Mormon Marriage Ref: Bikinis, Garments, & Facebook

AdamFCulture, diversity, Humor, marriage, Mormon, patriarchy, sexuality, women 34 Comments

WARNING: Sophisticated readers have described The Mormon Marriage Ref as a painfully artificial and repellent reality TV way of solving arguments, as using incredibly silly black and white binary thinking, and as sorely lacking in nuance. Read at your own risk!

Here’s the situation:

Matt and Sarah are a young couple living in Las Vegas. They are very physically active, and put a high priority on health and exercise. They love the warm weather and their big neighborhood pool. They originally met in Germany (Sarah is German, and speaks fluent English) while Matt was on his mission. Matt went back to Germany later on to study abroad, and after a brief courtship he proposed. They eventually ended up in Las Vegas where Matt is getting an MBA and Sarah is a personal trainer. They get along pretty well overall, but have had an ongoing debate about modesty. Sarah thinks Matt is too lax about wearing his garments. She doesn’t like Matt wearing his running shorts to the grocery store, or leaving his shirt off to wash the car. Matt doesn’t like Sarah wearing a bikini at the neighborhood pool, or on family vacations, or on facebook. Vegas summers are just sooooooo hot, right?

Let’s listen in on a recent debate…

Sarah: “I get that you don’t like to change at the gym, but why do you wait sooooo long to change after you come home? There’s always one more smoothie to grab, a car to wash, and errand to run. You end up never putting your garments back on until the end of the day. That doesn’t jive with what I learned at the temple, and I don’t see how you can have a recommend, Elder.”

Matt: [Laughing] “Oh no! I better give up my recommend! Chillax. Really though, after I workout I don’t like changing again until I’ve taken a shower, and I need to stop sweating first. It’s not exactly cool here. If God’s okay with me taking off my garments to workout, I’m sure he won’t mind if I wash the car.”

Sarah: “Heh, fine. I don’t think we’re ever going to agree on this, because I’m right and you’re stubborn. Why did I marry you again?” [playfully smirking]

Matt: “You’re hot!” [Sarah roles her eyes] “KIDDING!”

Sarah: [Scoffs] You’re digging yourself into a hole here buddy…”

Later on that day…

Matt: “I just don’t know how I feel about our photos on the beach in Maui ending up on your facebook–which you spend WAY too much time doing, by the way. Anyway, do you really want the Elder’s Quorum President or some other ward member to see you in a bikini when they check facebook? I don’t even want to know what they’re thinking.”

Sarah: “Okay, wow, so it’s my responsibility to control their thoughts? I have already had to adjust to the culture here… and what’s with the facebook dig, Mr. World of WarCraft? Anyway, that’s not the issue here. Americans are kind of ashamed of their bodies. They could use a little liberation. Gosh that sounds weird considering we live in Vegas.”

Matt: “Exactly! Are we living the Lord’s standards or the world’s? Women shouldn’t wear immodest swimsuits. What kind of message are you sending to the Young Women?”

Sarah: “So, YOU’RE the one who decides what is or is not modest? This is SUCH a cultural issue. In some places an ankle is immodest. And why is my belly button less modest than yours?”

Matt: “Standards for what we wear is NOT a cultural issue.”

Sarah: “We shouldn’t try to cram Utah Mormon Culture down the throats of all the other cultures of the world. People can still be faithful and have different cultures. Stop trying to force me to live according to your sexist standards… PLEASE tell me why my navel is more offensive than yours! You don’t have an argument, really.  YOU are also often breaking something that is very much indeed universal with not wearing your garments a lot of the time. Who cares about what other people are thinking about what we wear. What matters is what we think and what God thinks, and you’re in the wrong here.”

Make the call! Who wins this argument?

[poll id=”181″]

Granted, no one really wins, so how can a couple like this come to an understanding, or acceptance?

Comments 34

  1. There needs to be a third option: They are both right and both wrong. Until Matt is wearing garments diligently, he doesn’t have much of a leg to stand on when talking about bikini’s. Sarah doesn’t have much of a leg to stand on if she is posting pictures on the website. It makes little sense to say I right about this, but that other thing you bring up is not important.

