The Post-Tznius Purge

Some time ago, I was at a wedding in Israel. I ran into a woman I knew from years before, and we started talking about life and religion. She mentioned, “I hope this outfit is modest enough for this wedding. I had such a hard time finding something to wear to this wedding because I threw out all my tznius clothing after I stopped being Orthodox.” She was wearing a stylish black dress with thin straps at the top and that hit a little above her knees. She looked beautiful, but definitely was outside the norm for an Orthodox wedding, where most people wore sleeves that, if they didn’t hit the elbow, they almost did.

She wore a dress not unlike this one.

Orthodox women have a way to “tziusfy” just about every piece of non-tznius clothing. For example, on the dress above, one could easily throw on a cardigan over the sleeves and call it a day. (There are varying levels of tznius. Some women wouldn’t feel comfortable showing as much clavicle as this dress shows, they’d probably put a black or white shirt underneath the dress).

When she made the comment to me, I reassured her “You look great. No one here cares what you wear anyway.” It was true. The wedding was mostly liberal Modern Orthodox Jews who like to pride themselves on how open-minded they are, even if their own practices might be somewhat different. Still, I couldn’t help but think, “You didn’t keep one black cardigan?” That’s not one of those pieces that scream “ORTHODOX”. It’s a piece that most women, tznius or not, keep in their closets because it’s good to wear to work, good for when the weather gets chilly, and can dress up pretty much any outfit. It was a staple among my [mostly non-Jewish] female co-workers.

Sometimes, people who aren’t used to dressing according to tznius rules don’t think about putting pieces together in the way that tznius dressers have to do. They might see the dress above and never even consider wearing a cardigan with it, because cardigans only go with pencil skirts, silly. But this woman, my friend, was different. She grew up lubavitch, went through a litvish-chareidi phase in high school, a modern orthodox phase in college, and then stopped being religious all together sometime after college. She knows the drill. She knows all about shells and cardigans and various ways to turn a scarf into sleeves.

But here’s the thing. Just because she no longer dresses that way doesn’t mean she shouldn’t have the pieces in her closet to do so if she felt the need.

On facebook recently, a girl I know posted that she was getting rid of all her “super-frum clothing from high school”. (She’s about to graduate college now).

I don’t understand this trend. Maybe it’s because I’m a pack rat and have a hard time getting rid of anything, but I find that if it still fits and is in good condition, there’s usually a way to wear it.

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“Sleevies”, cotton sleeves to wear on your elbows under a short sleeve shirt to give the appearance of layering, are one of the few items I was willing to throw out after high school.

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These days, I definitely don’t dress the way I did ten years ago. Ten years ago, I made sure that every time I left my house, my elbows, knees, and collarbone were covered. I only wore skirts. I thought I was “modern” because I didn’t wear tights all the time. Today, I dress modestly, but I’m of the opinion that modesty is in comparison with the society in which one lives. I pretty much cover my knees, but I wear pants. When I exercise, I wear shorts. At the beach, I wear shorts and a tee shirt. In general, I don’t have a cut-off for how short I’ll allow my sleeves to be, but I’ve been known to wear cap-sleeves occasionally. I don’t care if my collarbone shows, but I don’t show any cleavage.

Still, I own my share of cardigans and longer-length skirts, because sometimes I go places where it is appropriate to wear such things. I don’t do the long-sleeve white tee shirt under a short sleeve tee shirt thing anymore, but I sometimes wear those white long sleeve tees with a pair of jeans and a funky necklace. Half of my closet consists of cardigans and other types of layering pieces, because layering is the greatest thing ever. If I had to, I could find a great outfit in my closet to wear to a secular cocktail party or to a chassidic wedding.

The point is, it’s not what you have, it’s how you wear it.

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Hate is a Strong Word…

…but I really, really, really, don’t like these things:

*When I call the mechanic to make an appointment for my car, ask for a certain time, he asks if we could make it half an hour earlier, and I say that will be a stretch for me to make it, but I’ll try to get there on time. Then, when I arrive half an hour late (the time I WANTED to make the appointment for originally), no other clients are there and they are more than happy to take me. WHY couldn’t you just schedule me in at this time to begin with??

*Parking garages that say “visitor parking straight ahead” but actually only have 30 min. parking meters for visitors. What if I have an hour an a half long class? I can’t possibly leave class twice to feed the meters.

*Drivers who take 45 seconds to realize the red light has turned green.

*Students who don’t look where they are walking, walk into the middle of traffic, then give the finger to cars who almost hit them.

*People saying they will do something then not doing it. I will not elaborate on this, but it’s happened to me several times recently.

*7-11 coffee.

Am I Really That Old?

Today, my professor said “Does anybody here know what Y2K was?”. I thought he was kidding, but the response of the class seemed to indicate that they only knew about Y2K by hearing about it from others. One guy raised his hand and said, “Wasn’t it that time right before the year 2000, when everyone thought the world was going to explode because computers weren’t equipped to handle the new date changes?”

