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Saturday, May 25, 2013

Modest Adjustments

In 1977, I left home wearing a long-line bra, brief style panties, undershirt, panty hose, panty girdle, slip, and a dress with fitted bodice (tie in back), Peter Pan collar, and three-quarter length sleeves (cuffed) that covered my body from suprasternal notch to eight inches below my knees. Not quite midi and far from maxi. Because that was the prevailing style in my wardrobe and because I had only five dollars a month to cover necessities, and because that was the way I was raised, I was modest.
Various styles of modesty from religious perspective
 One day I got a job, and bought some clothes. While away from home, I wore tight, form-fitting, figure flattering jeans and tops. I worked out. I learned to swim (in my homemade suit of polyester knit lined with a poly-cotton blend and measured below my knees). I ran, with a man, for the first time in my life. "Ran" as in both feet off the ground, not "floozie".

When I returned home, I covered up. Turns out if your bra is visible, you are naked. If your legs are bare, you are naked. If you're not wearing a slip, you are a tramp - just asking for it. I bought a half slip, and a jacket. My legs stayed bare. I had given up pantyhose.

As the years progressed, I gave up more and more clothing, until I was running through the woods hollering, "Whoop! Whoop! Whoop!" After a bold taste of freedom, it is a rough road to confinement.

Yet, here I am. Rethinking modesty. Noticing a delight in being covered, protected. I have the image of the tents and cloths we lay over food at a picnic to keep the flies out. Years ago, I decided my deepest desire was to be a bearer of the light and to attract other light bearers into my life. I have gathered a lot of moths around. They are charmed by the light even if it leads to their ultimate demise.

My closet is filled with clothes that are less supportive of my rethinking than I had hoped. I have three long shirts with three-quarter length cuffed sleeves, a couple of knit tops that will work with a scarf at the neck, and a shrug. I need more choices, especially since I splurged and bought this most fab open neck, chest, back tunic that I have wanted for years.

Watching All American Muslim clips, I saw one woman wearing a shirt like mine with a pullover underneath. That could work. I get to wear the bright flowing colors and maintain my level of modesty. This is an interesting take on the various choices of practicing modesty, or not. The stories on Breaking Amish as just as diverse and varied. One of the interesting factors is that in Breaking Amish, even as the characters travel they are connected to other Amish from all over the country. I understand the feeling that you can't get away from the "opinions" of those who know where you come from.

I am finding my way. My own way. I bought three thin long sleeve tops and another pair of leggings. I already own long silk and rayon flowing skirts. I have wandered the streets with my skirts rising and falling in the breeze, brushing against my naked skin. It will be strange as I miss that sensation.

What does it matter?

We come into the world naked. When we are left to choose, we cover to the level of our comfort. When rules are imposed, we long to rebel. There comes a day when we can choose again. I can choose to run nekkid in the woods, sun freely on the cliffs, share with all creation what G-d gave me. Having walked that path and thoroughly enjoyed the experience, I choose to cover. Today I choose modesty.

Modesty is always beautiful. - G.K. Chesterton

I am taking back what's mine from the fantasy of being yours.

Still on the journey...


Sunday, May 19, 2013

Be the Change

The stream returns.
Something happened earlier this year. I can't recall the exact moment I decided to change, but I did. I covered my hair. I started wearing wraps to work instead of allowing my locks to hang long.

Initially, it felt like fashion, but as I chose to cover each time I left the house, I could feel the commitment. I own dozen and dozens of scarves in solid and printed colors, so my options varied daily.

One day my co-worker asked if there was some significance to my head coverings. The truth was and is, that I realized hair, in all its forms of variation, causes attraction - at times, unwanted. Hair style, color, length, or lack, also invites opinions. My answer was that I was avoiding undue attention due to my hair.The other side of the story is that my hair is graying at the temples and I had not decided whether to color it or cut it all off. With it covered, no one would be the wiser. Hence, a new form of freedom and I am all about being free.

This month, May, I have been looking at modesty as intrigue. In a world where people are letting it all hang out, how about covering up? How do our relationships shift when we preserve some of the mystery? Modesty is an old concept, both socially and in my personal life. My family adhered to strict rules of modesty (in dress and presentation). It was a religious issue.

Today I am free of religious dictates for my life, so I cover on my own. It was a conspicuous experience. I work with Muslim women who practice hijab (modesty and privacy between men and unrelated women). I also work with conservative Christian women. I am neither. So, when I walk down the street with my head, neck and shoulders covered, I am an anomaly.

I feel peculiar. People look at me differently. They presume. They assume. They scold. "It's too hot for all that!"

I feel sacred. For the first time, I feel sanctified - set apart. Walking and praying seem more present, as if I am truly aware of not only the words, but my connection to them.

Driving covered, I am ashamed of the rage rising and spewing forth when I am cut off in traffic. I rethink the moment, recognizing that all is well and only my ego was assaulted. Still, I am reprimanded for my behavior. I expect to show up as understanding and forgiving every day. Being covered kept my attention on my intentions.

The biggest challenge came while I was shopping for liquor. Somehow it just didn't feel right to be buying alcohol while covered. I drink. I am free of any prohibitions against drinking alcohol. So, what's the deal?

Feel the feelings and keep on moving. That's what I've done this month. Having my head, neck and shoulders covered has refocused my attention. I reshaped the rest of my dress as well. I own plenty of clothing that covers my body. I wear them.

This is the best explanation I've heard for covering:

Think of your money. Would you leave it laying around for everyone to see, examine and handle? No. We put our money away. We keep it safe. away from prying eyes.

I am more precious than money. My body is sacred. I get to choose who has access, when and why.

I wish I were more comfortable covering completely outside of religious affiliation. It may come, or not. Today, I practice modesty as I represent individual freedom, choice, and intrigue. I'm taking back what's mine from the fantasy of being yours.