Friday, August 13, 2010


I just came home from my chiropractic massage appointment and as I was there, I was thinking a lot about the notion of modesty.

I was raised in the South. I was raised to be modest. In fact, I never saw my dad in his underwear as a child. I only knew what they looked like because I folded laundry as a chore. In my family, we closed doors when we were changing clothes. We closed doors when we were going to the bathroom. And I believe that my family was no different than most others in the 1970s in the southern U.S.

I grew up in the U.S. where nudity was only shown on rated R movies and never on television. In fact some things were called pornographic if they showed a little boob.

All of these "norms" have influenced me for 38 years and created the person I am ... a modest person who still feels a little shock every time boobs flash on the tv screen. And before I moved to DK, I just assumed that was how everyone defined the word "modesty".

I have made jokes about "dropping my drawers" in the doctor's office and not receiving a gown. I have laughed with my other expat friends when they have gone to the gym and had to bare it all in the showers with no doors. I even sit in my living room laughing OUT LOUD at the TDC commercials with "Britta and Claus" every time they come on (however, to open this video in youtube, did you know I had to sign in to view this video, saying I am at least 18 years old??!!)

when I go for my massage at the chiropractor's office or go for my regular chiropractor appointment, I have to go into a "curtained booth" to "disrobe". All the patients do it. Each booth is numbered, so the doctor or massage therapist comes out, calls your number, and then you go into his/her office. The expectation is that when you go into the room, you should take off whichever garments you need to remove for your appt--- ie: if you are having your back adjusted, you remove your shirt.
Well, each time I go (including today) for work on my back & shoulders, I go into the booth, take off my shoes, set down my keys and phone and wait for my booth number to be called.

I JUST CANNOT take off my shirt and walk across the little hallway into her office. Instead, I go into her office, and remove it there. Then after my appointment, I put it back on before returning to my "booth". I have seen others walk into the doctor's office without a shirt as well as others without their pants and each time, I look away, unsure where to focus my vision. I am embarrassed FOR them. :-)

I am sure the chiropractor and the massage therapist both think I am a dork.
But I just cannot undo 38 years of being modest to adapt to the Danish way of being so open.
At least not yet. I wonder if I ever will?

For now, I guess that means I will be staying away from ALL dressing rooms at the gym and the swimming pool. LOL I am sure the Danes think I am a complete goober. Oh well! Isn't the first time, and won't be the last!


Sherri Williams said...

I was just thinking about modesty myself the other and thinking of posting about it. Of course mine was not about being in another country but still it was on my mind too...

Tina M Cella said...

If you risk encountering men during your walk to the office, then I completely understand you- I wouldn't like that either.

United Studies said...

You are not a dork or a goober, I cannot get undressed in front of strangers, either! Maybe if I looked like a Victoria Secrets model I would, but right now I am embarrassed about my small books and jiggly butt!

Caution/Lisa said...

I understand! At one campground in South Dakota, the shower had three heads and I shuddered at the thought. Then I realized that I could lock the door and no one could use those other two showers while I was in there. Pure happiness.

Mom said...

I'm so glad you do remember some things from your childhood. Somethings are just not meants to share with the world....only your special viking. Have a great day!

May said...

For what it's worth, I do think it's odd that you have to walk half-naked through the hallway - am I'm a Dane. ;)

Skogkjerring said...

Hahaha, this is a subject close to my heart. I will admit I've loosened up the last 15 years here but I still can't handle the swimming pool and all the ladies prancing around buck naked as if that was the most natural thing in the world and SHOWERING before we enter the pool is to be done without clothing and you're suppose to scrub THERE...yeah...I don't do that, I'd had my suit on, taken down the top and soaped up everything exposed- except THERE...I just can't bring myself to doing it. I heard a friend tell me once she was in a communal shower and the woman next to her was going at IT feverishly with soap and water...I just about died laughing...ugh, I understand the need for cleanliness when entering a public pool but for lord's sake..ugh...I try to act all cool with the kids and I walk around the house in my underwear...but when it comes down to it, there is still an American deep inside me who just isn't completely cool with the whole idea, even though on the exterior I'm doing my best to be Scandinavian ;-)) You'll get there my friend or you'll remain the same- either way you're wonderful and far from a dork or goober!!

Annarella said...

I don't understand what being modest has to do with not wanting to be seen half naked. Do you think that Danes who are more relaxed about their bodies are not modest? Maybe you have a different meaning of modest than "not bragging or boasting about oneself or one's achievements", or is it just that in America you only show your naked body if you want to brag about it?

I begin to understand why Americans feel bad about their own bodies -- they never see any normal bodies in public, only models.

I loved growing up in Denmark seeing all kinds of bodies in public. Skinny, fat, all shapes and sizes of breasts and lots of loose and wrinkly skin. I know my own body isn't perfect, but I know it's totally normal and I'm not ashamed of it.

I think it's really silly here (Seattle) how people are SO scared of showing a little skin. Even in their own houses when the family is alone.

The other day I went to the doctor to have a breast examination. She found some ugly hospital clothes for me and left the room. When she came back I was still in my own clothes wondering why she had left. She told me I had to put the gown on because she had to examine my breasts. I asked if I could just take my t-shirt and bra off instead. She laughed and said I must be European, and she let me and examined me. But I still don't understand why she wanted me to wear those ugly hospital clothes in the first place just to remove them before the examination anyways.

BABS said...

Annarella, if people are 'modest' or if people don't want to be 'half naked' in front of others it could have nothing to do with being 'less relaxed' about their bodies and everything to do with seeing their bodies as sacred and/or private.

People brought up through the Danish system do not see their bodies in the same way that people brought up in other cultures do. There should be place for people to reveal or hide as much of their own bodies as they see fit, we can't just have one way of doing things! I am sure Kelli wasn't suggesting that the Danish way is less modest. I am sure she was just suggesting that she reserves the right to be half naked in front of whom she chooses instead of going along with something just because it is the done thing here.

I have been verbally berated on numerous occasions for my unwillingness to strip off with the crowds here, and I really wish there could be more a more open attitude to the needs of different people and cultures. After all, if we were all the same the world would be a boring and homogenized place. *ahem*

And, I am not sure if Americans DO feel 'bad' about their bodies, any more than Danish do.

Unknown said...

Oh the topic of modesty. It's a word that I really do use fairly often in my vocabulary!
I grew up in a fairly liberal American household I guess, in the 1980's and 1990's, we never locked doors while we were showering in my family, so that people could move in and out of the bathroom and get what they needed to...that might have evolved from necessity really! But to this day, my Norwegian husband comments that it's funny and weird that both myself and my sister (my brother grew out of it a bit, lol.) don't hesitate to walk into the bathroom when our mom is showering (in a glass doored shower, mind you) to ask her a question or find out what's going on.
At the same time, I think I've really found my modesty in the past few years and it has changed my wardrobe too! I don't wear anything low cut, backless, open-shouldered or cut above my knee...or bare legged, as I don't wear pants. But in situations where gender segregated showering or changing is happening, I'm comfortable. I think my modesty stems from the idea that I'm a married, Christian lady that wants to respect my Husband by keeping my body to myself and him. I just don't think that other women showering and changing care much for it anyway!
I do feel comfortable walking around in my undies in my own home with just my Hubby in tow though.

Modesty is a really personal thing I guess!

Anonymous said...

It is a funny thing. I found that sex was more accepted here and talked about. Some of my coworkers had high school aged daughters whom were open and honest about sex with their parents. In 2010, where in the USA the teenage pregnancy rate is INCREASING, maybe it is time we started to look at our bodies in a non sexual way.