Tony believes that a crack showing at church is bad. My only question is what isn't bad? Should women at your churches dress like Middle Eastern women and not be allowed to show their ankles or face? Where is the line to be drawn? I'm sure this seems nihilistic, but I believe it is a valid point. Some people get bent out of shape if a woman wears white shoes after Labor Day. That is supposedly a societal norm. I could care less though if a woman wears white shoes after Labor Day.

Second, I originally disagreed with the way Tony went after bad parents. Two posts have mentioned examples of teenagers being of their own free will. Sure it would be nice to say that if there had been better parenting, there wouldn't be such a need to dress poorly. The fact though is that parenting is not the only influence on a child's decisions. The condescending way Tony questions the manhood, parenting, and morals of these fathers ruffles my feathers.

Third, I am not trying to divert attention from Tony's argument, but I am just tired of seeing the younger generation trashed for their rudeness and poor attitude. I mentioned the experiment you all should conduct. Hold open the door for young and old people. I believe you all will be surprised by who is most polite. Maybe I don't receive "thank yous" from older people because they all think younger people are rude as well. I just don't see anyone calling out older people about their social transgressions, and I'm fed up with it.

Lastly, there have been many people saying that girls showing their cracks or cleavage is an attempt to receive attention. I'll buy that. What I don't buy is that it is the fault of their father, or that he is some low-life who doesn't know how to raise children. I believe it is human nature to seek attention in some form or another. Some people crack jokes, some people buy fancy clothes, and some people don't wear clothes at all.

Posted by: Randall at July 17, 2007 6:58 PM

What I haven't yet figured out is what compelled a supposedly mature Christian man to "stare" at the much-mentioned portion of anatomy under discussion. I have attended many, many services of worship in my nearly half-century, and never have I been compelled to gaze at the posteriors of those who were seated in front of me--and yes, quite often in folding chairs instead of pews. When I pay attention, I can't help but see my front neighbors' heads. I would have to work pretty hard to stare at their butts.

Don't give me, "But you're a woman, so it's different." Not THAT different. A couple of times I did *notice* that there were men with "plumber's gap," and about as often, women with a gap between top/blouse and bottom/skirt/pants. I had the same initial "eww" reaction. (And for the record, I agree that people OUGHT to dress decently, period, including when they assemble for worship.) But I remember being very glad that I wouldn't HAVE to look at these gaps, because my focus properly belonged with my eyes significantly highter than on the hindquarters of the offensively-dressed neighbors. If I'm listening attentively, or singing enthusiastically, or praying intensively, I'm NOT staring at someone's butt. Staring at people's butts is rude. Did your parents never teach you this?

Sorry, but if you couldn't help yourself staring when you should have been worshiping, that is not primarily the fault of your neighbor. So I wonder: did you have some decently clothed butts to stare at instead when you fled to the lobby?

You were offended, that much is clear. So, what did you do to see that communicating your offense to the young woman in question was done with grace and Christian love? I rather doubt she read this diatribe against her. How, if she were your daughter or sister, and dressed this way without your knowledge, would you want a brother in Christ to deal with his offense against her?

What does such diatribe really accomplish, except to let your mostly-agreed readers know that you couldn't keep your eyes off a young woman's behind, and that you despise her and everyone like her as well as their male relatives, for your offense?

Posted by: Mary at July 18, 2007 7:48 AM

I enjoyed your post so much, Tony, that I want to be of service to you. May I suggest "fault line of the buttocks" for a-s crack and "Randall-like object near a person's center" for A-----e. Thank you.

Posted by: Fred Beloit at July 18, 2007 9:04 AM

randall, someday you will understand when you have children, trust me! Parenting for 12 year, 3 sons and a daughter....I know what I am talking about....even if the younger generation experiment and have a sense of rebellion the seeds planted by strong parenting will never wash away and will sprout when the time for true independence come (like going to college w/o the parental boundaries) the kids will choose the right way... I am proof of that, that is my story. So I am going that route with my kids.
And as far as your frustration with the older generations rudeness....maybe you could speak first and then see if they respond, I know your non-verbal of holding the door should speak volumes, I tend to speak to younger people more...out of gratitude that they have the manners...
wait til you have kids!

