I’m a bit funny about modesty.
I was having a conversation with my mother recently, in which she was talking about someone’s trouble with her teenage daughter and the boys she chased and the clothes she wore, and I made a comment about how my parents had been lucky with me. As a teen, I’d dated decent boys (wacky but respectful homosexuals, primarily), and worn modest clothes, and snuck around doing perfectly dreadful things, but at least I had the decency to sneak around. And sneak well.
You know, like a proper teenager.
She mostly agreed with my self-assessment.
I’m a massive fan of physical modesty. While I love leggings; tights; skinny jeans, you’d be hard-pressed to find a picture of me in skin-baring, skimpy clothing — even on Halloween. And even with my beloved tights, I’m still pretty covered up on the top half. I don’t like or wear tank-tops, for the most part, unless I’m running or working out — and even then, I immediately cover up once the activity is done. There exist only a handful of photos of me in a bathing suit, and the bulk of them were from my school swim team days or when I was younger than ten. There are a few from my trip to Australia over Christmas, I think, but I stripped them out of the public photo album when I sent it to friends and family.
And I have a confession to make: I judge you when you post to the internet pictures of yourself in your bathing suit. Whether that’s right, or fair, is not the issue. It’s a fact — I judge. I’m not talking about those pictures you’ve got posted of you, mostly covered up, facing the camera on the beach, or a photo of you holding your child in the sand. I’m talking about those showing-off-the-body, shirt off, bikini-on, beauty shots. I’m talking about those cheesy flexed muscle things, where the world sees more skin than your doctor usually does.
I’m talking about: I am not a serious person, look, I’ll prove it to you by putting a photo of me in the equivalent of my underpants right here on the World Wide Web.
I’m guessing you wouldn’t strip down to your skivvies in front of the people you work with, but yet, you frequently tweet photos of yourself in a bikini to your unlocked Twitter account. Why do you post them to the Facebook profile where you’re friends with some of your colleagues? Tell me how this makes sense. You’re aware that a two piece bathing suit is the rough equivalent of a bra and a pair of underpants, right?
And for the gents, same goes for those grotesque photos of you shirtless in your shorts. Er…swimsuits. Don’t post them to your public social media profiles!
I find myself cringing a lot during these summer months.
I now know, for instance, that certain people have belly button rings; tattoos; growths and anatomical abnormalities. I know who is losing weight; whose gained it; who has unexpectedly killer abs. And you know what? That sort of knowledge should be reserved for those individuals’ intimate partners — it is not the sort of thing that should be publicly shared. It’s not the sort of thing I want to know.
Unless you’re an Olympic swimmer, like my friend Anthony (of whom we are all monstrously proud, btw). In which case, you should absolutely be sharing photos of yourself in a swimsuit on Facebook, Twitter, etc., and sharing as many as possible. Why? Because it’s his career.
If “swimmer” is in your job title, then I suppose you should be bombarding the general public with photographs of yourself in a swimsuit. Or if your work is in fitness, and your job is to display “before” and “after photos, or something, then…fine. But if your title is “cashier,” “veterinary technician,” “associate attorney,” or “marketing director,” I think you should probably keep your clothes on.
Am I an American prude? Maybe. But wearing a bathing suit at the beach; the pool; in real time — all of the places where a bathing suit is appropriate — that’s perfectly normal and not at all immodest. Splashing pictures of yourself half-naked all over the internet seems more than a bit unnatural to me, and certainly not something I want to see.
It’s like wearing your underpants to work.