Friday, June 21, 2013

Cover Yourself

It was the fall of 1991.  I was almost 19 years old and had quite a busy schedule.  Going to Junior college, working part time, and taking care of my baby took up almost all day every day.  Still I squeezed into my schedule an exercise class at the college to burn off that pregnancy weight.  It was early morning step aerobics. 

Now of course there was a locker room next to the studio where the class took place available to change clothes in, but it was difficult enough getting out of the door at 7am with book bag, gym bag, diaper bag, and baby carrier.  It just made sense to leave my parent’s home, where I lived at the time, in my work-out outfit.  That way I could walk right into class after dropping off baby at childcare.  And what an outfit I had.  With leggings and leotard, I accented with a pair of black soccer shorts and a sleeveless half top to cover my chest and rear end.  I completed the ensemble with pushed down socks and Reebok tennis shoes.

While on my way to class, I would occasionally need to stop off and gas up my ’79 Toyota Corolla.  Being a thrifty girl, I knew the best place in town to do so.  To my convenience, it was right at the freeway entrance.  It was also right across the street from a parking lot used by a group of aircraft mechanics who worked the graveyard shift at SFO airport.  They would drop off their vehicles at an evening hour, load up into a commuter bus driven by one of the mechanics himself and head off.  At the end of their hard nights work, they would return to the same parking lot to retrieve their vehicles and head on home. 
Because traffic is so unpredictable, it was unlikely that this bus would end up in that parking lot at the same time I would be stopping at this particular gas station.  Yet, one morning, it happened.  Though I didn’t know it, the timing was perfect.  They pulled up just as I was out of my car filling up my tank.  I imagine that inside this commuter was close to a dozen mechanics including two very important ones, my dad and his brother, my uncle.  My dad was the driver. 
Lo and behold, one of the passengers had a mouth that was running that morning, and he entertained himself with a comment about me that was obviously insinuating he enjoyed the view.  It was followed by my uncle informing him that he was talking about Jimmie’s daughter.  The culprit was very embarrassed.  Stumbling over his words trying his best to apologize, he finally told my dad to tell me to cover myself.  That evening, dad and daughter had a talk. 
Looking back, I don’t think I was horrified, and I don’t think my father was either, but it was eye opening to us both.  I’m sure he was not pleased at the thought of this man gawking at his daughter, but he had enough common sense to know that this is the world we live in.  He was no doubt surrounded by men who acted unbecomingly in the presence of women, and though I’ve never expected saintly behavior in my own father, I know he’s a man who has respect for the opposite sex as well as for his own wife, so I’m sure he conducted himself quite morally regardless of the depravity he witnessed daily. 
As for me, it was one more reminder to always be mindful of the world we live in.  I was not dressed to get attention, and considering the rush I was in, that would have been the last thing on my mind.  Still, I must remember to do what I can to avoid a dangerous situation.  That’s not to say that I believe that women who are victims are themselves to blame.  No one who is harassed or abused in any way deserves it, but certain steps can be taken to lessen the chance.  A wise woman guards herself.
Let’s face it.  Men are hormone filled individuals.  There’s no reason to bash them for it.  They are created that way.  It’s their testosterone filled selves that enables them to put themselves in dangerous situations when necessary to save others from harm.  That’s why they are so good at fighting wars to preserve freedom, running into fires to rescue innocent lives, or any other situation that warrants a real hero.  And that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate the women who do the same, but the ratio of men to women who do those things is the way it is because of that hormone that also causes them to be visual creatures that are often ruled by their desires. 
Now, fast forward 20 plus years.  Last night, my husband and I were going through our TiVo list of programs while at the same time real time TV was playing in the little box at the top right corner of the screen.  A program that we’ve probably never watched was on, Inside Edition.  It was highlighting what they were about to report on.  The words we heard were along the lines of, “Up next, what a TSA agent said to a 15 year old girl.”  Our interest was piqued, so we “stayed tuned….” 
According to this report, a 15 year old girl was traveling with her friends on a tour to visit some colleges.  In the LAX airport, a TSA agent who was at a desk responsible for checking IDs, etc., was “glaring” at her and mumbling.  She looked at him, and said, “Excuse me?”  He responded by saying, “You’re only 15, cover yourself!”  Before we had a chance to hear and view the responses of the girl and her parents, my husband and I both had pretty much the same initial thoughts. 
I have no doubt that the words “cover yourself” are dying to get out of the mouths of thousands of people every day.  It doesn’t mean all those people are controlling and oppressive.  It simply means that there are still plenty of people out there who worry for women and especially the young ones.  It’s a sick world out there, and no matter how hard we work at trying to rid society of immorality, it’s just common sense to guard yourself and to look out for others. 
I know how frustrated my husband gets when it comes to this sort of thing.  It irritates him beyond all means when he is surrounded by men who are commenting on the "eye candy" around them, and quite often they’re talking about younger women, practically girls.  Now speaking up is one thing, but correcting a few guys doesn't guard all of the vulnerable ladies out there from the myriads of men who have no control over their thought life let alone their words that can lead to harassment and even predatory actions.  How often have we said to ourselves that we wish young women and girls understood the dangers out there? 