Posted by: angela at July 18, 2007 9:33 AM

'Older folks', on balance, don't display tattoos, thongs, beltless pants, bare-midriff, or frontal and/or backal cleavage. This post isn't about holding doors or lack of all social courtesy.

Also, Tony (if I may be so bold) is not placing the full blame on fathers or parents:

'I blame the fathers, because it works for me.'

Thus implying that Tony a) acknowledges there are other directions in which to point fingers, b) knows his readers know this, and c) knows at least one reader will mention this, and is trying to head him off at the pass.

It's subtle, it's funny, it's effective. It's good writing.

This blog tends to focus on men and fatherhood. Doesn't it make sense to relate this thong-sighting to men and fatherhood? That, again, is just good writing.

(And at least he didn't say 'butt-floss'.)

Posted by: Jared at July 18, 2007 10:51 AM

Growing up in the '60s, I didn't understand the immodest fashion of young people. I would later learn that the sexual revolution was, by definition, a rebellion and that revealing styles were a part of the insurrection.

The sexual insurgency continues; indeed, it has expanded and grown.

But against what are these people revolting? And why did they chose sex as their battleground?

Isn't rebellion evidence of a fight against oppression or slavery? Who is persecuting these young people? To what were they held as slaves?

Had purity, modesty, and sanctity treated them unjustly? Had the culture yoked them to some impossible and unpleasant virtues of decency, taste, and etiquette?

During a rebellion, people choose sides; the battle ensues; innocent by-standers become collateral damage. The aggrieved shout their motto, "If you're not for us, you're against us." People label others as friend or foe. Antagonism rises; each side assaults the other with generalizations, accusations, invectives, and character assassinations. The first victims are love and truth. The din overwhelms; the casualties mount; and, the divide sharpens and widens.

All the while, the insurgent hastens unwittingly to his new master. The freedom he seeks eludes him; liberty remains a distant mirage.

But the pain, the anguish, and the wounds of war fan the flames of anger and bitterness; they remind him that he is not free.

When will the individual ever escape his bondage to others? When will the individual ever enjoy his liberty to do anything he wants, any time and any place he wants? When will the individual ever fulfill his every wanton desire?

When will the individual ever truly and completely say NO to God and to his community?

Searching for personal freedom and liberty introduces us to a paradox. The more personal freedom we lust for, the more enslaved we become.

We cannot choose freedom or slavery; we can only choose who or what will master us.

Which master would you prefer? Would you prefer a master that inflicts pain, anguish, and mortal wounds? Or, would you prefer a master that comforts, loves, and helps? Do you prefer division, marginalization, oppression, and injustice? Or, do you prefer unity, peace, goodness, and justice?

You are free to choose your master, so choose carefully!

Posted by: Terry at July 18, 2007 11:55 AM

That reminds me of the time my husband and I were leaving church and discovered that the teenage girls had already changed into their bikinis and were advertising a car wash at the exit from the church parking lot. It really made me feel that the church didn't respect their girls or women. I couldn't believe anyone thought that was a good idea. I think that was our last Sunday at that church.

Posted by: Linda at July 18, 2007 12:10 PM

Sadly, I’m always the person who tries to put the saddle on a dead horse. You all have certainly beat this to death, but being a day or two late and always short on cash and self-control, I can’t seem to resist tossing something in.


I believe, Randall, that everyone understands your point, and yet we find it very difficult to agree with you. The topic is appropriate dress in a church or funeral setting. It is generally accepted that the appropriate attire in any setting is defined by the actions of the people who either control, or regularly attend such event. Those of us who believe that the body of Christ gathers to celebrate and worship in a defined and agreed upon manner, wearing what we believe is respectful of each other and of whom we worship, should find it offensive when some one strolls in wearing something flirtatious, revealing, or otherwise irresponsible.

If one receives an invitation to a black tie dinner, not only are the expectations of dress well spelled out, but also enforced. The dress code at a church or funeral is also spelled out, as defined by its members. And when has any one seen a formal, in church, funeral when the expectations were anything but more formal than Sunday service?