    I don’t think there are many marriage issues where someone wins outright and someone loses. They work to understand each other and build their relationship and trust together, or they take sides and try to “win” which will end up losing love and support.

  2. Is Matt wearing his garments for at least some quantity of time both day and night? Then he’s wearing them “diligently,” and his wife needs to relax, say three Hail Marys as penance, and cook him up a nice batch of rouladen und spatzle.

    As for the bikini, I suggest the pictures stay off Facebook. Wagging tongues &c.

  3. They’re both wrong in their actions. IMO, garments should always be worn except for the “Three S’s”- sports, shower, and sex. Sunbathing and mugging for the camera is not a sport and neither is washing the car, mowing the lawn or any other of those “hot” chores. Comfortable? Not always, especially not in Las Vegas, but that’s not the issue.

    Just a black and white issue for me.

  4. Maybe they should compromise. Matt should take a picture of his belly button and put it on facebook, and Sarah should wear garments while in a bikini?

  5. I agree with AdamF – repellent – and lots of it — on both Matt and Sarah, the writers of this show, and whoever was responsible for teaching any one of them that letter of the law is more worthy of argument and bickering than is the spirit.

  6. Post

    “I don’t think there are many marriage issues where someone wins outright and someone loses.”

    I completely agree, and would add that a lot of the time, they both lose.

  7. Post
  8. Standards for what we wear is NOT a cultural issue. — Burkas anyone”

    It is a completely cultural one.

    Consider Moroni, who work a simple robe, without anything underneath or that tightly closed. That would get you arrested here.

    I need to post my quasi-satire “style of our own” essay.

  9. I also agree with a 3rd option: they are both partially right. These are very much cultural issues. The “modest” one-piece swimming suits that anyone might wear to a Church activity today would be shockingly immodest to a saint in the early 1900’s, when they went to wrists and ankles. I have seen one-pieces that are much less modest than some bikinis. And in Europe, where I served my mission, after you get past the initial novelty from being raised in America (which takes a couple of minutes), topless is just as fine as well. It’s all cultural.

    With garments, people are similarly hung-up on things. They first went to ankles and wrists. They have literally cut feet off the length of garments. Some people got hung up when they went to two piece. I still think they are a great burden on women. Some people get hung up on the cap sleeve. Why not get rid of that and make a camisole top? The marks would still be in the right place, and it would only require removing 2-3 more inches, after the 24 inches that have already been removed from each sleeve. But to some people, showing a shoulder would be immodest – again, a cultural hangup. I’m sure if early saints saw the garments today and what they revealed, they would also be shocked.

    So what on bikinis? So what on Matt running a few errands after working out? It’s all nit-picky stuff. It is between each person and God, and each person is going to have a different interpretation of what is “right”.

  10. What a bizarre argument. Each is trying to apply a double standard to the other. I think they should jointly decide either to loosen up or tighten up. Either he can wash the car without his shirt and she can wear her bikini, or he puts his garments back on and she doesn’t wear the bikini. They should compromise in the same direction.

  11. I need to see Sarah’s bikini pictures before I can decide. I also think that modesty (bikini) is a different argument than wearing garments. I think their purpose is more a constant reminder of covenants than whether your kneecap or shoulder is showing.

    #3 – I’d speculate that any three S’s standard would fall into some well meaning person’s personal doctrine, not backed up by any actual scripture or temple ordinance. Do sports have to include a ball? What about mountain biking? Hiking? Power walking? Competitive lawn mowing?

  12. Moroni wore a simple robe in vision form. Doubt he wore one in the MesoAmerican lowlands. 😀

    Otherwise, on the subject of this particular post, since we don’t have garment requirements, I’ll just quote Mr. Spock: “Fascinating.”

  13. I agree with Kevin B, so I couldn’t really vote – they are both applying a double standard. How long he takes to change back into G’s is his choice. Whether she wears a bikini is hers. Easiest call ever, IMO. And yet, it would seem that some feel they are both in the wrong. I think if we’re talking about marriage, you have to respect personal choices. And frankly, they are both making fairly similar choices, IMO – it’s just that they are judging each other instead of being glad for the common ground they have.