Little league season seems to be the most frustrating for him.  One time a fellow coach commented to him that he wished they were still playing at the T-ball fields because the moms are younger, hotter, and dress sexier.  My husband immediately turned and said, “You better not be checking out my wife!”  Of course his peer assured him he was not. 
I have to be honest.  We were extremely disappointed in the response of the parents of this 15 year old girl.  It wasn’t just reported on Inside Edition, but on the father’s blog site which I have included a link to at the bottom of this post.  Before I was able to read his post, however, we were sitting there watching the program with our mouths dropped open at what was being said and reported.  Turns out, his blog was no different.
I will admit, there should be a line drawn with what these airport employees are allowed to discuss with the public they are serving.  The girl probably loved her outfit of black leggings, white tank showing some midriff, and long sleeve red plaid shirt covering her arms in the no doubt air conditioned airport.  Young ladies like to look cute and attractive, and being told something negative about your outfit hurts.  However, the last thing…and I mean not only the last thing, but probably the one thing that would NEVER cross our minds…was that this TSA agent was actually having sexual thoughts about this girl and decided to turn it around and blame her.  If that’s the case, then every father who ever looked at his teenage daughter and told her to turn around and go back into her room and put on a little bit more clothes were all having pedophile thoughts.
Of course, that’s preposterous as was the accusations against this security agent by the parents of the girl as well as a friend of the parents whose words were quoted on the father’s blog.  The agent was not only called unprofessional and inappropriate, but creepy, harassing, aggressive and even Taliban-y.  OK, maybe the man’s frustrations were coming through in the tone of his voice as it does in most men and he sounded aggressive, but come on…the rest is way overboard!
There are many different scenarios that I can think of that could have contributed to this agent losing control of his tongue and stepping out of his boundaries.  I can’t say that any of them would cause me to say that I blame him.  After all, he very likely could have a daughter around the same age.  It could be that like my husband, he’s sick and tired of listening to men around him gawk at young ladies and that includes commenting on outfits. 
One thing that crosses my mind is that this man spends day after day watching the public since it is his job.  How many times has he seen “real” creeps act inappropriately toward women right there in front of him causing him to become more and more protective of those who are vulnerable?  Common sense in a trained security agent tells them to watch out especially for kids traveling without parents.  They are the ones who are most preyed upon.  My comments are coming from someone who was preyed upon as a teenager in an amusement park and the situation could have turned out devastating.  I’ve also experienced being stalked by a business associate while working in the professional world in my twenties.  This is just the world we live in, people!
I’m definitely not "prudish" when it comes to the way I dress, and although I’m not perfect in my judgments, I try my best to be mindful.  I’m very fortunate to say that at 40, I’m pretty close to the same size I was at 19 and I like to dress pretty.  My husband is often tempted to tell me to change my style to something "dumpy", but he knows that women like to dress pretty because then they feel good about themselves which helps to build confidence in many areas of life.  He finds the balance between guarding me and trusting me, but he’ll never trust the other guy.  Funny…that’s something my father always said, “Watch out for the other guy!” 
No, I don't think this young lady was dressed scantily.  I don't think she was trying to get attention.  But even what we women feel is appropriately covering ourselves can still be dangerously perceived by others as just the opposite.  
I feel this agent was wrongly accused and criminalized in the eyes of the public thanks to this girl and her parents.  My guess is that he had a sense to protect young people, and if so I applaud him for it.  I think it’s sad that as he is trying to guard others in a world of sickos, he has to guard himself from people who jump to unnecessary conclusions damaging his character without grounds.  Ironically, as the parents are accusing him of harassment, their accusations have spread to so many online sites including FB and now to prime time television, I absolutely believe that they are doing the harassing.

Finally, this is the message that I would like for all women and especially young women to hear: 

Be mindful because you can’t always trust the other guy.  Stop assuming that one man’s sense of protection means he’s oppressing your women’s rights.  And since there’s no chance of anyone “assuming” that I’m having creepy sexual thoughts about teenage girls, I’ll say it, “Cover yourself!”

Amie Spruiell
June 18, 2013

Here’s the link to the girl’s father’s blog:


  1. Great lesson here. The parents were lacking in giving their daughter the tools to avoid trouble, and when confronted, they played the blame game. It's also called, "Shoot the Messenger"

  2. There is such a lack of acceptable behavior on every level of society. It is sad to read about this. What could have been a teaching moment to this girl was lost by the fact that these misguided parents and the so called writer for women's rights who defended her

    Sad state of affairs. We need God's word to touch the hearts of people today