One of my most favorite things about leaving Mormonism is wearing sleeveless shirts. That may sound completely ridiculous to some people, but sometimes it’s the smallest things that make the biggest difference. I decided to title my blog ‘Sleeveless Shirts’ because it means so much more to me than that.
I have always been pretty fit looking. My entire life I’ve always seemed to have some type of cut to my muscles. I have always struggled with image problems, but I’ve also always known that my body looks pretty good. I’ve gained some weight over time, but for the most part, I still look pretty athletic.
If you know anything about the Mormon church, you know we’re taught pretty early to be modest. A common phrase as a young teen you hear is ‘Modest girls are the hottest girls’. Which promotes a positive connotation about modesty. The quote in the For Strength of Youth Pamphlet that is distributed to all youth of the church states the following : “Young women should avoid short shorts and short skirts, shirts that do not cover the stomach, and clothing that does not cover the shoulders or is low-cut in the front or the back”. Of course, all parents want their children to look presentable and don’t want the girls looking like they came straight from the street corner. This is completely understandable. That being said, one thing I have always wished didn’t apply, was having to wear shirts with sleeves. All of this can be disputed by the Church by saying you don’t HAVE to. You have a choice. It’s not AS big of a deal when you wear sleeveless shirt when you’re young in the church, but.. you’ll probably get talked to by a youth leader or even the bishop about appropriate attire. But, there is a point when you HAVE to wear sleeves.
Later when you go through the endowment ceremony after going through the temple the first time, you are given a pair of garments. They have to be worn AT ALL TIMES. They are essential to you going to the highest degree of Heaven. These garments also have sleeves, and are to be completely covered by your regular clothing. Also, the leg part to the garments is pretty close to your knee, and finding a pair of shorts that covered them, and also trying to look half way cute, is a hard task. So by this point, you pretty much make a promise to God that you will have this much clothing on at all times because you HAVE to wear your garments at all times. I will discuss more about the temple and the garments in a later post.
So, what does that matter? Why is it a big deal if you can’t wear sleeveless shirts? Well, because I want to wear sleeveless shirts! I like my arms! I want to wear shorts that don’t go to my knee caps. I want to show off that I am fit. I want to show that I am confident about the way my body looks. I don’t want to cover up in the hot Louisiana Summer. I want to wear short shorts and a tank top and go out and enjoy the fresh air. I could not stand wearing garments. I hated wearing them, I hated being asked about them, I hated if a non Mormon friend accidently saw them. Yes, I was embarrassed of them.
Before I actually stopped going to church, I finally stopped wearing garments. I didn’t feel any different. The garments meant nothing to me. As I was finally giving up on the church last year, I met a group of girls at work, and we went to a lot of social events. These girls became my best friends. We did all sorts of things together. As time passed, they started helping me dress for different outings we went on. Some of the dresses were sleeveless, lower cut, tighter, shorter in length. I was hesitant at first and would sometimes find a less revealing dress. Eventually I started just going with what they told me to put on. When we would go out, I would actually get some type of attention from men. I didn’t need the attention because I was married at the time, but it made me feel good that I was being looked at. Some people could argue because men could see my body, but I didn’t care about any of that. I felt pretty, hot, and even sexy! I liked the way I looked, and I liked that other people responded.
Now, I’m not big on dressing up. I am your typical jeans and a t-shirt kind of girl. But in the Summer time, I would wear a t-shirt and basketball shorts. I love the way long basketball shorts felt, but sometimes I wanted to wear shorts that made me look feminine. Last Summer I started wearing those shorts, and they look good on me! It means nothing to other girls I associate with because they don’t realize how I grew up, but it is so liberating to wear those short shorts!! My absolute favorite though, is wearing sleeveless shirts or tank tops. My arms are nice, and I have slightly cut shoulders. I feel my most comfortable in an athletic type tank top. I feel confident like that. I love the way it feels and I love my arms being free!
I know this all sounds so superficial. I know it sounds like, what does this have to do with the Mormon church being true? It’s so much deeper to me though. When I wear a sleeveless shirt, I feel like myself. I feel like I made the decision to wear this clothing, and no one else is telling me what to wear anymore. There’s not a set principle that applies to me anymore set by a bunch of old men I don’t even know telling me what I can and cannot wear. I wear what I want, and I’m showing my arms because I can. Because It’s okay. I’m not going to “hell” for being confident in the fact my body is fit and I want to show it off! Mostly, because there is not this heavy cloud hanging over me anymore based on the fear of what the Church will do if I disobey one of the rules. It’s my outward stance for getting myself back. I own my body, I own myself again. It’s such a wonderful feeling, and every time I put on that tank top.. It’s a reminder of overcoming the pull and the fear of not living a Mormon life. My life is not dictated by what a bunch of men write down on a piece of paper and set for me. I make all my decisions now, and I like sleeveless shirts.