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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

I Was You Once




You...the girl with the waist-length hair, long denim skirt, and downcast eyes. Trying on old clothes in a thrift store because new clothes are too "worldly" and "immodest". I was you once.

You...beautiful girl, hiding behind your walls; walls built to keep the evil world and influences out. Baggy, ugly clothes to hide your shape. Ashamed of the looks cast your way. I was you once.

You...standing there as your mom tells you that this dress or that skirt is unacceptable because it shows your budding womanly form which must be hidden at all costs because of it's danger. Blushing at the critique of your body, casting longing, furtive glances at the other girls your age in the next dressing room having the time of their lives trying on cute, stylish clothing. Wishing you could be them, just for a little while, just to know what it's like to feel normal. I was you once.

You...feeling like a freak show everywhere you go. Being ashamed of your feelings because you're supposed to be a freak show...a "pecular people". Different from "The World". More pleasing to God then the rest of them. Not foolish like those girls in the next dressing room. I was you once.

You...telling yourself that the way you dress is more godly, more pure, that you're better than other girls who dress like the world. Trying to convince yourself that you know better than they and God loves you more for dressing unattractively. Trying to stuff the pain that comes from being ashamed of your beauty and the evil it causes the poor men around you. Trying to tell yourself that this is your lot in life. Trying not to look longingly at the pretty things that you can never wear. Trying not to wonder what it would be like to feel cute for a change. Using pride as a wall to protect your hurting heart. And feeling guilty for it all. I was you once.

You...ashamed of your beauty, afraid of your shapliness, afraid of loosing your purity and taking some man's purity because you didn't dress modestly enough to keep him from noticing you. I was you once.

You...crying to God "why didn't you make me a man?!" because you hate being a woman and having to hide and look ridiculous. Longing for the freedom to dress without wondering if a guy is going to lust after you and if it'll be your fault or not. I was you once.

Anger, fear, shame, guilt, pride, helplessness, hopelessness, insecurity, and confusion, all hidden behind a shapless, ugly jumper and a heart shut off to keep from hurting. I know. I felt it once too.

You...do you know that you're beautiful and that God made you that way? Has anyone told you that being a woman is a wonderful thing, not something to be hidden or ashamed of? Do you know that God loves you for who you are, not for what you wear? Do you know that's it's OK to be pleased with being beautiful? That's it's OK to want to be attractive and desirable? Do you know that you are not responsible for the purity of the male race? That is a burden far too heavy for any woman to bear. I long to take your hand and tell you these things. But I am just a stranger in a thrift store.

You...I look into your eyes for the brief moment they meet mine, and I see so much pain. I hurt with you, the little girl inside that wants to be beautiful, noticed, and desired. The little girl that's been told all these things are evil and your heart is wicked for wanting them. The woman that feels ugly and thinks God wants it that way. And my heart breaks all over again.

You...God hears the cries of your heart. He wants to tell you you're beautiful, that He made you that way, that He's so very fond of you. That bondage to men's rules was never His idea. That nothing you wear or don't wear can make Him love you more or love you less. That, even if you are stuck in that bondage not of your own making for a time, your heart can be free from the lies that put you there.

Beautiful you. I was you once. Sometimes I still am. Because broken hearts can be hidden by both ugly and pretty clothes. And lies once embraced can be hard to let go of. So for just one moment in time, that moment you allow your heart to show through your eyes as you gaze at me, the stranger in the thrift store, let my smile tell you that you're beautiful. And that I understand. And I pray you get a glimpe of God's grace and His love for you in the eyes of a broken-hearted stranger.

64 comments:

  1. So beautiful. Next time, go up to her and hend her this note.

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  2. this is so sad. I grew up in a family that taught modesty, but nothing like this. Hiding any evidence of shapeliness and it being the GIRLS fault if a guy looks at her lustfully. I do believe in modesty, but that is just sad.

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  3. I cried writing it. Because every time I see the girl I was staring at me in a grocery or clothing store, all the feelings come back like it hasn't been 15 years since that girl was me. Every time.

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  4. I feel this way every time I see a girl in a long denim skirt with waist length hair in Walmart with her mother or at the museum with other girls and boys dressed the same. I remember too, and it makes me sad. Thanks for the beautiful piece. :-)

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  5. I was there once too. I thought that if I was good enough, God would make me beautiful despite the horrible, ugly clothes and the stringy hair and the bad skin...that somehow it was my fault that I couldn't be beautiful *in spite* of the ugly stuff I did to myself. But I wasn't.