Most of the students in this class were freshmen. They were 8 years old when Y2K happened. I suppose that there is a difference between the way a 12 year old sees the world (which is how old I was during the Y2K scare) and the way an 8 year old sees things, but I didn’t think it would be that different. I didn’t think they wouldn’t remember something that people were worrying about for months over. I guess I was wrong, I guess 8 year olds are just more naive than I realized.

The Worst Day Ever

Well, maybe not ever. But here’s a list of what happened in the last five hours:

-I planned to wake up at 7:30 to daven, shower, and study. I woke up at 9:30, and only had time to study. Now I feel unholy and dirty.

-I’m sick, but I just took off school for Yom Kippur and will be taking off more time to go home for Succot, so I really can’t justify missing any more class.

-I’m in an eternal state of “Do I really want to go to law school or not, and if not, what DO I want to do?” I sometimes picture myself as a forensic analyst, but then tell myself there is a reason I’ve been avoiding any type of science-type classes. Then I get mad at myself for not taking a more well rounded course load.

-I’ve been spending too much time with the boyfriend. I think my roomates are annoyed. It’s not their right to be annoyed (because we spend time at his house, not mine) but I don’t want to get on their bad side.

-The meeting I was supposed to go to at 12 was apparently at 10. I never got the email, the boss asked me if I forgot and is meeting personally with me later.

-I have to give my advisor reasons why I want to go to law school so she can write a reccomendation letter for me. I can’t really think of any other than, “I’ll make a lot of money” and “I want my parents to be proud of me”.

-I went to the coffee shop to get my standard feel better drink, a tall iced skinny caramel macciato, and realized that even though i had shlepped my whole purse with me, and even had to go back to one of my classes because I left it there, my credit card is still at home.

On Being A Woman

In light of recent political events, a story:

2 years ago, I took a class in which I was one of three females, and the ONLY female that attended class regularly. The class was called “Film: Form and Culture”. When analyzing a particular film, the professor asked me “Beverly, as a woman, what would you say is the female perspective of this film?” I answered him by saying “Well, neither I nor you can speak for half the human population, but if you are looking for my opinion as to how women were represented in the film, I’d say…”

Guilty Pleasures

Today, my english professor asked us to draw a picture of our bookshelves, and list what books were on them. Then she asked us to list the books that are not on our bookshelves, but would be on our ideal bookshelves. I made my lists, and while in general I am very pleased with my bookshelf, I deliberately left off some things that I didn’t want to share with the class, for example, the first book of the Twilight series.

I didn’t plan on reading Twilight. My reasoning was that if my fifth-grade students are reading it, the book couldn’t be THAT stimulating, and it certainly won’t be up to my intelligence level. I “broke” one Shabbos, while visiting a friend. I got bored of the textbook I had brought with me, and there was Twilight, sitting on her coffee table, asking to be read. It’s pretty poorly written, but it’s kinda like a Pringle-once you pop, you just can’t stop. I have to find out what happens to poor Bella and Edward.

Tonight, I was folding laundry while watching TV on my computer. My roomate came in to ask me a question, and I quickly turned off the show. Partly, it was so I could hear what she was saying, but partly, it was because I did not want her to know I was watching “The Secret Life of The American Teenager”. The show is TERRIBLE. The actors don’t really act, the plot is completely ridiculous and it glorifies teen pregnancy. Still, it’s a guilty pleasure. I have to watch because I want to know what happens-does the 15-year-old pregnant girl keep her baby or give it up for adoption? Does the father do as much as he says he will? What’s going to happen with this new boyfriend? Suffice it to say that I don’t watch much TV, because anytime I do, I get highly addicted.

Really, I shouldn’t be embarrassed at my forms of relaxation. If I solely read books such as Twilight, or watched shows like “Secret Life”, then I might have to start moving up to the next floor in the library. However, I’m comfortable with the amount of time I spend with these forms of entertainment. There’s nothing wrong with going brainless for an hour or two. Still, I close the computer and edit my bookshelf, because at the end of the day, I’d prefer to be a closet light-brain than a known light-brain.

Little Boxes

Ikea, the world leader in efficiently-packed, mass produced, globally distributed housewares, now builds houses!

Nearly my entire apartment is from Ikea. Before school started, I spent a week putting together a bunk bed, 2 desks, 2 bookshelves, and a dresser, all from Ikea. Many of the tools in my kitchen are also from Ikea, and lest you think that all kitchen utensils are packed the same way, I also had to assemble my pots and pans-it’s cheaper to ship them with the handles removed, and placed inside the pots.
I can spend days walking around the Ikea store. The fact that there is the entire second floor dedicated as a showroom, there just for the benefit of the design-less like myself, makes me smile. But Ikea houses? I’m not so comfortable with that. My desk is a bit wobbly, and we had to return the bunk bed because some of the boards didn’t fit into where they were supposed to. All that is fine for furniture that I’ll be done with in 2 years, but a house is a long term investment, and I’m not sure I trust Ikea with that.