The Modesty Song

Over the years, the Exponent Retreat talent show has allowed me to channel my inner Weird Al.  Each year I pick a church song and rewrite the lyrics to something that’s been on my mind. Topics have included (but are not limited to): nursing, Diet Coke, friendship, casseroles, and lice. Irreverence is a must. This year’s theme came to me early and practically wrote itself. If you are Mormon and a woman, then modesty is a hot topic in 2012.

But this was not always so. I grew up in a house where wide strapped tank tops were fine. If a dress had spaghetti straps, that was frowned upon so one wore a corduroy blazer atop it (this was somehow okay in the 80s). My mom was in the BYU homecoming court in the 50s wearing a lovely dress that reveals collar bones and is certainly not garmentable (isn’t she gorgeous!).  I had no idea that ordinary, non-private-parts-flesh could be scandalous until I encountered women like my mother-in-law, twenty years my mom’s junior. Once my sister-in-law, who was about 6, caught her older brother and his girlfriend kissing. “Oooo!! You’re having SEX!” she shouted. Scott corrected her. They were simply making out, not having sex. Perplexed Sarah then asked, “So what is sex then? Is it showing shoulders?”  Nobody’s mad. Make your toddlers wear virtual garments, just don’t judge me if I put my wee ones in sundresses.

When something irritates me, I make fun of it. This year’s talent show offering, “The Modesty Song,” is my attempt to cope with a trend gone way too far. In your head hum the tune of “I’m Trying to Be Like Jesus” and picture a bunch of moms wearing ridiculously modest clothes. And one wedding dress.

I’m trying to be more modest
Making sure nothing shows.
Wearing shorts over swimsuits
And shades under all my clothes.
Bare Naked shoulders and uncovered knees
Tempt the priesthood you big fat sleaze–

Chorus:
So cover your body from neck down to shin
Showing off flesh is the original sin
Thighs and cleavage your spirits degrade
For we are the modest Brigade!

Please try to be more modest,
That shirt is way to low.
And cover up your wee ones sundresses they must go!
Tank tops and short shorts and shoulders galore,
Make us good girls want to call you a whore!

Chorus:
So cover your body from neck down to shin
Showing off flesh is the original sin
Thighs and cleavage your spirits degrade
For we are the modest Brigade!

I’m trying to help you be modest,
I’m trying to save your soul,
Forget the other commandments,
Modesty is the goal!
Sometimes I am tempted to just let you be
But how will you learn to be modest like me?

Chorus:
So cover your body from neck down to shin
Showing off flesh is the original sin
Thighs and cleavage your spirits degrade
For we are the modest Brigade!

 

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21 Responses

  1. Denise says:

    I’m so glad you posted a pic of your mom, and not of us singing the song! Love your musical genius Heather!

    • Libby says:

      Amen to that!

      • Wes says:

        You do realize that the BYU Photo Studio used a drape when they photographed the Homecoming Royalty? Everyone “wore” the same neckline for photos. The first Military Ball for the AFROTC was held at the Rainbow Rendezvous in Salt Lake City because Duke Ellington’s Orchestra was the band and lots of the BYU coeds, including my date, took advantage of the venue to wear strapless gowns. Things have gotten crazy through the years as far as “modesty” is concerned, not at all what was acceptable sixty years ago.

  2. KayG says:

    I want to see a picture of those singing the song! At lunch yesterday, Rachel described the aprons she made that were worn by some.

    This “modesty”fixation for children (as defined by not revealing shoulders) is nutty. Two piece swim suits were verboten for me growing up (50s, early 60s), but sleeveless dresses with scoop necks were the only way to go in Salt Lake summers. No-shoulders-showing has become an issue of peer pressure, it seems to me, with little girls (and teens) knowing if they go sleeveless to church, other children and moms will be openly or silently critical (Dads too, perhaps, or is it mostly women?). They go sleeveless at home, but not in church settings.

