Lily is a 20-year-old English student at the University of Texas at Austin. She sent me a four-page letter in extremely elegant handwriting, and first of all, I was just so impressed that anyone could sustain neat handwriting for four pages. Mine tends to degenerate after the second sentence, which of course I take no responsibility for, since no one teaches penmanship these days. But Lily doesn't blame society for her poor handwriting—she acquired good penmanship on her own, and actually writes letters to people, like this one to me:

Dear Ms. Shalit,

Kudos and heartfelt thanks to you, regarding your extensive research and
thoughtful discourse on returning to modesty! For me personally, your book provided encouragement and hope. . . . I could write extensively on how much your words, philosophy, and findings parallel my own, but I'll spare your time as well as mine, and state simply that as a girl—a virgin—with romantic ideals, little experience in the realm of sexuality, great though realistic aspirations, and a sometimes teetering sense of self in a society that fosters promiscuity and female superficiality, I commend your hard work, integrity and bravery in addressing the topic of women's most important, most undervalued virtue. How many times have I felt excluded from my college peers to the point of questioning and re-examining my reasons for harboring "hang-ups"!

But your A Return to Modesty, a piece I stumbled upon and quickly devoured as leisure reading, affirmed the sense of "feminine mystique" within my soul, and gave me back my pride—pride in guarding myself to be saved and respected. Fearing for so long that my modesty makes me a prude, I finally understand that it actually and unexpectedly liberates me and that it establishes a higher standard for the thoughts and subsequent behaviors of the men around me (but not in an ironic, patronizing, bitchy way). In other words, I am freed from being treated like an "easy score" by maintaining my femininity. :-) . . .

For several years, I assumed a girl had to choose one or the other: be a 'free-spirited,' bed-hopping diva or be a spinster-like bun-wearing, nun-style prude. But there's an alternative. . .and to me, that is liberation: freedom to be without a category, just to be myself.

The young woman behind the letter was born and raised in Texas by her two loving parents, Jim and Bette, and attended Creekview High School in Carrollton before attending the University of Texas at Austin. There Lily is currently enrolled in the UTeach program, which certifies undergraduates to teach high school by the date of graduation. Future plans are very tentative; Lily might become an English teacher, or perhaps work for a non-profit company down the road. In her free time, she volunteers for the American Cancer Society, checks out the art and music venues in Austin with her friends, hunts for good coffeeshops, and visits her grandparents on Sunday. When she's not doing all this, she can be found on miscellaneous grassy knolls on the UT grounds, reading Whitman or translating French literature.

So, how does she manage that perfect handwriting? As she modestly tells ModestyZone, "I just kind of developed my own technique." A rebel in every sense of the word, Lily did what many of us wish we had the strength to try: she took a sabbatical from e-mail for a whole year and a half, to encourage herself (and her friends) to write real letters.

Her conclusion after the hiatus? "My break from the Net did foster handwritten responses. But I am grateful for technology; over the last few years it has allowed me to correspond with those I would otherwise never have met. It must be said, though, that the art of the handwritten note—and it IS an artform, in my humble opinion —will never be replaced. Isn't it funny that, with all of society's gadgets, we have more MODES of communication... yet very few of us really COMMUNICATE?"

Speaking of which, if you'd like to write to Lily, you can send us a message and we will pass it on to her.

If you would like to nominate a Rebel—including yourself—please send a short personal profile and what you are rebelling against to: There is no age limit, but high school and college students will be given priority over grandmas, since grandmas, after all, are supposed to be good.

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