Tuesday, August 30, 2011

I am a little loopy. Thanks for asking.

Sunday morning, I stumbled out of bed, zombie-walked into the office (or the girl-cats' room), and discovered that the Greek Archdiocese had failed to email me the daily readings. (They would later show up in my inbox at 7:15PM.) Miffed, I went to the Orthodox Church in America's website to find the day's readings. What I found instead took me by surprise: Our beloved Archbishop Dmitri had died that same morning at 2:00. Even though I'm terminally shy, I admired Archbishop Dmitri greatly, and I must say that I've learned being Orthodox that you have to be pretty dense not to know a holy man when you see one. I can't imagine how those who knew him well must be feeling now, but I know that from the moment I found out about his death I began to call all aspects of my life into question.

Three bullet points about me:
I'm Orthodox Christian
I completely cover my hair when I'm in public
I'm vegan
All of this you probably knew already. I'm weird. I'm an atypical human being. I seem to add weird upon weird relentlessly. Well, add another one to the list:
I dress frum
I hope I don't sound like I'm showing off, and part of me feels like I need to keep this one undercover; however, the internet is not only a great way of keeping me accountable but a good way to share my experience and perhaps inspire others. Not like anything I do is worthy of emulation. But I bring it up because I know that when it's 110 degrees outside and I look like a frickin' eskimo, I'm going to have some 'splaining to do anyway. Might as well blog about it, right?

So what is frum? Frum originally meant "pious"--now it refers to the way Orthodox Jews dress, particularly women. Frum means no collar bones, no elbows, and no knees, which translates to high necklines, 3/4-sleeves or longer, and skirts that end at least below my knees. Frum means feminity, which in turn means no pants (and that's fine by me--of the three pairs of pants I have, two I hate and the one I like has a small hole on the rump that may or may not be showing off the day's choice in grunders). And frum does not mean the end of fashion, just its modification.

Why frum? Because it's a good set of guidelines and I wouldn't be making up the rules as I go. Because of the common heritage between Jews and Christians. Because it's still easier than hijab, the Muslim code for modesty, which says that only a woman's hands and face may show (and I'm not sure that dressing like a Muslim would win me many friends in this post-9/11 world). Because I'm tired of feeling lax about the way I dress and feeling like I'm showing off too much (even when it pales in comparison to what you see nowadays). Because frum women say that dressing in this modest fashion frees them up to think about more important things.

Is this the least feminist thing I could do? It probably looks that way, but I'd say no. I know that when I go back to school in January I'll hardly be impressing the salivating boys (face it, they're not really men) by wearing a turtleneck and a long skirt. Back in my original college days, one impressed the boys by wearing a tank top and shorts that could pass for underwear to class, and whenever I'm on the UNT campus I see that things haven't changed a bit. Frankly I don't think it's liberating to dress that way, and I'm pretty sure that more than one of the original women in the women's lib movement would agree with me. I read where one feminist (who eventually converted to Orthodox Judaism) took a frum woman to task for dressing in such an ultra-conservative manner only to get the ultra-feminist reply, "I show what I want to whom I want when I want to."

This is a very external move that I hope will have spiritual benefits, but I know the interior needs a little ... okay, a lot of work as well. I need to pray more, I need to visit monasteries, and I need to stop swearing. Curse words are my ultimate vice. Hopefully without revealing too much of what goes on in my confessions, I confess to vulgar language every time I go in, and I'm sorry for it, but I'm never intent on changing. That ends here. I've spent the past two days yelling at myself anytime foul language escapes my lips, and I actually think that's going to help.

Okay, this post is already too long, but I wanted to close with one thing: I was on a monastery's website, and along with its service schedule it had guidelines for dress while on monastery property. The last guideline brought a little smile to my face and may serve as my motto from here on out. It asked all visitors to refrain from wearing "Anything you would not wear on Judgement Day."

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