    I won't even show my husband pictures of me during that time...it's too sad. I still struggle with beauty and what it means and what I should do (or not do) to attain it. I hate compliments because I don't know what to do with them (as a teenager, if someone complimented my clothes/earrings/whatever, I would go home, take it off, and never wear it again if I could help it).

    Anyway, thanks.

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  6. Beautiful post, Darcy. I wish I could share it with the girls I see in the stores that are as you described in this post. I wish I could share it with the 13-year-old Me.

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  7. So very poignant and heartwrenching.

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  8. Beautiful. Because I was there, I try to smile, wink and let those girls know they are still lovely and approachable. May our Lord protect their hearts and bring them to the knowledge and enjoyment of His grace and mercy.

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  9. Holy cow, that was good, Darcy.

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  10. I cried reading this... I was that way up until I was fifteen, everything changed last year but I'm still struggling with feeling beautiful, and trying to get over my shyness with men and guysmy age. I hate looking back at who I was... thankfully its different now, and will only get better.
    thank you for posting this.

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  11. I was that girl once, too. Thank you for writing this!

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  12. I was that girl. I realized today that I never wear a bag/purse across my chest. And that dates back to my dad telling me that it separates the breasts and draws attention to them. I was incredibly self-concious then, and it's still hard to shake it even now.

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  13. Darcy, that was an amazing post. I haven't been there, but I'll bet it'll be so helpful to girls who have been or still are. I hope a lot of them manage to see it.

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  14. this is beautiful.. thank you... us who understand.. this post means more than I could ever say.

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  15. I wish somehow the parents could truly understand that this is what they are doing to their daughters. And that it has nothing to do with God's will.

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  16. Thank you for the beautiful words. If only we were reading this then...

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  17. "Because broken hearts can be hidden by both ugly and pretty clothes. And lies once embraced can be hard to let go of."

    this is so true and so beautiful. you brought tears to my eyes.

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  18. Excellent post. I only wish those hurting could read it.

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  19. Beautifully said..interesting..a friend once said to me "Don't you think people who dress like that are trying to make their own statement"..Yes-they are..It's like..Hey world..we are not going to be like you.we want to stand out and say something..I have two daughters who dress modest but not frumpy.We were in ATI for a few years. There has to ba a balance to it all.So many people take it to the extreme.

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  20. Here's the thing: I'm all for people dressing however they want to. Really, I'm good with counter-cultural if that's a personal choice that you make. What I am against is the reasons behind so many conservative Christians dressing this way and the lies and bondage that is being placed on women in the movement.

    Looking different because you think it's more "godly"; dressing in such a way as to completely hide your femininity because of some erroneous view that it's women's jobs to keep the men pure; believing that stylish = "wordly" and sinful; the idea that our desire to be beautiful is "fleshly" and must be stomped out; raising daughters as sex objects, afraid of their own beauty....these are the lies that I will fight against in the hearts of women. I'm also against forcing daughters to dress this way, without giving thought to their own wishes, desires, hearts, and how it will effect their lives and their perception of themselves.

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  21. Wow, that was moving. I was one of those moms. Thankfully, I was "saved" from the "homlier than thou" idea and only one daughter was affected (and recovering). I feel so sad that I (and many others) were duped by this extreme nonsense. I am all for modesty, but my motto is balance. I try not to go to either extreme now.

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  22. Wow - this is beautiful. Thanks for sharing your heart with us.

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  23. This is so beautiful...I wrote down that last paragraph...thank you for sharing this!

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  24. I cried my eyes out when I read this because I was that girl once too. Just when I think I'm fine a new layer is shed and healing continues. I'm posting this on my Facebook.

    You are helping me, and I'm sure many others, heal from the hurt we've felt for many years. Thank you.

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  25. I was that girl, still am that woman most of the time, can't seem to shake the oppressiveness of it all,and I also cried when I read this post!It stabbed me in the heart. I have five daughters, and I refused to give them this burden!

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  26. wow! that is awesome!

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  27. Thank you so much for posting this! I know so many girls who feel this way!

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  28. Even though my parents weren't strict enough to require me to wear jumpers or skirts all the time, most of my clothes were too big and I hated it...but that was the "godly" way to dress. I feel for those girls too, when I see them places. I try to give them an extra smile, to let them know they are beautiful, and that I'm not so much an "ungodly" stranger to be feared after all.

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  29. I just made the connection between what we were taught about dressing modestly and the deep shame we were made to feel about being women. Wow. Yes, tears and sobs of pain, but also relief at knowing now that I bear the image of a creative, nurturing God who brings forth life.... I'm GLAD I'm a woman, and that I'm beautiful and desirable.... Thank you so much for your work. I've just discovered you through Recovering Grace and oh, man, it's good stuff. Love and light to you.

