Commentary: Modesty

By Louis A. Zona

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Whatever happened to modesty?

As a big prude myself, I might be able to come up with an explanation, maybe two, as to where modesty vanished.

So, what makes me an expert on the subject? I get embarrassed even if I happen upon female underwear ads in the local newspaper.

My mother, rest her soul, was the expert in determining a lack of modesty even in the earliest days of television advertising.

God forbid that Mom would have stayed in the room if my dad or brother happened to be watching a television ad about women’s pajamas or worse yet, bikinis.

My mother and the advent of the bikini ad on television was a time in the Zona residence that I refer to as the “great awkwardness.” Mom saw the bikini as the beginning of the end of modesty and a disgusting display of public nudity that would eventually lead to the fall of the American way of life.

Eventually she became accustomed to seeing television programs sponsored by Hanes underwear and an assortment of bra manufacturers. We made it easy on Mom by just leaving the room for a glass of water whenever a questionable topic appeared on the tube.

One can only imagine what Mom’s reaction would have been to the appearance of the thong bathing suit. Holy cow!

Knowing my mother as I did, I can say with no uncertainty Mom would have thrown her shoe at the TV set had she seen women walking around in apparel that is a simple string running up the rear.

Let’s just say that modesty flew out the window with the first appearance of the thong. One thing is for certain: Mom would have said, “Her whole rear end is out for all to behold.” 

Today as I watch television programs sponsored by companies that advertise medications for male urinary problems or one that Mom would have used a large soup spoon to smash the TV set, where in a treatment for Peronei’s disease (male dysfunction) the advertiser uses a crooked carrot.

I cannot even begin to imagine Mom’s reaction to the Peronei’s disease carrots used. Before Mom died, she came to realize that Americans tolerated more than she could.

I recall her commenting on the female dancers on one of the variety shows by telling us to “cover her rear end since it is sticking out.” We’ve laughed about that for many years!

So realizing that Mom had issues relating to a general lack of modesty in America, it is no wonder that I have turned out the way that I have.

One of my personal issues on this topic seems to occur every Saturday afternoon in the summertime at our local big-box store.

Now, I really don’t care how people dress when they go out in public. But, have you paid any attention to how customers clothe themselves before they embark on an afternoon of shopping?

We have all pushed our shopping cart behind that of a rather sizable woman and are surprised to see more than what we bargained for.

Last summer, one fellow let it all hang out – to the dismay of a family clearly offended by his display of extra skin (and shall I say it?) more blubber than I’ve seen in sometime.

Let’s not forget the folks who decide to wear tight-fitting, often transparent clothing in public. Not much is left to the imagination.

Hollywood now is into full nudity in some scenes of the more popular movies.

Here I am again, maybe becoming my mother. When I see a gratuitous scene in a movie that serves only to earn an R (used to be X) rating. I think back to classic films that imply sex and nudity but have neither.

I think back to Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert in “It Happened One Night.” An attractive man and a beautiful woman find themselves having to spend the night in a hotel:  no nudity, no sexuality, nor was even a hint of hanky-panky needed to tell the story.

Today there would be scenes that would curl the hair of most moviegoers. Nudity and sex clearly were not needed to advance the story in this 1930s Academy Award-winning film.

However, none of us is perfect and definitely not I when it comes to the topic of modesty in the good ole USA. But, the reality is that that most people should cover up. I mean the complete blocking of body parts when they appear in public. Frankly, no one wants to see an exposed belly button in the grocery store. It is enough to cause what my neighbor used to refer to as a conniption.

In recalling a discussion that I heard on the radio about beaches in the United States, one speaker mentioned nude beeches in New Jersey. I thought nude beaches. Heck, it’s winter and a day on the sand is the last place that I would want to spend any time.

Again, I thought of my dear mother and what she would have thought about this very embarrassing topic.

We both know the answer.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.