Tuesday, August 28, 2012

People are Strange: On Headcoverings and Skirts

I was in a pretty good mood when I went to Joann's this weekend with a 60% off one cut of fabric coupon.  I was in an even better mood when I made it to the front counter with only on cut of fabric.  Usually I get sucked in and end up with a full cart.  This time I went straight to the silk section, grabbed  a bolt, had four yards of the chocolate colored silk that I can't keep in stock in my store cut, and headed to the front counter to stand in a long line, coupon in hand.  But I'd made it.  I even bypassed the candy section that I had to stand next to and didn't buy a single piece of candy.

Then I reached the front counter and a grumbly looking checker who had been loudly complaining about her break.  I smiled and tried to be extra nice.  And then:

Checker:  "So, what are you making?"
Me (still cheerful):  "Headcoverings."  And then, at the look that followed, feeling the need to clarify more fully.  "Snoods," I made a little circular motion around my head as I said the words.
Checker:  "Oh!  I would never, never wear one of those.  I don't know how women do that."
Me: (I laughed, and tried to smile politely, not sure exactly what to say, and not able to get out: "it's not for everyone," before she continued.)
Checker:  "It's like those women who wear skirts al the time.  I would never do that."
Me:  (More laughter as I glanced down at my homemade maternity skirt).  And finally:  "Okay, thank you.  Have a nice day."

It was only then, by her silence and expression that I began to realize that she actually had meant to be rude.

People are strange.

I know I've heard plenty of explanations, but I've never quite grasped how my wearing a skirt (and I wasn't even wearing a headcovering at that time, although it wouldn't have been unusual here.  I pass women in headcoverings of various sorts, from scarves to burkas every single day), threatens or angers other women.  I just don't get it.

I guess we're just all free to be exactly the same, right?


  1. You're right: people are strange. The phenomenon you observed regarding head coverings and skirts strikes me as the same mentality that makes people criticize and condemn the Traditional Latin Mass, and try to prevent it from ever happening. It's not like it really affects them; no one is requiring them to go. But they don't want anyone else having that opportunity either.

  2. Hi Cam!

    I am glad you posted again regarding headcoverings. I have read all of your old posts regarding headcoverings. I wore a mantilla at mass up until recently, when some crises in my life made me reexamine everything I was doing. In other words, I stopped just about everything optional and am focusing upon just the basics for survival. Anyway, after having followed your blog for a long time (I followed your link from a post at CAF), I must admit I still have a fascination with headcoverings, both in mass and everyday. But I still do not understand it. I wish that I did get it. It is weird to be so interested in something, yet not understand it, and not do it.
    I just wanted to say thanks for the times when you have shared your thoughts on headcoverings. I will enjoy reading whatever posts you write regarding them. And your snoods are absolutely lovely.

  3. So true, it's not for everyone...it's for the glory of God =)

  4. It's insecurity on their part. They know that women who wear skirts and headcoverings are doing so (usually) in an attempt to be modest and holy, and they feel ashamed that they don't also attempt to be modest and holy in their own lives. So they have to make themselves feel better about their shame by tearing down those that do.

    That's my theory, anyway.

  5. My guess is that people who react this way feel threatened by what they perceive as representative of a movement to force women, barefoot and pregnant, back into the "dark ages" before "reproductive rights" and similar "advances". It's as if these folks are afraid that someone might try to force THEM to wear skirts and headcoverings.

    Toss what they see in the headlines about Sharia law and Muslim extremism against women into the mix, and I think that's what lies behind it. They have no idea what's in YOUR heart.

  6. I swear that some people are just so unhappy, they have to find and spread that unhappiness everywhere they look. Wouldn't matter if you were talking about headcoverings or pillow cases!

    I have come to realize that so many people are so mired in misery they do not comprehend any person's happiness. It's so very sad. They are to be pitied more than anything else. I try to pray for those people, because I realize how poor and lonely their life must be that they cannot bear to see another person's happiness.

  7. I don't think it has to do with shame with oneself for not wearing similar attire or being as holy at all. I know that orthodox Jewish women often wear sheitels and the men kippas or Borsalinos in observance of their faith, and I don't think that devotion elicits the same kind of eye-rolling. I don't think anyone scoffs at the dark skirts and white bonnets of the Amish either, but rather, respects that those are very important parts of their identity, faith and culture. No one gets mad when they see a nun in her habit, or a priest in his clerical collar. They are supposed to wear those things because of their position in life. When Catholic lay women wear certain, obvious, attire in an effort to be more holy it is seen as an attempt to one-up everyone else who is dressing normally and as a sort of extremism, which people naturally dislike. Our faith does not require or suggest a certain type of attire, aside from the goal being to dress appropriately for a given situation. If you want to dress in skirts and cover your head, you know that is totally fine - it's your body and your wardrobe! You obviously get to dress in the style you prefer. If you're wearing these items as some type of modern-day hair-shirt as a way to punish yourself, I'm not sure that's very healthy for a busy young mom. If you're doing it out of a desire to attract attention, irritate people, seem pious, make a statement, etc. - then that seems prideful and needs to be examined. I think the thing is, your attire has nothing to do with being Catholic. It has to do with you and your preferences. And if you told people, "I just really like the way I look in these clothes. I like wearing skirts and covering my hair" - I don't think anyone would care at all. It's when you bring Catholicism into the picture that other Catholics get buggy, because the attire and the faith have nothing to do with one another (unlike a priest's collar, which does.)


  8. I think a large part of deliberate rideness being a problem is that kids these days never learned to insult artfully. I actually get highly amused when people insult me artfully.

  9. I agree with the rest of the comments. Dont let some very unhappy salesperson throw you off the good work you are doing! You are an ispiration and wonderful example to your daughters and to all that read your blog!

    Btw~did you know you can get a teachers discount and Joanns counts us homeschooling mommas as teachers also? You get an additional 15% off your total~I just got mine last week!! :0)

  10. I feel like it's a brainwashing of our culture with tv, radio, movies, etc. to the Feminist ideal. They've vilified dress wearing as frumpy unless it's sexy and head coverings as repression of a woman by her husband/father. I get so tired of the hostility. If they ever question me on why I do it, I tell them I do it for God and no one else, and because I like it. They seem to accept this unless they are atheist.

  11. Ew.

    Though I second Mel TwoBlessed. :)

    I can't believe someone would even think to be so incredibly rude. :(

  12. I don't think it was a Catholic thing Miriam, because she wouldn't have been able to tell I was Catholic. I was wearing my hair in a bun, uncovered, a knee length skirt and a maternity top with buttons up the front. Not exactly screaming, radical. I could have easily been pretty much anything...

    And I definitely don't think of a skirt or headcovering as a hair shirt. Headcoverings remind me to pray. They also keep my hair out of my face when I'm working around the house. And skirts are more flattering, comfortable and easy to move in (for me at least!).

    I think people try to read far too much into motivations for Catholic women when they chose whatever they're going to wear, whether it's pants or skirts and dresses.

    I think we are going to stand out if we dress modestly, because let's face it, not showing cleavage or thighs is kind of uncommon these days. But I think, truly living our faith, usually causes us to stand out in other ways, and yes does result in hostility from the world.

    And yes, nuns and priests do get quite a bit of hostility out in the world. As do muslim women and I imagine jewish women (since quite a few people have assumed I'm jewish and that doesn't make them sweet to me). Our culture scoffs at God. In certain places there is a special contempt for Catholics. But I don't think it has anything to do with people thinking I'm breaking some Catholic laywoman rule... most of the time at least...

    That's a special contempt that usually only comes from other Catholics online...

  13. I hear you. I too get some odd looks now and then and so many do not realize I chose to be a Plain Catholic no one required it of me.

  14. Well last week at the grocery store, I was wearing one of your convertible headbands and wearing one of my long skirts and a woman behind me made a rude comment about me being an American convert to Islam. This is the second or third time something like this has happened. The first time I was Pentecostal which ok I guess I can maybe understand because my hair was getting kind of long but My thought was why the hell does it matter what religion I am? What is your problem? I usually let it go if it's a one comment kind of thing but after your one chance I tend to turn around and confront them about their rudeness. If I can embarrass them I think maybe they won't do it again to someone else. I know I should probably ignore them and not be rude back but it just really drives me crazy when others judge out loud.

  15. The rudeness of strangers really does surprise me. In an era where people are all about "personal freedom" I am shocked that they would comment on someone else's clothing choices. Very strange.

    I wear skirts and dresses because it is more modest. I feel that it does reflect the role that my Catholic faith plays in my life. I also veil at mass because very important things are veiled there, too. Because I do these things, I hope that others don't judge my heart and assume that I am triyng to be holier than others.

  16. Goodness, do people have nothing better to do than comment on how others choose to dress? It didn't affect the cashier how you chose to dress.

    (and she'd never heard of women who wear snoods? I would think working in a fabric store she'd encounter lots of folks who do historic re-enactment if nothing else.)

  17. I'm just impressed your Joann's has silk! Mine only has that fakey-polyester 'silk'. I'd stock up too!


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