Wednesday, October 05, 2011

How Others See You

A mom-friend recently said to me, "You always dress so modestly!"  I was taken aback, because after that unfortunate frum period, it hasn't been something I often consider.  Yes, I always wear an undershirt; I don't want my stomach hanging out in public.  Yes, I own a slip; I prefer skirts to be opaque.  Aside from that, my wardrobe has a timeless un-stylishness springing from both indifference and poverty. 

And then I went to shul this week and a 14-year-old girl was wearing... a really short, tight skirt.  I was scandalized.  Great she's at shul, but inappropriate!  And a ten-year-old (boy) was wearing a t-shirt and shorts... with a blazer.  Also inappropriate! 

My assumptions, examined, seem to be that, during religious services where "jeans and a flannel shirt and a guitar" are not the norm, persons of the female persuasion should wear garments which at least reach towards the knee, and nobody should wear shorts, t-shirts, or garments through which underwear can be seen.  Nor do I wish to examine anyone's collarbones and clavicles in their entirety.  There's a woman who wears a nice, tailored suit every week*: very appropriate.  The Mrs. Rabbi** wears lovely fitted dresses sometimes, and they're very flattering, but not club attire.  The small tots wear whatever was in the closet and hork-free: also fine.

Anyhow, the whole exchange made me wonder how I look to others.  That weird chick who makes her own apple butter and is always wearing a knee-length skirt?  (In summer.  It's cooler.)  That person with a messy house and crumbs everywhere?  Tired frumpy mom chasing a toddler?  Barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen?  Who knows.

So what does it take to outrage your sensibilities?

*At first I couldn't decipher her gender, because I hadn't ever heard her talk, but she was called up for an aliyah: Rachael bat Sarah v'Malka [not her real name].  (Translation: she is a very butch lady, who also has two moms.)  Kind of cool.  Now I want to know what she does for a living.

** The rabbi is male, and his wife is also a rabbi. They are Mr. Rabbi J. Smith and Mrs. Rabbi L. Smith. (No, their names aren't really Smith.)


  1. I was also a bit shocked by the length of hems at services this year. But I tried my best not to judge as I sat there breastfeeding.
    What drives me crazy is people who don't send paper thank you notes, don't know why,i guess because I was forced to do so as a kid and it stuck

  2. Why "Mrs Rabbi" and not female rabbi? When people call me Mrs Dr and not Dr (I am a Dr, my husband is NOT) I want to smack them.

    For better or for worse I am frum; so as to not embarrass (easily outraged) frum family instead of going to my favourite egalitarian shul, I have completely given up on shul.

  3. Is Mrs. Rabbi the rabbi's wife?
    So, as a pastor, my main preference is that people come to church, thank you. I think it's challenging your young ladies to find dressy clothes to wear that aren't too short, low, etc, and I say this with the experience as mom of a 16yo girl whose instincts are much more modest than the culture at large but not as modest as, say, the 18 Kids and Counting Family. (19?)
    What shocked me was the garb at a funeral last week for a mom in her 40s. This meant many of the folks had little experience in dressing for funerals, so they went to whatever black thing was in the wardrobe. I am a short woman and got an eyeful of other gals' cleavage during the reception that followed. This seemed majorly inappropriate to me. Breasts are beautiful and useful (as Sara points out above), but I don't want to look at them in church.

  4. Nobody (including me) actually calls her Mrs. Rabbi. She is always called Rabbi Firstname Smith, and her husband (the congregational rabbi) is Rabbi Othername Smith. In fact, the rabbi started his d'var torah last week with, "I was studying [thing] with Rabbi Smith..." meaning his wife. Don't worry, Yael; it drives me crazy to be Frau Doctor rather than just Dr. So and So. :) I was only joking.

    At funerals! Oy!!!


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