Friday, June 17, 2011

Clothing and Identity Among the Orthoprax and OTD

Image Source:
Over the last few days I have been thinking about my last post, the one that I typed on yom tov while having my hair covered, and Undercover Kofer's response that he has also used the computer on shabbos while covering his head (except that he was weraing a yarmulke, of course). So here I am posting again on shabbos, reflecting on the significance of clothing to the Orthopraxer.

While clothing does not define a person, people throughout society use clothing as a manner of expressing their identities. Making a dramatic change in dress is usually associated with the individual making a dramatic change in personality or role in life.

This is even more true in the Orthodox community, where people are routinely identified and even referred to by the clothing they wear. A Litvish man is often called "black hat" and it is not uncommon to hear statements such as "Sara is marrying a streimel", when she is actually getting married to its wearer. For this reason, when an Orthodox person changes his or her way of dress it makes an even bigger statement than it does in the secular world.

Therefore, when a person does not feel comfortable identifying as non-religious he or she makes a point of keeping to the same standard of dress as before. Conversely, if a person wants to show that he or she is more modern and/or not frum altogether, the message is often intentionally broadcast through clothing choices.

In my case, as I imagine in many others, this even applies in private. I still often dress tznius at home even as I am committing aveiros. The only explanation that I have for this is that I am simply not comfortable (yet) with identifying as non-frum. I still identify as a member of the frum community despite not wanting to be part of it.

This probably also explains why some people who have recently gone off-the-derech dress in a manner that is more provocotive than that of general society. By dressing in a manner that is the direct opposite of tznius, it expresses that one wants to be sure that she is not identified with a community that she despises. Even among those who are still frum, those who simply wish to be more modern typically change their dress more than anything else, such as kashrus standards.

So, readers, what do you think? At which stage of your departure from obervance did you change your manner of dress partially or totally? Were you keeping shabbos while dressed in a non-frum (by anyone's standard) manner, or did you break shabbos while dressed as before?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

On Hypocrisy, Inconsistency, and Fear

I began this post, erased it, then started it again. I hesitated in posting this out of fear that my identity would be discovered someday and my chillul Yom Tov would become public knowledge. What a perfectly ironic example of the points that I am about to make.

I am sitting here, in private, typing this post on Shavuous, "Zman Matan Toraseinu", with only the light of the shabbos lamp illuminating the room as I type. Not only that--my hair is covered.

Why? Why do I feel the need to cover my hair while being mechallel shabbos? If I am willing to use the computer on shabbos, why am I not turning on the light?

It seems that an inevitable part of being Orthoprax, or at least "prax" in public, is living with an endless stream of hypocrisy, lies, and fear. How can or should one deal with feeling like a hypocrite? Is it possible to live a happy and fulfilled Orthoprax life to avoid destroying ones family? How can I avoid feeling like a hypocrite when telling my children to keep things that I do not keep?