  3. Ziff says:

    Brilliant, Heather! I also love rewriting church songs. I really enjoy what you’ve done with this one. I only hope some do-gooder doesn’t come along and take it to use it seriously!

  4. EM says:

    I grew up in the 50/60’s and my sisters and me were not allowed to wear sleeveless anything, jeans or any other kind of pants, especially shorts, and dresses or skirts had to be 3 inches below the knees. My father definitely didn’t want any boys getting any ideas. I was probably 17 or 18 before I wore pants! My mother looked gorgeous in her strapless gown at the Golden Green Ball.
    My youngest daughter never came back to church after one of the bishop’s sons (16 yr. old) told her that she dressed immodestly for church – he did apologized to her 20 year too late though. IMO modesty is a good thing, but it can be taken to the extreme.

    • Heather says:

      I LOVE the image of strapless dresses at the Gold and Green Ball. We just need to pull back from the crazy.

      • Rachel says:

        The first stake center in Los Angeles was dedicated in the 1920’s or 30’s by President Grant, and has old black and white photos lining one hallway, including two at a ball. Or dinner. Many a back is showing. Or shoulders. I have maybe pointed them out to at least one person who is modesty-crazed.

  5. spiderlady says:

    *chortle, snort* I thought I was the only one who did this! Thanks, what a great song!

  6. EmilyCC says:

    I was with some friends last night and one of them had heard about Mormon moms calling toddlers in two pieces, “Tot-stitutes.” Doesn’t this seem like just what Jesus had in mind?–which is why I love the delicious irony of the song being set to “I’m Trying to Be Like Jesus.”

    Well done, my friend! On so many levels!

  7. motiondesmiths says:

    This is the perfect song to twist, and I’m sure you knew that when you chose it, but props. It really has become a case of Judge One Another rather than Love One Another.

  8. Annie B. says:

    That is a gorgeous picture of your mom! I have to admit, nothing in my life made me feel more like a sex object than being told that if I was not covered from x(shoulders) to y(knees) I would be sending inappropriate messages to boys. And no, being told my body is a *sacred* sex object did not make it any better.

    I like the principle of respect for our bodies and of other’s bodies, but the way I was taught modesty growing up was geared towards shielding men and boys from seeing my apparently hyper-sexual shoulders and lower thighs, often at the expense of my own comfort or preference. So essentially consideration for myself was overridden by consideration for those around me. Why can’t we just teach girls and boys that our bodies are made for a variety of wonderful purposes? I will definitely teach my girls that you don’t have to show skin to be attractive, neither does not covering it make you walking pornography; that is created in the mind of the beholder.

    • Ziff says:

      I have to admit, nothing in my life made me feel more like a sex object than being told that if I was not covered from x(shoulders) to y(knees) I would be sending inappropriate messages to boys. And no, being told my body is a *sacred* sex object did not make it any better.

      Well said, Annie! I think this is exactly the point fMhLisa was making in her wonderful post about modesty a few days ago: telling women they’re sexual so they must cover up isn’t that far from telling them they’re sexual so they should flaunt it.

  9. LG Andrews says:

    Thanks for posting the lyrics ~ it’s completely hilarious, except for the fact that this issue is completely NOT funny!

  10. M Dearest says:

    I found this so inspiring that I wrote another verse for the brethren. Sorry, I can’t resist playing at such brilliant sarcasm.

    We must try to help our brothers
    To put off the natural man.
    If we don’t constrain their libido,
    We’re not doing all we can.
    It’s all up to us to prevent them from fall
    And not expect they learn mastery at all!
    (Chorus)

  11. Judith says:

    It hurts my heart to know that you are re-writing LDS hymns. They are sacred. Although I don’t like your lyrics much, I respect that you need to get your feelings out. Use a pop song, anything, but, please, respectfully please, leave the church hymns alone.

  12. C says:

    “I’m Trying to be Like Jesus” isn’t in the hymn book. And just for fun, when I sing “I am a Child of God”, I change the lyrics to having been given parents “kind of weird” (which is true, and yes, I adore them!) 🙂

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