If I were invited to dine with the President, I would most certainly want to inquire as to appropriate dress. Likewise, if I were to visit with an emperor, or meet with the Pope, or any other setting with which I am unaccustomed, respect demands I dress and act appropriately. The parents, who buried their daughter, certainly deserve that same level of respect.

Your point of the younger generation being more respectful (less rude) than their elders is not worth dwelling on; go sit in a mall and watch. If I were to stand in my well pressed stuffy suit, and hold the door for 100 of your slovenly dressed friends exiting my local mall, I dare say not one of them would make eye contact, say “thank you” or even “yo dude.” I believe they would pretend to not notice me, or they would believe from their self centered, ill-bred social conscience, that I was some paid stiff who was supposed to hold the door for their all too important back-sides. I also believe that everyone of them blames their parents for everything wrong in their lives, so why shouldn’t I?

I’m sorry; I got a little testy there at the end.

Posted by: kipp at July 18, 2007 1:07 PM

Mary,
I think the tone of your comment speaks for itself, but I'll ask you to point to the part of my essay where I mentioned "staring" or "gazing." You want to ascribe to me a prurient interest in the young woman, which is not the case at all, but which tells me loads about your character. Thanks for the lesson in Christian ethics and grace.

Posted by: Tony at July 18, 2007 2:52 PM

So, I may as well chime in with a response somewhere between Tony and Randall (for the record, I am a "millenial" probably slightly older than Randall).

I agree with about half of what you say, Tony. In particular, I think you make an extremely valid point about modesty in church, while I disagree with your claims about the necessity of dressing "formally" for churches, weddings, etc. I also think earrings aren't such a bad thing and that parents are not always to blame for the appearance of their children.

I currently attend a church with very lax standards of dress, and it is the first church I've ever attended that I thought was truly focused on the work of God. Growing up, I was always frustrated by having to wear my "Sunday finest" for church (as if my accumulation of pretty material things impressed the creator of the universe). At my current church, people where sneakers, and flip-flops, and blue jeans; and they sing at the tops of their lungs, tear up during the service, tithe without consistent reminding, and really make an effort to work in the community. The philosophy of our church is that people are most open when they are comfortable, and church, being focused on communion with others and with God, is a good place to feel comfortable.

Our pastor has emphasized, however, that this comfort does not extend to immodesty, and I agree 100%. You can make an argument that people tired of the formailty, pomp, and circumstance of religion would rather wear jeans to church; but I don't think that is an argument for girls with exposed stomachs or thongs. Like it or not, sexual purity is a tenet of Christianity, and reasonably modest dress is part and parcel of that (though there is a LOT of ground between Saudi Arabia and the typical rap video).

On formal dress in other occassions, I think it is generally appropriate to dress as formally and inobtrusively as possible at weddings and funerals; but I think we should all be careful about the ways in which we allow that general rule to crush our sense of proportion. I have several friends who wear boots and sneakers to funerals and weddings because that is all they have. I also have a few friends who have specifically asked us to dress down for their weddings -- preferring the atmosphere of a party to the atmosphere of a funeral. Dress is, so often, contextual. Similarly, when my grandmother passed away, the funeral was set up as a celebration -- with attendees wearing bright colors and telling jokes -- because my grandmother believed passing from a good life here to a glorious life after a cause for joy. With few exceptions, I think caution should be the rule before we criticize the way others have dressed (it is generally apparent when someone is being intentiaonally rude, disrespectful, or immodest). The modern U.S.'s rebellion against the stuffiness of yesteryear may be a somewhat positive thing.

Finally, earrings. Not a man? Hmmm...I have a hard time with this. I have known a LOT of real men with earrings and tattoes, and a lot of cowards who used that as an opportunity to criticize and insult them. It seems a lot like personal preference to me.

Anyway, maybe there is a larger generational difference at work here. The younger generations simply don't see dress as a necessary way in which to convey honor, seriousness, or respect, while the older generations do.

Posted by: John at July 18, 2007 2:58 PM

One little thing. I don't agree with much of Randall's tone or message (you wouldn't want nudists to dress for your mother's funeral? Really?), and I think if Randall read this site more he'd have more respect for our friend Tony.

But Kipp's comment is equally out of touch.

