Friday, July 25, 2008

The Fashionable Squeeze

Louisa May Alcott depicted a scene in “Little Women” that many of us understand very well indeed, the fashionable pressure to fit in, thus forsaking our integrity and compromising our faith.

Coming from an upright family of reduced circumstances, Meg March was both excited and anxious about attending Sally Moffat's Coming Out party.

In the afternoon as all the girls gathered in Sally's dressing room, Meg was patronized by the wealthy society girls for her unfashionable appearance and opinions, so when society sweetheart Belle Gardner declared that tonight Miss March should have as many conquests as she liked, Meg surrendered to being turned into a fashion plate.

At the ball, hometown chum Theodore Lawrence came upon Meg in her immodest gown and improper conduct.
"Miss March," he said at her shoulder, interrupting her flirting with a quartet of young men. "I thought your family were temperance people."
"Laurie!" she gulped, choking on her champagne.
She allowed him to take her arm and lead her to a quieter spot, fingering her pearl necklace to hide her naked bosom.
"Don’t cover up," he said. "There may be one or two gentlemen who haven’t seen all of your charms. I did promise Jo I would show you off."
Meg declared, "The girls dressed me up and I rather like it."
He murmured facetiously, "Well, it reveals a whole new Meg," and fingered the lace at her breast.
She brushed his hand off and ran out of the room.

Soon afterward, Laurie found a repentant Meg hiding in an alcove behind a curtain.
"Meg, I'm sorry," he whispered, holding the curtain aside.
"Please don't tell my family how I've behaved," she begged, dabbing at her scarlet lips with a handkerchief.
"Course not. If you won't tell anyone how I've behaved."
Meg explained with a break in her voice, "I was only playing a part, to see how it felt to BE Belle Gardner with four proposals and twenty pairs of gloves."
"You're worth ten of those other girls."
She tugged self-consciously at the revealing neckline of her dress and tried to rise, but the voluminous skirts made it difficult. Laurie assisted her.
"This ridiculous dress," she said. "I've been tripping over it all night."
"Tie some of it around your neck," he suggested, "where it can do you some good."

The next night Meg sprawled on her bed with her mother and sister, reviewing her adventure.
"Why should anyone care what those people think?" said the staunch and original Jo as Marmee braided her hair.
"I do," confessed Meg. "It's nice to be praised and admired. I couldn't help but like it."
"Of course not," said Marmee. She turned from Jo to look into her eldest daughter's eyes. "I only care what you think of yourself. If you feel your value lies in merely being decorative, I fear that someday you might find yourself believing that's all you really are. Time erodes all such beauty. But what it cannot diminish is the wonderful workings of your mind, your humour, your kindness, and your moral courage. These are the things I cherish so in you."

Mamas, sisters, mentors, and friends:
please, please remind us of this often!

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...