Just Put On a Yarmulke!
Commenter J raised the issue of what to wear when visiting religious family, on Friday’s post.
When I used to visit my parents, my mother would throw a towel at me, if, when I sat, my skirt rode an inch up my knees. Or she’d make me button the last button on my blouse until the collar bit into my neck – or change my shirt. When I had a nose ring, she made me take that out. I don’t visit them anymore, partly for that reason. I never walked in to their home in shorts or a tanktop – I resented their unwillingness to appreciate how much of an effort I was making in my long sleeve shirts and pencil skirts.
When I visit my in-laws, I comply with a modified version of “modesty” – I put on a skirt and a shirt, but I’ll wear bare feet with sandals in the summer, short sleeves, a normal t-shirt that scoops a few inches below my collarbones. They don’t love it, but for the most part (some family members excluded), the don’t say anything to me. They don’t make me feel less than human or less welcome. Which is why we have a relationship with them.
That’s the practical. Theoretically? I’m not a huge fan of any of this. I don’t think I owe it to anyone to put on a costume when I visit them.
“But if you visited a mosque you’d dress modestly,” is the counter-argument I’m always given by religious people. I have two problems with that:
1. Visiting a cultural institution as a tourist is a very different experience than spending time with people who are supposed to be family, who you have a long-term deep relationship with. I would wear “modest” clothes to visit a mosque I wanted to see – but I would never attend weekly events at a mosque that made me dress in a way I wasn’t comfortable with.
2. That argument is almost always wielded by people who have ZERO willingness to show respect for other cultures. I find it infuriating that a guy who is willing to insult a woman by not shaking her hand, has the audacity to tell me that I need to respect HIS culture.
Finally, to address the other argument I get: “But what’s the BIG deal? How much does it really hurt you to wear long sleeves or socks?” I say – it IS a big deal. YOU made it a big deal. Do you know how big a price you (the religious community, my family) made me pay for the freedom to do these things? I’ve paid an abominable price for these simple freedoms. They are very precious to me.
What about you? How do you dress when visiting your religious family?Printable Version