Costume Changes – Part I

My male colleagues do NOT have to deal with this. I also daresay that most of my straight female colleagues don’t feel the need to demonstrate the possibility of looking rabbinic, proper, and well-dressed in pants; but I do. Especially as fall becomes winter. Comfort is important.

Friday night I put on a skirt for the first time in probably 3 weeks. I’d been on vacation and it was my first Shabbat back at the synagogue. I almost ALWAYS wear a skirt on the bimah, when I’m leading services; it’s probably homage to my mother, in part, who drilled it into my head that wearing a skirt was part of looking and acting respectful. She called it acting like a lady. (I was a tomboy, active and sometimes loud; I often resented the instruction then, but clearly have internalized it now. Sometimes.) And as a lesbian, I want to make sure that my “mainstream” credentials are firmly in place, too; so I rarely wear pants on the bimah, and when I do I make sure that it’s very dressy. (I remember the first time I broke my “no pants on the bimah” rule. It was a bar mitzvah during the second or third year I was here, while I was still commuting, living two and a quarter hours away and coming to Troy every other weekend. I forgot to bring my “girl shoes” and what could I do?! Fortunately it was a family who didn’t care one way or the other.) And fortunately I now have “girl shoes” that are comfortable when standing for hours. Good arches, sensible heels, a big enough toe box, and stylish enough that I don’t feel funny wearing them with a skirt.

Shabbat morning, long skirt. Appearing in public at a different congregation — our dear friend was celebrating his bar mitzvah (as an adult) at Conservative Congregation Ohav Shalom in Albany. Could have been a knee-length skirt, but with a long skirt I can wear knee-highs instead of nylons; easier to get on, more comfortable. