Friday, January 17, 2014

Modest, Plain, Ugly, Oppressed

I want to talk about this because I've seen it so much. I'm probably going to go all over the place, but let me get this out anyway. I'll watch a video on a lovely new way to wrap my scarves, or a blog post of someone explaining why they cover and, somewhere in the comments, there is almost always someone who does not want to understand. Somewhere, there is someone who feels the need to express their ignorance.

The first is one I often see in response to ladies who say they cover for modesty. These ladies, every one of them, look beautiful in their coverings and usually their coverings are beautiful garments on their own. The comment is often one of confusion, someone who did not realize that modest does not have to be plain. Plain, in my understanding, is neutral colors, no adornments, simple shapes and lines. Plain is not fancy and not decorative, it is muted and simple and practical. Modest does not have to be those things. Modest can be bright, it can be decorated, patterned, flattering. Modest can be decorous while still being pretty, while still allowing one to express one's self. Separate those two in your mind right now. Plain is modest, but modest does not have to be plain. Pretty and beautiful are not the opposite of modest.

There is more at work in dressing in a modest fashion than just covering up your skin and hair. You can dress modestly and not cover you hair. You can dress modestly and wear pants. You can dress modestly and still have lovely jewelry. Modesty is personal. It's owning your body. It's recognizing that you are a sacred being and holding that being sacred. It is being comfortable in how you dress, in how you move, in what you do. That, in and of itself, is beautiful. When you do that, when you own your self, everyone around you can see that beauty. And that's where the ignorant comments come in. If someone thinks a lady dressing modestly is beautiful, then that lady must be doing something wrong, something not modest, to make someone think that. Those people are looking at the wrong thing. It's not about the outward appearance at all. A woman who feels confident, secure, and happy looks beautiful. That is her spirit, her self that you are seeing, that you are recognizing as beautiful.

Similarly, plain does not have to be ugly. Plain is also beautiful. Have you ever seen someone in a black abaya and a white hijab? Is that not plain? Is that not also beautiful? I've spent a good deal of time in Amish and Mennonite markets. Ladies in simple dresses, some are colored in pastels or patterned in delicate flowers depending on the community, with hair twisted up and a prayer cap pinned on top. They are happy, confident, in control of their bodies. They are beautiful. Separate that in your mind too. Plain does not mean it must be ugly.

Now, there is a sort of catch 22, and that also seems to be where some of these comments I see come from. Part of being modest or plain is not drawing attention to yourself. In this modern world we live in, anything different draws attention. That is just the reality of this age. Modest dress gets attention because it is different. It is not what everyone else is doing, so people notice it. That does not mean that the person dressing modestly is doing something wrong. That means you are perceiving them through your own standards, through the standards that society says you should have. It's not your fault, don't feel bad. Just stop judging those who are different, ok?

The last bit...that's always the tough one. I see it all the time, most often in response to a Jewish woman who says she covers her hair for her husband or to a Muslim woman who says she covers because her faith tells her to. "For your husband" carries with it the incorrect belief that she does it because her husband told her to, and that is oppression. Yes, that is. If your spouse says he wants you to dress a certain way and there are consequences if you don't, that is oppression. If your spouse asks you to dress a certain way without consequences and you want to do it to please him, that is not oppression. In the same way that your spouse asking you to make him a sandwich and you do it because you want him to eat and you know full well he would get up and do it on his own if you didn't is not oppression. If your religion advises you to dress a certain way for the benefit of your spouse and you love your religion and you think it's a beautiful gesture for your spouse, that is not oppression. So many people seem to not understand this. When you do something because you want to do it, because it means something to you, it is not oppression. It is taking an idea, a recommendation, an ancient law even, and deciding to embrace it and to make it your own and deciding it is relevant in your life. That's not oppression, that's making a decision.

I was watching this video. At about a minute and thirty, they discuss why they cover. She said "look at us. Do we look oppressed?" Of course not! They look beautiful and happy and so in touch with why they do it. I saw a comment (on a different video) where someone was going on and on about how sad she was for the lovely lady who was only explaining why she veiled, how it was a beautiful thing she did for her husband. The commentator said something along the lines of 'if it's not oppression, the men would do it too.' In some cultures, the men DO do it too! Jewish men might wear a kippah, the Qur'an has instructions for both men and women to dress modestly, Amish and Mennonite men may have dress restrictions, the requirement of Sikh men to wear a turban is the biggest example of this. It's not all on the women. Once again, people need to stop judging a culture from their own standards.

I do not wear a veil for my husband, as I have none just yet. My betrothed has made no demands on my appearance whatsoever one way or the other. He has never asked me to veil, and he has never asked me not to. He compliments me when I look nice, but he pretty much says that every day. I couldn't tell you if it's because he likes the veil I'm wearing that day or if it's just that he loves me and thinks I'm beautiful (I know the latter is true, I do not know if the former ever is true). There are no specific tenets of my faith that recommend dressing modestly or wearing a veil, though the reasons I do it are faith-based. My decisions with regard to my wardrobe are entirely up to me. That can't possibly be oppression.

I just used a whole bunch of words to say one simple thing that I wish more people would learn: Modest and plain dress does not have to be ugly and are almost always not oppression.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Why I Love It

In the interest of entering this giveaway from, my absolute favorite place to buy scarves and tichels, I want to elaborate on what I said on my Facebook entry just a bit.

