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Posts Tagged ‘Tznius’

with a Ravelry community for knitters who cover. Ok, ok, I know, right? Crazy enough that us knitters have our own social networking site, but that there’s enough of us who also cover to merit a whole group? Wow. You gotta love the internet. I stumbled across it one day, looking for a hat pattern.

I have suffered for  years from a medical condition that intermittently causes noticeable hair loss. As a result, I’ve gone for the Humboldt Honey look ever since I was old enough to tie a bandanna.  This gets old, and unless you are living behind the Redwood Curtain (I moved away years ago) it isn’t very pretty . You can’t wear it out to dinner if you’re going somewhere nice.  I live in a hot climate which means knit caps only work a few months out of the year and I look like a total dork in a baseball hat. Find me at a Dodger’s game sometime, you’ll see. After checking out what my lovely Ravelry compatriots were saying, I began searching for alternatives that didn’t make me feel like Frumpzilla. Or, you know, look Amish. Hijab was out too, I’m not a Muslim and didn’t want to misrepresent another person’s faith.

“Aha.” thought I, “I have seen some attractive head coverings on Orthodox ladies in the Jewish neighborhoods.  I would not be a big Fakey MacFakersons for wearing them because (while not Orthodox) I am totally 100% Jewish!  Yay!”

This led me to a site about Israeli head coverings and that led me to other sites and somewhere along the line a couple of those sites introduced me to the concept of  Tzniut, which translates loosely to “modesty” (but is so much more!)  This is something I’ve done on my own for years, though not with religious intent.  Look, I certainly don’t think men are consumed with lust just by seeing my elbows, I give the opposite sex way more credit than that.  I just don’t like wondering if people are thinking that my arse is the size of a small planet. I hate being worried that people are making judgments about a bald spot or looking at me like we all look at every women, mentally sizing her up with a beauty scale that most women can’t help but fall short of.  I am tired of worrying about how I measure up.

I am also really tired of being judged and judging myself on external criteria.  The idea that this could be something to approach with intent, as part of a spiritual path was exciting.  I found a whole community of women who cover, they are of all faiths or no faith.  Muslim, Pagan, Jewish, Christian Orthodox, spiritual paths that would be marked Other, ‘just because I like it”, hair loss… the reasons are as varied as the women who do it.  Many see it as a reclaiming of their own power and self.  For some it is cultural or religious. Some see it as submitting to a higher authority. Personally, I tend towards the former. I look at non revealing dressing and headcovering as a sort of layer of insulation between me and the unwelcome scrutiny of a youth, BMI and beauty obsessed world.

Nobody external is telling me to do this and I am not some tool of the patriarchy – it is a reclaiming of myself, my body, my power, my beauty. For me. Which is a pretty feminist ideal.   In the weeks since I adopted this practice full time, of headcovering and wearing modest clothing, I’ve gained a new awareness and appreciation for the fact that I’m really quite a beautiful person under all the layers. Inside and out. When I take my scarf off at night and comb my hair, I am not so focused on the gray or that it is a little frizzy. Instead, I think that it feels soft (and given my history, I’m so happy to have it!)  I enjoy the tactile and visual pleasure of having it unbound around my face. When I choose to reveal my body, it’s with the knowledge that the person I am revealing it to is seeing something special, something that no one else gets to see.  I hold my body in higher esteem, my self in higher esteem.

While ultimately this whole process of dressing more modestly/covering is supposed to make me focus on internal qualities, I have to admit that right now it is making me focus on a few externals.

Can I talk about the shopping? Holy cow, I’ve spent a LOT of time online lately, looking at clothing sites and color palettes and figuring out what works for me.  I’d like to be able to reach into my closet and pull out an outfit that looks great, that I love, because everything is modest, goes with everything else and looks simple but put together. Don’t want to look like I’m trying to be something I’m not. Do want to look like what I am.  Not boring, frumpy, old or overly conservative because I am none of these things.  Fun, funky, a little left of center, and stylish, YES. I think modest can be all of those things.  I honestly think I can not be the only person in the .alt spectrum looking for significantly more modest, yet fun, clothing options. I’ve never really been a woman who cared about clothing overall, so it amuses me to no end now that I put more care into selecting my clothing than I ever did before. And more money.  I’m also wearing more bright colors than ever before, not just relying on the Goth standard of black on black with a little more black.  Fun!

When I started, I did get some odd looks and stares and I felt acutely self conscious. It took me a while to fully relax into the public covering and not think about it anymore. Now I am aware of what I’m wearing, but usually it’s a low key positive awareness. People in my classes treat me the same, or with more respect. Younger students especially are treating me as an adult and not a peer. Maybe it’s the crotchety old biddy in me that wants to tell these kids to get off my lawn, but I’m kind of okay with that. Yes please, respect is good. I like being treated with courtesy and it reminds me to treat others the same way.

The fact that all this has also brought me back onto a path of rediscovery about Judaism and back into the idea of meaningful Jewish observance is just a super sweet lagniappe of spiritual awesome.

It’s a journey, and one I’m just stepping out on. I thought I’d use this space to put up pictures of how I’m wearing the tichel, how to tie, ideas for fun outfits, links and resources.  Maybe someone else will find it to be of benefit, the way I found other headcovering blogs to be in the beginning.

You know, whatever it is for you, even if it sets you apart a little or a lot, you should not be afraid to do it if it is truly authentic. My tichel reminds me to focus on other qualities. It is a insulating layer of protection between me and the outside, and much more attractive than a tinfoil hat.

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