Monday, May 16, 2011

Response to Skirt Shorts

I'll admit that I have been paying attention to the response to my recent slideshow at Tablet and for the most part, it has been extremely positive, which is very gratifying. But obviously, not everyone feels warmly about the slideshow and my own personal religious arc. The article was reposted at A Mother In Israel, which is a site I have never heard of before, and this was the first among the comments:

I went to college with Dvora. I find that sometimes she is really sensational. I still remember when I was a sophmore and she was a freshman she would camp out in my dorm room in horror when her roomate had her boyfriend spend the night. She’s drifted very far from that tmimut.

The commenter wrote under I assume are her initials and based off of the details she provided about our interaction, I am pretty sure I know who it is. I have nothing but good things to say about her. She was very kind to me during my first year at Penn, which was a very difficult one for me.

What she mentions is true. During the first semester of my freshman year, I lived with a girl I euphemistically called, "The Evil Bitch Monster of Death," (anyone get the reference?) because she locked me out of the room when I went to the bathroom, unplugged my fridge when I went away for the weekend so all my food spoiled and had sex while I was in the room without informing me first. (I should note that according to all of my hall mates, she also did a prodigious amount of drugs, and not marijuana.) So while I was probably more traumatized by this situation than your average college freshman since I had just arrived from a very sheltered environment at an all girls school, I would think that present day me would also find this troubling.

Also, her characterization of me being "sensational" is probably also true. Anyone who has read this blog or met me would probably agree. I am certainly not mild-mannered. As for my former tmimut -- I am inclined to disagree with the commenter. I mean, I was "innocent" as she stated but we all lose that, whether or not we stay Orthodox. And I'm glad that I'm no longer so easily shocked by what I quickly learned is the way things are.

Also, I don't look back so fondly on this innocence. In fact, I view that "tmimut" as naivete. Not just about the world and sex but also about myself. I had just arrived at college and was only starting to explore who I was and what I believe in. After the first year of school, I no longer had much meaningful contact with the commenter. As I settled in, I realized that I didn't have as much common ground with her and her chevra. Though we both came from the same communities with similar standards, I was beginning to realize that I didn't want to stay in that world indefinitely. Whereas many Orthodox students at Penn come there with the express desire to excel academically but not be changed religiously by campus life, I was beginning to realize that I wanted the opposite. I wanted to be changed by new ideas and experiences. By the end of the second semester, I had found a group of friends that I remained close with until the end of college. These friends had a more open, liberal attitude when it came to halacha and the secular world.

As I moved further away from Orthodoxy and tzniut, I've gotten happier. Not because Orthodoxy is inherently bad or modesty is evil, but they were never the right fit for me. A couple of commenters on Tablet's site noted that they are more comfortable in more conservative style clothing, which is perfectly acceptable. As long as you are honoring your own impulses and not simply listening to an interpretation of Jewish law that you don't entirely believe in then I have no problem with people who adopt a more modest form of dress. This was not the case for me. After I got over the initial shock of wearing jeans or tank tops, I realized just how comfortable I felt in this new attire, how much more like myself. I felt more at home in this type of clothing than I ever did in long skirts. I finally came to accept that I wasn't blessed with the modesty gene. It took a lot of trial and error to learn those sort of things about myself.

So perhaps, as the commenter noted, I have lost my tmimut. Good riddance, I say. I much prefer self-knowledge.


mother in israel said...

Hi Dvora, nice to meet you. I appreciate your honest response to the comment. Good luck to you (and us all) as you continue to find your way.

Dvora Meyers said...

Thanks for your comment. I usually don't take the time to respond to comments on my articles since I have already had my say in the piece itself, and the comments are a place for others to weigh in. This is why I didn't respond on the site. But her comment did make me reflect on who I was when I was 18 and who I am now at 28 and I wanted to speak briefly about that.