So, to Kipp and others, if you so revile the younger generation, how is it that a bunch of well-dressed, besuited baby boomers created them? And do you really have such a bad impression of us? It gets a little old to hear the generations of the 40s, 50s, and 60s telling us what a bunch of low-life slackers we are. If I read my history books right, those generations wore a lot of suits while insisting on racial segregation and ostracizing homosexuals. This is your world, too, folks. Maybe if you tried to treat the younger generation on its merits instead of yours, they would meet you halfway with that eye-contact and decency your covet.

Posted by: John at July 18, 2007 3:09 PM

Thanks for calling me an asshole Fred. This helps prove my point.
And Angela, I assume that when I hold the door open for a person and smile in their general direction, said person should realize the service being given to them. Should I say "you're welcome" before they say "thank you." That would be viewed as rude, although that is my usual response when it is obvious I will not receive a "thank you."
I apologize for getting the discussion off track. I understand where Tony is coming from, and I have read his blog for a while and do respect him. I just disagree with the direction in which his frustration is being projected.

Posted by: Randall at July 18, 2007 5:09 PM

One last thing...

As I have read through the myriad of comments I am surprisingly delighted to find a conversation of my youth present. Which one?

The one where I accused my parents of being so closed minded and rigid, and mean. With the response from them saying how unschooled and naive I was, also that I would learn how the world worked in the next few years.

An age old battle it seems.

Posted by: chronicler at July 19, 2007 10:17 AM

I want to attend this ass-crack church of yours. It sounds like fun.

Posted by: Hilly Elkins at July 19, 2007 9:26 PM

Oh my goodness...this discussion has ranged far and wide. I hardly know where to begin. It is not in an attempt to further attack your beleaguered position, Randall, but I believe I will start with you.
Tony, in his typically caustic, darkly humorous manner, has made a case for respecting others through one's dress. He has also voiced, in no uncertain terms, his displeasure with those who have chosen not to do so, either through neglect or rebellion. I can understand your irritation, especially as you already disagree with his basic position. I disagree with most of the viewpoints espoused by George Carlin in his more recent comedic endeavors, but I am doubly angered by the derisive sneer with which he delivers them. I am much more likely to debate (versus argue) with someone who presents his stance in polite tones rather than with a disgusted curl of the lip.
However, your contrary stance and your frustration are two different things. Yet, you have intertwined them in your posts; often stating your irritation as a reason for your opposition "I am just tired of seeing the younger generation trashed ".
So, let's address your anger first. You say you have been reading Tony's site for a bit. That being so I am sure you are aware that he tends toward witty barbs to deliver many of his points. Does he always present the most objective argument in this manner? Probably not, though I know he works hard to honor the truth. I would suggest a bit of poetic license must be afforded our intrepid author since it is his very style that attracts many of us to his writings. Aside from giving Tony a bit of leeway to entertain us there is a second reason for setting aside your annoyance. If you are challenging Tony from your passion you aren't particularly likely to be objective yourself, are you?
As for your impatience with the way your generation is treated, your argument is specious. You continue to state your point in this manner: "I believe young people should be treated with more respect because I think old people, who are treated with more respect than the young, have evinced less worthiness for that respect." There are a number of problems with this line of reasoning.
First, the young should be treated with respect, or not, on their own merits. Whether or not the old are deserving of the respect they receive is irrelevant.
Secondly, I gather from the way you presented your door holding experiment you yourself haven't actually tried it. Even if you did the results would be useless. It's just too subjective. The outcome is based on too may factors; your demeanor while holding the door, the location in which you attempted the experiment, the cross section of people who came through the door at any given time, etc.
Lastly, your supposition that older folk are treated with more respect while the young are continually derided is just as subjective as your proposed experiment. For every example of verbal injustice against your generation I can provide one against my father's. Tony's post, if it can be considered a diatribe against youth, is but one example of such and should not bear the brunt of your ire against any other such presentation.
Now, about your actual argument concerning the importance of manner of dress; this has already been stated in other ways, but here's my two cents; your suggestion that intention is the standard by which mode of dress should be measured has no logically feasible conclusion. The fact of the matter is how you dress affects those around you. If a nude woman walks into any area where men are present she will draw their attention. If you see a man standing on a corner in a police uniform you will assume he is a cop. You probably won't ask for a Christian Bible from a bald man in an orange robe. These are, of course, extreme examples. However, they illustrate the fact that we make assumptions about a person based on their clothing...because clothing is more than simply the covering with which we protect ourselves from the elements. We use clothing to express ourselves. Therefore, you are expressing yourself with your clothing, whether you are being intentional or not.
So, having established that we do not operate in some sort of adornment vacuum, let's address particulars. A Christian church is a place where one goes to worship God. His book has many things to say, both direct and indirect, concerning what is appropriate to wear. Crack displaying, underwear flaunting pants would definitely fall under the heading Violation of Decent Dress.
If by nothing else we can infer that this specific funeral was not of the bright colored, joke sharing type because Tony was so incensed by the flip flops. If this were not the case I think shower shoes would have been toward the bottom of his list of complaints. Therefore, we can assume this was the formal type of memorial that calls for a formal style of dress. So, intentionally or not, the zorrie-wearing youth offered insult to all present who were attempting to respect the departed and the bereaved.
Hmmm, it seems I have been a bit long-winded. I will post other observations regarding this subject separately.

