No one got nervous when I started wearing hats all the time. It was a fashion statement, right? And I wasn't, at first, trying to cover all my hair. I was just in training for that. And when I gave up wearing pants, it wasn't such a big deal because I favored dresses and skirts anyway. And the ones I wore, because I'm on the shorter side and because I can hardly sew on a button, let alone make a hem, had long hemlines that drove my mother-in-law crazy. My friends and family started to worry, though, in the heat and humidity of a Midwest summer, I wore long sleeves and shirts buttoned at the neck and knee high stockings.
My mother was upset that I was going to lose my individuality. My whole life, I always stuck out in a crowd either because I was dressed funky or because my hair was some wild color. As we took on more and more the habits and dress of frumdom, my mother complained that I wasn't going to be my old self. And here, for the first time in my life, I really wanted to belong to a group. I wanted to look them, too. And I was willing to play by the rules.
But even though I wear long skirts with sleeves past the elbows and buttoned up to my ears, my style still shines through. I have found a way for my bright orange and purple striped shirt to fit into my wardrobe. I wear doc martens (maryjanes). I carry a leopard print backpack (with a picture of the Rebbe hanging from it) everywhere I go. And of course, I have the now infamous blue hair extensions in my sheitel.
My mother is now relieved that I'm still the same person I was before. I haven't lost any of who I used to be in the outward sense. Even though I do believe it is a reflection on who I am on the inside. My mother all but cheered when I told her we actually went to the movies to see Star Wars and she loves when I tell her about what new (secular) book I'm reading or a movie we have rented.
I think it was Groucho Marx who said that he would never want to belong to a club that would have him as a member. At one time I felt like that, but now it's a different story. Sure, I don't dress and maybe I'm not as aidel as some of the ladies in our community, but I'm perfectly tznius. I'm not loud, but I'm not silent. I'm moody, but I'm not sullen. I try to keep a smile on my face. How do you say that in Hebrew? Keeping a smile on your face? But then, I was always like that before.
How do I sum this up? I'm still the same person I was before, except that now I feel complete, but not finished. Everyday is an adventure in being a parent, wife, mother, friend, sister, worker and Jew. Everyday is a struggle to be a little bit better than I was yesterday. To learn something and to grow. But that doesn't mean I have to wear boring, grey, baggy clothes. There is always room for bright orange in everyone's wardrobe.