Wednesday, May 2, 2012

How Living in Korea Has Changed My Views and Practice of Modesty

I grew up in a very conservative Christian family and in a very conservative Christian school.  We were required to wear uniform skirts that came no higher than 2 inches above the knee, polo or oxford shirts that didn't show too much of our form, and, on special days, khaki pants that hid our curves.  My college was also conservative in its permissive attire.  All top straps needed to be 2 fingers wide and we couldn't shorts that had less than a 4" inseam.  Even after I had no dress code to follow, I felt vulnerable and exposed when I wore shorts and spaghetti straps.

Then I moved to Seoul.

My first month had me gaping at the girls' fashion choices.  Leg, leg, and more leg.  And leggy legs at that!  You'll have to look hard and long to find cleavage in this city (not that the girls here don't have boobs, but they just cover them completely), but high thighs and the occasional butt cheek are the norm, especially in the warmer months.

This is NO exaggeration.  In fact, I'd say reality is more extreme.
via ROKetship
The weird part is, I've started to get in on this. I bought the shortest skirt I'd ever owned last October.  I've only ever worn it with tights, but today I wore a similar skirt (one inch longer and no pleats) to school without leggings.  Dun dun dun!  I've worn tunics as dresses, and I recently purchased two more pairs of short-shorts.  What gives?

I'll tell you what gives. 

It's incredibly comfortable to have your legs free to breathe.

I immediately feel 10 times sexier in a skirt or shorts.

I feel more like I'm seizing the day. (Maybe I'm getting throwbacks to when the tree-climbing childhood adventure Lindsay lived in shorts.)

But, with the sexiness comes insecurity and uncertainty.
A few weeks ago, I was with some of my friends practicing our hip hop choreography.  It was getting hot, so I changed into the shorts I'd just bought.  Coming out of my changing room, though, I felt washed over with hesitation.  I called for my brothers and asked them if my shorts were too short, knowing that they'd tell me straight.  While they weren't booty shorts, these were the shortest things I'd worn in ages, but they said they were totally fine (and that I was being adorable).
Well, I've been given the Christian brother thumbs up, so I reckon I'm okay.

Even so, it all comes down to what I'm comfortable with.  My best friend/boyfriend has told me that he's never seen me come close to being risque and that I should feel free wear what I want.  Well, what I want is to feel covered.  What I want is to not have this constant worry that I'm showing too much skin.  I know that people are responsible for their own wandering eyes, but I cannot shake the feeling of responsibility for how I clothe my body.

In the mix of all this, I've been developing a new kind of relationship with my body, its curves, and its movement through hip hop class.  My brothers in there have been helping me deal with the fact that I've "got ass" by adding in their good natured and well timed humor.  (I swear it's not inappropriate.)  Honestly, without my friends' jokes and encouragements, I wouldn't be on this healthy journey I'm on now.  With their help, I'm learning that the shape of my body isn't dirty.  Just because it's womanly and beautiful does not mean that it is wrong.  The female figure is not only for the pornography cameras!  Furthermore, it's okay and good to have a female figure.  It was designed to be admired and it is inherently lovely!  It is not inappropriate, and it is not dirty.  Who knew!
(Bring on the celebratory body rolls!)

So, as I search for the truth and figure out my own stance, I'm very thankful to have the sandbox of Seoul to experiment in.  I have good brothers and sisters who love me and who love the Lord who are willing and eager to guide me in the right direction.  I'm living in a culture of modesty that is completely different from the one I grew up in which is letting me start fresh with my own ideas.  And, if I mess up I'll either be accepted into the too-short skirt group or brushed off as a foreigner who doesn't know what she's doing.  I can't do much wrong as long as I'm keeping my priorities in line (Jesus' glory first!) and then following them with my actions.  How cool is that?

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