Posted by: Gary W. at July 27, 2007 9:27 PM

It would seem to me that the debate here revolves around the questions of the boundaries and consequences of individual liberty.

John Stuart Mill, in his work "On Liberty", espoused the principle that individuals should be free (from legal penalties or social coercion) to act as they please, so long as their actions harm no-one else. I think of this as the 'freedom-to' principle. Now, I don't for one moment believe that Mill would have thought that one should be free to expose one's posterior in church, but the problem is that his rather vague principal can be, and has been, used in this way. When wedded to theories of moral subjectivity, we arrive at Randall's position.

The andidote can, I think, be found in the writings of Edmund Burke. In his "Reflections on the Revolution in France", Burke wrote: "Permit me ... to tell you what the freedom is that I love and that to which I think all men entitled. It is not solitary, unconnected, individual, selfish liberty. As if every man was to regulate the whole of his conduct by his own will. The Liberty I mean is social freedom. It is that state of things in which Liberty is secured by the equality of restraint; a constitution of things in which the liberty of no one man and no number of men can find means to trespass on the liberty of any person or any description of persons in the society". I think of this as the 'freedom-from' principle. Burke also had no time for moral relativism: "We know that we have made no discoveries,and we think that no discoveries are to be made, in morality; nor many in the great principles of government, nor in the ideas of liberty, which were understood long before we were born, altogether as well as they will be after the grave has heaped its mould upon our presumption, and the silent tomb shall have imposed its law on our pert loquacity".

To sum up, progressive theories of individual liberty and moral subjectivity have led us to the position where someone will openly display their posterior in church, and be defended in doing so. Unless and until we can rediscover some respect for traditional social mores, and some belief in a transcendent, timeless morality that comes from our Christian heritage, we shall continue on our slouch towards Gommorah.

I leave you all with a further reflection from Burke: "The effect of liberty to individuals is that they may do what they please; we ought to see what it will please them to do, before we risk congratulations which may be soon be turned into complaints".

Posted by: Carwyn at August 3, 2007 7:48 AM

wow,

lots of comments. I can see both side as valid.

As a Lutheran christian what I am missing in the church context is well, Jesus... When I go to church I want to have all attention on Jesus. I dress to draw the least attention to myself. sometimes that is a suit. sometimes that actually is shorts and flipflops (I live in a tropical country!).

It also means some rather extreme tolerance for those who dress .. um... inappropriately. I WANT those people to be in church and hear that their sins (even their sartorial ones...) are forgiven.

frank

Posted by: f w sonnek at August 22, 2007 5:28 PM

A church, they say, is analogous to a hospital (that is, it's where we, with sullied heart and damaged soul, go to receive spiritual healing).

Hospitals (and churches) are for sick people.

Posted by: PJ at August 25, 2007 5:23 PM

who wants to go to church dressed like her grandmother or grandfather. im sure we all want to be comfortable in our own clothing!

Posted by: REFILWE at March 6, 2008 3:19 AM

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