Illustration by Denis Shifrin
Several years ago, I naively took my 7-year-old daughter with me to a garage to pick up our car. The mechanic's office was dominated by a large, glass-topped desk which revealed a picture of a naked woman lying seductively across its length. As I sat on the opposite side of this desk making out the check, my daughter innocently asked the mechanic, "Why do you have this picture of a naked lady on your desk?" Because I think she's beautiful," he replied. "But it's not tzanua (modest),” my daughter countered. "To me it is," the man answered glibly. My daughter said nothing, but when we went outside she said to me, "I don't care what he said; it's not tzanua and he knows it's not tzanua”.
A respected university professor I know wears long underwear in June. Disturbed by the mini-skirts, belly-shirts, bare midriffs and plunging necklines entering his classroom during warm-weather months, he turns on the air-conditioning at full blast. He tells his complaining, shivering co-eds, " So, wear a sweater. "
An uncle of mine, a physician, has a different problem. Used to examining female patients, he is not as disturbed at the sight of the low-cut undershirts entering his office as by the reaction the women have upon seeing that he's wearing a kippa. During the entire visit they're repeatedly pulling up their northern shoulder straps to diminish their southern exposure. Now that's distracting. At the hospital he admonishes his underdressed female colleagues, "You're going to give your patients a heart attack!"
Humor is a great friend! Wondering how in the world he was supposed to concentrate on his job while working with a buxom young woman whose skirts were shorter than boxer shorts and who was hired because she was very smart (really, really; that's the truth!), my poor friend—a happily married man of four, approached her with a smile. It was mid-winter. Observing the twin fruits of nature's bountiful blessings bursting from her very low-cut blouse, noticing how her hemline rose each time she (gasp!) bent over, he asked her, "Aren't you afraid of catching pneumonia?" She smiled and shook her head. "Frostbite, maybe?" he offered, hopefully.
Perhaps she should be cautioned by this limerick:
There once was a young nurse from Glenfolk,
Who tended to titillate menfolk,
She wore a tight sweater
To make them feel better,
But caused them to suffer their tenth stroke!
Better still, she should read the last verse from the 18th century satirical poem, "The Louse", by Scotland's National Poet, Robert Burns, which ends on a simple proverbial note:
"O wad some Pow'r the giftie gie us
To see oursels as others see us
It wad frae monie a blunder free us
An' foolish notion
What airs in dress an gait wad lea'e us
An' ev'n Devotion"
Which translates as
“Oh, that God would give us the very smallest of gifts
To be able to see ourselves as others see us.
It would save us from many mistakes and foolish thoughts.
We would change the way we look and gesture
And to how and what we apply our time and attention.”