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  30. Thank you for your beautiful comment, Cheryl! :) I, too, am now so glad to be a woman. ;)

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  31. Thank you for writing this. This was me, all the girls I knew, and several that I went to school with who had "it" worse. I got to wear shorts.

    I wish you had been there two decades ago When my mother called me a whore for wanting to wear pants that fit. When I was beating my chest because my breasts were too noticable. Thank you for being here now.

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  32. Wow! So beautifully written, Darcy; so heart-breaking and yet so faithfully pointing toward freedom in Christ.

    I appreciated how you pointed out pride: yes, I did hide behind self-righteousness and pride because I felt I had nothing else. And yet God's Word expressly speaks about our need to be humble. There I was trying to follow man's laws and yet defying God's plan! What irony!

    I remember feeling angry that my parents always wanted me to "sit like a lady" if I was slouched comfortably in a chair reading yet I was not allowed to be "ladylike" with fashionable clothes or makeup. I was frustrated that I had all the burdens of being a lady without any of the benefits.

    Now I'm struggling with how to guide my 13 year old daughter; it's hard to know how to teach her to be God-honoring and yet free, modest but beautiful and confidant. She's already been criticized by a home-schooled friend for being "worldly" because of her cute t-shirt and jeans. I want her to be filled with joy at the life God has given her, not self-loathing and guilt.

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  33. I am male-to-female transgender, and I worship a different goddess than you do.

    I am willing to believe that I am beautiful, and that your god approves of me and loves me also.

    I don't know if that's a message that you want to send, but for now I just want to pretend. Because those are things that I needed to hear. So thank you.

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  34. Wow Darcy that was beautiful!

    I was that girl once and am just now coming to realize that I no longer need to hide.

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  35. Thank you for writing these posts, I was surrounded by homeschooling moms who taught this way and didnt want to teach my daughter these things,So I homeschool now with the school district where there are a mixture of people, Christian and nonchristian. she is a free spirit and I want her to remain that way. I come from a Latin culture and a conservative church where it was the woman's responsibility to not make a man stumble, thank God I rejected that idea then and do now! I do pray you can live free from the guilt ND shame put upon you and that others who desperately need to hear your voice will

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  36. I am so sad that this could still apply to me. I officially came out of patriarchy two years ago, but I am still dealing with the teachings of extreme modesty. I still struggle with extreme guilt and shame over clothing that most people (Christians included) would consider perfectly harmless. I am absolutely desperate to be free of this, but I don't know how.

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    1. Honestly? I think time is the best cure. You have to give yourself time to heal. Be patient with yourself. When you start to think and feel shame, don't let it stay, speak against it. You might feel ridiculous, but sometimes saying out loud "No! there is nothing wrong with this dress/pants/shirt! I am beautiful, and there is nothing shameful about that" is very helpful. But really in my own walk I've found time to be the best healer in this area. Surround yourself with other people who weren't raised like you were and will affirm you and help you heal. It's taken me years to get rid of all the shame from "modesty" teachings. Be kind to yourself. :)

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  37. This is fantastic. I didn't grow up ATI/IBLP, but still got a similar message about "modesty" from youth group and those crazy Harris/Ludy books. It's taken me a long time to realize that ALL the Scriptures used to justify crazy modesty standards were taken out of context. It was a real revelation when I discovered that when Jesus told the men that looking lustfully at a woman was like committing adultery, that he was ONLY TALKING TO THE MEN. He never said anything to the women about dressing differently. He placed responsibility directly on the MEN. It frustrates me that legalism takes the verse and tries to slingshot responsibility over to the women. Because of legalism, I still feel vaguely guilty when I wear a 2-piece bathing suit, shorts/skirts that are above the knee, or shirts with a neckline below the collarbone. It's definitely something I'm working on.

    Interestingly, my parents never pressured me to be "modest." As long as I was dressed appropriately for the occasion (i.e. no jeans to a wedding), they were fine with whatever I wore.

