Monday, October 25, 2010

Confessions of a Prude

I was reminded this weekend of something I've been trying to reject and repress. When describing our differences to a friend of her's, my sister referred to the two of us as "a prude and a rebel". Guess which one I was? It's not the first time I've heard that.

My schema of a "prude" is someone who is intolerant, uptight, judgmental and self-righteous. I have matched that description somewhat before... But whatever happened to growth, progress, and the Atonement? Even if I have trace characteristics of that remaining, that is hardly how I define myself. I seldom even think about prudishness anymore, except when other people bring it up... And then I feel lame and defensive: not pleasant feelings.

It's true that I hold high standards for myself. However, I don't judge people based on whether they meet my personal standards or not... That's not fair to them, and it's just wrong. What I've tried to focus on (because I've had problems historically with being judgmental) is loving people. You can love someone even if you don't agree with them - family relationships can be a good example of that, where a sibling drives you up a wall most of the time, but the instant they're threatened, you're on the move defending your brother or sister. Getting better at loving people has been a great blessing in my life. You make a lot more friends that way, and social interactions are significantly more pleasant. There's so much more to a person than what you perceive (sometimes erroneously) on the surface. And even if people have messed up, that's not your place to decide - your job is to love them and be supportive of (and believe in) their best self. We all make mistakes all the time; none of us have an accurate-enough perspective, even of ourselves, to judge fairly and mercifully. That's why I'm so glad that Christ is our Judge.

It's good to have high standards that you live up to, but another facet of prudishness is that those standards are often hyperbolic. One example could be the opinion that "body contact in dancing is sinful." Now, I agree that some types of body contact while dancing are bad and to be avoided; it's not hard to see dancing like that in music videos or at high school dances. But other kinds of body connection could involve just as much per-square-inch of physical contact and yet be perfectly fine, in my book. I've found, in salsa and standard ballroom dance, that having a solid body connection with your partner makes you move better - individually and as a partnership - and I don't think that's sinful. The difference for me comes from motivation: whereas the inappropriately-close dancing I saw in high school was based on gratifying selfish desires, the close dancing I participate in now is a functional proximity to facilitate an art. I do check my thoughts while I am dancing to make sure I'm not straying in my motivation, because that's my choice. I don't think that anyone is going to hell for what I perceive as "dirty dancing", and that's not my call to make, so I make standards for my own behavior and worry about holding myself to them. That said, I do believe in universal morals, and I think that those have been pretty well defined by the proper authorities. It basically comes down to the fact that I am not responsible for judging anyone besides myself. It can be a tricky line to walk and balance sometimes (because some degree of judgment is required to stay away from bad situations), but for now, I just need to worry about keeping myself in line with what I know.

So, my reaction when people label me as a prude is to think "I'm not that bad! Stop assuming things about me! Do you really know who I am? Do you know how hard I've tried to combat that and how much progress I've made?" Hanging onto and reminding people of their weaknesses isn't very nice or charitable. If you believe in the Atonement of Jesus Christ, you believe in the power to change. People have called me a prude for years... In fact, written in (I believe) my high school sophomore yearbook is the inscription "You're a prude... but in a good way." But over the years, I've been working on it! I really think I am a loving and accepting person now. I'm not perfect yet by any means, but love is my focus, and it's becoming a marked factor of who I am. It's how I want to define myself. "Becoming" is a process, and the improvements I've had haven't come overnight. So I'm going to keep working at it.

Making generalizations and issuing stereotypes isn't very healthy, and again - it isn't very accurate. Because you know what? Even if I come across as a prude... the truth is that when I think about some of the people I care the most about, I don't feel good enough for them. Prudes should never have cause to think that way of themselves, right? Because they're self-assured moral overachievers. Got it...

Just don't stereotype people. Please. We're all three-dimensional people trying to get along in life, cope, and be happy. Let's try to support each other.

(Note: This is not at all a rant against my sister - she just happened to be the most recent person to open a can of worms that has been stewing in my head for a long time. Yum.)


  1. You tell'em Katie!!!!! You and I couldn't be anymore different when it comes to many issues. But never have I thought you were a prude! You don't pass judgement on anyone otherwise, you and I wouldn't have ever become friends. So screw anyone who has ever called you a Prude because you have your own sense of moral obligations.

  2. Hey if it makes you feel better, I have never thought of you as a prude (but I have only known you for a couple months.)


  3. Geez, what happened to the hypolic extremes aspect we clarified in the description?
    And if it makes you feel any better you have actually improved over the years--I've seen it.
    And I have a lengthy opinion about your (and others) use of the term "Hell"-- ask me about it another time.
    AND lastly: prude. n. a person who affects or shows an excessively modest, prim, or proper attitude, esp regarding sex
    from French, from prudefemme, from Old French prode femme respectable woman

    Just sayin'

  4. I totally looked up that definition too. Actually, you might be surprised how comfortable I am talking about sex; I keep a reverent and mature attitude about it though, so it doesn't come up much in conversation.
    Thank you for conceding my improvement ;)
    Haha, I'll have to ask you about hell. I'm interested to hear your opinion.