Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Tzniut Project 4: Wanting to Feel Elegant

This is the fourth in a multi-part series called The Tzniut Project. Women from a variety of backgrounds with a variety of observances have volunteered to anonymously answer questions that I have written about their practices, people's assumptions, and more. For more information on the project, click here. Please continue to check back with The Tzniut Project to read more stories and comment abundantly!

Note: This post is contributed by a reader.!

1. How do you affiliate Jewishly? Feel free to elaborate on the words people use to describe you and the words you use to describe yourself.
I would say I affiliate Conservadox, meaning I use halacha to govern my life but also am very liberal and see Judaism in a egalitarian way. I see the beauty and importance of women in Judaism and it is separate from the way that men experience it but not lesser. In high school my friends called me "Super Jew" but I think it was because I just loved Judaism so much, and they weren't very observant, and I was. They saw Shabbos as a task or obligation and I saw it as beautiful and spiritual.

2. Growing up, did your mother or grandmother dress modestly in any way? Do you think modesty was something instilled in you by your family? Did you dress modestly growing up? 
Not at all, I mean my mother dresssed and still dresses with the times: short skirts, cleavage, pants, but she doesn't dress like a hooker or anything. Another factor was that I was raised Catholic.

3. Are you married? How does your spouse feel about your choices for modest dress? Is it a dialogue or does your partner leave the mitzvah to you? 
I am married very very happily. My husband being basically atheist looks at me like I'm silly when I am concerned about my modesty, but when I explain it to him I think he is pretty appreciative.

4. What would you wear on a typical day? On Shabbos? If you dress differently on weekdays and Shabbos, why do you make this distinction and how?
A typical day is jeans and a T-shirt , or tank and sweater, or skirt and T-shirt or tank and sweater. Shabbos is a nice skirt and blouse or dress, I dont feel like pants are appropriate on Shabbos. I want to feel elegant and beautiful to honor Shabbos.

5. What do you think other people infer from your clothing and hair covering choices? Has anyone ever said anything to you outright that expresses a judgment based on your appearance? (Ex: “You don’t cover your hair or wear skirts, so why do you keep kosher?”)
I really have no idea what people might infer from the way I dress and my hair covering choice (which is tichel 98 percent of the time). Maybe that I'm Muslim because I have a fairly tan complexion as I am half Puertorican and half Mexican? Maybe that I'm some sort of hippie chick? Not really sure. In high school when I started experimenting with observance I felt that some people might have had the opinion that I was not genuine because of my being a convert, like maybe I was trying to show that I was Jewish, and it was just a show. But I haven't ever had any outright comments.

6. Have you ever surprised someone by dressing more or less modestly and making them rethink their stereotypes about what it means to be an observant Jew?
I'm not sure; maybe. I live in a place where there are not very many Jews, and the fact that I am a Jew probably is unknown.

7. When you see someone who observes tzniut differently than you, what are your initial thoughts? How do you deal with them?
Honestly I think NEAT. If they are more strict then I am I think about how they do it, why they do it, and what it means to them to do it. If they are less [strict] I think pretty much the same thing, and if they are doing something particularly pretty how I can replicate it.

8. I say modesty or tzniut … what does that mean to you? 
Respect. Respect for myself and husband. Keeping myself special for our marriage and our marriage alone. Also, making it easier to live in modern society not having to worry about men ogling me and my goodies just makes me more comfortable.

9. Anything else you’d like to add about your choices, experiences, and more! 
My choices in observance, especially of tzniut, have been an ongoing process, learning what I am comfortable with and adding and or subtracting. Figuring out how to deal in the work place and around family. My experience has been that modesty is awesome, and I hope to teach my daughter that.