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  38. I'm just now learning about the subcultures that have so wounded you, Darcy, and so many others. My heart goes out to any girl or woman who has to live with such shaming and oppression. I guess I haven't lived in areas where there were that many people who think this way. I was raised pretty mainstream, jeans and all, and wore what I liked as a teen and a young adult. I only began to even think about the impression my body leaves on others when I became involved in an "opposite" subculture, Neopaganism. In this subculture, there is so much nudism and "free love" mentality which is supposed to be so freeing, yet there are always a certain minority of guys who ruin it because they treat gatherings as meat markets. These are guys whose gaze makes me want a shower. I pretty quickly quit going topless or nude at these events and began dressing in loose, flowing, comfortable clothing, partly to stay cool but mostly to keep the lewd eyes off of me. I even have some jumpers, a size or 2 too big! That said, I do wear the brightest possible colors, dye my hair rainbow shades, and drip large gaudy jewelry. My message is that I get seen on MY terms, not those others find attractive. I guess both ends of the spectrum can be oppressive, and the ways of escaping/fighting the oppression quite paradoxical.

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  39. What really makes a person beautiful is forgiveness. I feel terrible for your parents. One day you may find that your children publicly shame you for all of your mistakes. Yikes.

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    1. As a wise woman once said: “You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should've behaved better.” —Anne Lamott

      Also, you have a funny definition of "shame", and an even funnier definition of "forgive". You seem to think that one cannot possibly tell the truth about one's pain and still forgive those who inflicted it. I'm sorry for you. That's a terrible way to live, controlled by such a damaging and repressive false dichotomy.

      And if I ever hurt my children, I damn well will not pretend that their pain doesn't matter as much as my reputation. I am not afraid to own my wrong-doing and not afraid of my children telling others my mistakes.

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    2. Oh and my parents and I have a great relationship now. I doubt they'd want you or anyone to feel sorry for them.

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  40. The Home(in)steaders, can you clarify your statement? It appears you are telling Darcy that she is horrible for writing this piece and that her children will publicly shame her. Are you?

    I sure hope not.

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  41. Me too. I always see the girls I used to be, but there's nothing I can do for them except hope that they get the courage and support they need to run away from that!

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  42. This touched my heart and reminds me of the friends I know still living in this kind of life. It really grieves my heart because I've been there and I know how it feels! Thanks for writing this,

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  43. This was me...part of this still IS me...
    Thank you sooo much for writing this!

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  44. Thank you, thank you, thank you for your post.

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  45. I was almost that girl you were writing to...with a few major differences. I never knew how to wear those clothes the other girls wore - so I wasn't looking on with envy, I just sort of blocked it out. The damage to me was that it was a time of my life where I needed to learn how to find a style, embody it, and express myself visually. But instead, I had this modesty thing going on, and so I didn't have to learn any of that. Years later, when I threw off the patriarcy shackles, I didn't know HOW to combine clothing and make pretty work right. I didn't know how to do it. And I still couldn't figure out - what was normal clothing supposed to look like on me? I still kept buying everything a size too large... And, I'm still single, at 38 years old. Told myself the "right guy" would look past all that and love me anyway. Instead, all these amazing right guys kept passing me be. Some life realities are learned the hard, hard way. I really want children. I don't know if I will find anyone while I still have time - people aren't looking for 38 year olds to start families with. *sigh*

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  46. Darcy, thank you for this wonderful post.

    I am a guy, and even I have been affected by this doctrine of modesty – negatively, I might add. For years, I was ashamed of going to be beach because I would be seeing the “half-naked whores” on the beach, and it really bothered me. There were times where I’ve even tried to end my own life because of these teachings. God knows our hearts, our souls and our bodies. Our sexuality is not a bad thing, neither are our bodies. Our relationship with God is not affected by what we wear or don’t wear, God still loves us. The female body is not the problem with man’s lust, man’s heart is the problem, and it’s because of man’s sinful heart that we lust. Wanting to see a woman’s body is not lust, it’s a desire given by God. Liking the form of a woman’s body is not sinful, it’s something that God gave us also.

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  47. Daniel - I like what you said above. So true.

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  48. I prefer modest dress, but I suspect that what I consider modest would in no way be modest enough for Quivering-type folks. I was the only so-called 'secular' homeschooling mother in our group - I'll never forget the day I went to a social event at another homeschooling mom's house, wearing a long-sleeved white Oxford cloth shirt and decent ordinary blue jeans and paddock boots - the looks I got from all the women in shapeless calf-length jumpers with worn out turtlenecks AND sweatpants on underneath!! - I never went back. Those women may well prefer to dress like that, but do their daughters really have any choice in the matter? No. They really don't.

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  49. Thank you, Darcy, this made me cry because this is my story.

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  50. Thank you. I just found this today and it made me cry. I was a homeshcooling mom for 14 years and I dressed like 'that girl'. Now I am 60 years old and I dress to please myself and my husband. My old self would have been very judgmental of me.

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