Picking out my veil for the day is a deliberate act. Sure, I consider what matches, how I might tie it that particular day, what I need to accent it and give it that personal touch. But it also reaffirms why I do it every single morning. For many pagans, our actions are judged by intent. The intent behind lighting a candle, holding a Yule vigil, spell casting on a full moon. Intent is everything. My intent is to bind myself to my path, to honor my goddess, to own my own body and be in control of it. There is intent in every wrap, every knot, every tuck, every day. It is the daily magical life that I've always wanted to lead. And the weight of my veil is a constant reminder throughout the day of my journey. A reminder to always strive to be my best, to always know that I am beauty, that all the life around me is beauty.

And, above all, it reminds me that I do not walk this path alone.

Sunday, January 05, 2014

Hunting and Finding

My better half and I had an extremely busy holiday party schedule. The college where I work closed for winter break on December 20th. We had a party that evening, two parties on the 21st along with my traditional Yule vigil, dinner with friends on the 22nd, Festivus, dinner with Dav's dad on Christmas Eve, lunch with my family and dinner with Dav's mom on Christmas Day, there was even going to be another gathering on the 26th. By that point, I was was entirely worn out, and we realized we had not spent a single day at home together since the break started. Dav even took time off of work so we could have some days off together. They were just all full of parties and dinners and gatherings. All fun, don't get me wrong, but just the kind of stuff that saps me dry of energy. So, we stayed in the 26th and 27th and did the original Thursday thing on Saturday. We managed to accept three invitations for New Year's Eve, which ended up being quite a day. It all worked out great, we got to spend some time alone and some time with our friends and family. But parties is not really why I'm here. 

The first party on Saturday the 21st was Dav's work party. Hobnob with the coworkers and the company bigshots in nice evening attire. I've been to fancy company holiday parties before (and am quite grateful that my current employer is so very casual!), so I had an idea of how this one would go. While this was not my first evening attire party since I started veiling, it was the first where I would be surrounded by strangers and did not feel like exposing my hair. 

Ack! What to do?! I could not help but feel that my every-day choices of cotton tichels and flannel scarves would be inappropriate for the dress code of the evening and I was completely at a loss as to what I could do to cover my head in a more formal way. Like any good researcher, I hit the Internet! And hoped I could find something that I could do with my current collection of veils to make at least one of them appear more formal. 

And here is the result!
Waterfall Twist

I found this amazing blog, Wrapunzel, where the lovely Andrea posts about her daily coverings with pictures and video tutorials galore! Since then, my knocking about on the laptop days have consisted of multiple pages of her site open in my browser. I can't get enough; her wraps are beautiful and elegant and, as I tend to favor the more Jewish styles of covering, right up my alley. She called the one I used for the formal office party a Waterfall Twist, and it was so easy, and I was able to use a scarf I already had in my collection! Interestingly, it was a scarf that I rarely wear, I have no idea where it came from, it's thicker than I'm used to and longer than I generally wear. But I kept it in my box of veils anyway, because someday I might have a use for it. It has an inconsistent pattern of stripes and blocks in black and shades of gray with silver threads. It was perfect with my little black dress. I paired it all with a black and white shawl with bits of red and khaki for a little color. 

I talked about possibly making some videos to help those of you who might also find yourselves on a veiling journey as I did. I may still, but in the meantime, I strongly encourage you to check out Andrea's site. She has a Beginner's Guide, tons of pictures, so many video techniques, and even a store. I ordered a few things and I can't wait until they arrive! I was given six beautiful pashminas, which are more like really thick rectangular shawls, and had so much trouble trying to get them to work on my head. Wrapunzel has a solution for that too! Really, hit those links, click about on her site. It is a fantastic resource!

In other news, I think I've decided to grow out my bangs. Yes, I said I think, because I guess I really haven't decided anything. I love the Bettie Page look, I love that it adds some interest and frame to my face with the rest of my hair covered, but I'm quite tired of the upkeep. I don't go to the salon, so the only way to keep them trim is to do it myself, and I don't do that as often as I should. I miss the styles I used to do pre-bang, which is kind of funny that's even part of my thinking as I don't plan to stop veiling any time soon. Still, being happy with my hair underneath my veil is still important. And I still have the clip-in bang hair piece that convinced me to actually cut them into my hair in the first place. The part where the piece met my natural hair never looked right on its own, so I always wore it with a headband over that area, which is pretty much exactly what I do now only the rest of my hair is usually covered too. I might get tired of the in-between length that my bangs are getting to and chop them off again, but we'll see how this goes.

Friday, January 03, 2014

Post Stuff

Hello, dear readers! I hope the holiday season treated you well and you got through it without stress.

When last you saw me (excepting vanilla sugar), my house wasn't sold, my oven was broken, and I was quite a mess. The house finally did sell! I signed all my paperwork on Thursday, December 5th with my buyer going to sign on the 6th. The 6th didn't happen because there was a new thing with the new lender that delayed closing to the 9th or 10th. Then it snowed on the 9th and 10th. But my buyer did her stuff on the 11th and I am no longer a homeowner! Yay! Really, YAY!!! A shiny and beautiful new oven was delivered, but it still doesn't work. We think there's something wrong with the outlet or the wiring in the wall and that's going to need an electrician. Dav seems to be more anxious to get out of here than to mess with that, which really is fine by me. We've talked about the area that we want to live in, and a little bit about financing, but we haven't really sat down with the numbers yet.

On Christmas Day, we learned that my brother and sister-in-law are expecting another baby this summer! YAY!! I am so happy for them. So, so very happy!

I think the new year is off to a pretty decent start. Soon, there will be the stress of moving, but the joy of a new house, then I'll be up to my eyeballs in wedding planning.  I declare 2014 will be a good year.