  14. I guess I’m not very sophisticated, but I love this. The whole thing. I wear bikinis. And sometimes I clean the house in my workout clothes. And yeah, let this couple have a few kids and I’m guessing they’ll both chillax. Or not. Maybe they’ll be the kind of parents who make their 3 year old wear clothes that would cover garments. Not that there’s anything wrong with that…or is there? Let’s vote!

  15. German chicks…. I know about them… anyways sometimes I work on my car in the nude so I guess I don’t really have an opinion on this?

  16. They both lose for trying to assert control over the other person’s standards, particularly on a point of minutia. I think it is okay to express an opinion about it, but it is not okay to feel like you need to “win” on something like this. Get over yourself.

  17. I dont think anything is black and white. What about people who are bedridden or in the hospital and can’t wear their top or bottom, or both? And if the reason you don’t have to wear garments during sports is because of the sweating aspect (which is what I’ve always heard) then why can’t you take the off to wash the car? Sunbathing isn’t a sport, but it is part of swimming. I think the point is that your swimsuit doesnt have to be modest by garment standards. Not that if you aren’t actually swimming you shouldn’t put on a swimsuit.

  18. FWIW, I think the counsel we’re given regarding garments is that we should wear them except for activities in which the garment may not reasonably be worn beneath the clothing. That counsel (and I’m paraphrasing) is available each time we receive a TR interview.

  19. This is a sore spot for me. I’ve been given grief by my bishop (I miss the old one, he was my age and cool) about wearing the “G”s too. Being a gym rat, but actually shy (I’m told I look GOOD “nekkid”, but no one else has seen me in less than swim trunks) about changing in the locker room, I prefer to do so at home (or the office) where I have privacy. So, members of my ward, with apparently nothing better to do than fink on yours truly, report back that they saw me driving (to the gym) wearing a tank top OR at Walgreen’s (the local one has Rockstar’s always at 2/$3.00, so I often stop off to get some “hooch”). Suffice it that I refuse to change my habits for fear that someone will see “Brudder Doug” brandishing the “guns” and have their testimony shaken!
    As for wearing the “G”s day and night…certainly all day, even when wearing “Level A” or “Level B” PPE (they actually help keep the Tyveks from chafing), or when in office attire. As for at night…why wear ANYTHING? (wink)…after all, men (and women) are, that they might have joy!!
    Probably less than ten percent of the sisters would have any business wearing a bikini, modesty notwithstanding. And probably an even smaller percentage of brethren should consider a Speedo.

  20. Doug – I can’t believe anyone’s life is so dull that they have to go all Gladys Kravitz on yo’ a$$. There’s something no self-respecting rapper ever said.

  21. Doug, people “report back” on what you’re wearing for underwear? Really? I’m sorry for them that they are that anxious about it…

    Re: the gym – I always change at home. I heard a talk once about not showing your garments to people who would not respect or understand them, and no offense to all our non-mormon gym-rat readers, but I don’t expect them to have respect or understand. 😉

    SilverRain – I agree with you, in the sense that I believe I should not look for excuses to change out of them – it’s my heart and my thoughts and my intentions that count, I think. Getting caught up in which specific rules are right causes me to lose sight of what they’re really for.

  22. Doug:

    Seeing as how the garments serve as a medium of protection, it should be less incumbent upon you to wear them unceasingly, given that you’ve always got your “guns”. You should point that out next time someone tries to “…go all Gladys Kravitz on yo’ a$$”.

  23. Goin’ “Gladys Kravitz” on my a$$ ?? Gotta share that one with my sis whom I’m meet up with in a while…she’s a big time “Bewitched” fan! Better than having Marsellus Wallace call some pipe-hitting “N-words” and threaten to get “medevial” on my hiney!
    I don’t buy the notion that garments are some sort of armor, rather, wearing them is a reminder of sacred covenants, and THAT is what gives the “protection”…ergo, Dumbo had his “magic feather”, etc…
    I’m just frustrated at times that folks have nothing better to do than to worry about whether I’m “in uniform” for a ten-minute drive each way or not. The same kind that think that you have to make whoopie with them on (but only for procreation, of course!), after all, that’s what the holes are for…
    As for non-members curious about my “strange undies”…”Gee, Fella, I didn’t know ya cared!” (Ala Bugs Bunny).
    My G-wearing habits are a matter of practicality, not necessarily looking for an excuse not to wear them. yes, I may have the “guns”, but I also have rather hideous scars. If conditions warrant, I wear “Hammer pants” to my Pilates class so my class mates aren’t put off by my scarred legs.

  24. I actually once knew a woman who wore her garments under her bikini.

    I believe in their own yard around each other, the whole shirtless and in bikini is okay. However, doing either in public, I feel is wrong. I also believe that so long as he is shirtless in public, he has no right to complain about her bikini. Likewise as long as she is wearing a bikini, she has no right to complain about him being shirtless. They are both doing the same thing! They are both dressing “immodest” while telling the other not to! Either they both continue to dress immodestly and stop complaining, or they both take each others advice and stop dressing in a way that “offends” the other.

    As for the heat? I wear full kimono all year round – for those who don’t know what “full kimono” means; I wear my undies, over which I wear my full length “slip” (a kimono slip is different from an American slip, but it serves the same purpose, only it is long sleeved and goes to the floor.), over which I wear the “lower most” kimono, followed by the “inner” kimono, than the “outer” kimono, than the obi (belt) than the final kimono which is like a floor length coat worn over the rest. There is never less than four layers and often six or seven layers. And this, is just my summer kimono for wearing on the beach during our heat waves. My regular kimono and winter kimono have many more layers.

    And no, I’m not Japanese and I don’t live in Japan, but I personally believe that a kimono is the most modest thing a woman can wear – it literally covers every inch of you, except for your face – not even your hands or feet can be seen when it’s worn correctly.

    As for wither on not to wear the garments? That is a personal choice, which no one has the right to force on you or tell you not to do either. You can remain modest without wear your garments. I have seen non-members who don’t even know about garments, who dress more modestly than many of my own Ward’s members who refuse to wear garments. So, even being a member does not necessarily make a person better than say, a non member who lives the gospel without even knowing they are doing so! It all comes down to personal choice: do you want to obey God’s commandments or not? Not one can force you to obey. No one can force you to disobey.

    I will add here though, that I also believe that saving a marriage is more important than the cloths you wear, garments or otherwise, and if the couple is fighting over the garments, than maybe it is better for neither husband or wife to wear them, and focus on saving their marriage instead? Chances are good, that it’s not really the garments that are the issue, and that there is a biggest problem rooted in their argument, that is surfacing in silly little things, like what to wear. If they can focus instead on the real problem and get past it, they will most likely find that the little things, like arguing about garments, will disappear.

  25. “as long as she is wearing a bikini, she has no right to complain about him being shirtless. They are both doing the same thing!”

    Actually, she would be wearing MORE than him in this case, haha…

  26. Thanks Steve, you are too kind. Also, you’re not allowed to slam someone that is already self-depricating. It’s not creative, and it renders their defenses useless. 😉

  27. Maybe I’m rushing to Adam’s defense here, which I’m sure he doesn’t need, but in defense of the OP and ensuing discussion, here’s what I find interesting. This is about a (fake, but possibly realistic) marital spat in a Mormon marriage. There were some who felt the marriage was what was important. There were others who wanted to determine which spouse was correct from a “Mormon standards” perspective. There’s an interesting phenomenon among Mormon couples that Mormonism becomes a third partner in the marriage. That’s fascinating I think. I’m sure that’s the case in any marriage where both entered the relationship from a devout position in a shared religion. But I’m not sure that among the good, better, best that it’s best. I rather think it can cause a lot of control issues in a marriage. And control is anathema to marital success.

  28. Hawk – I like support, cause I’m a softy really… hence my career choice, lol.

    “Mormonism becomes a third partner in the marriage”
    I totally agree with this, and I think it happens in probably most relatively devout members’ relationships. How many times have we seen or been told about the triangle marriage, with God and the two spouses joined together. This can work for better or for worse, the problems arising when they disagree in negative and blaming ways on each others’ views of God and the church.

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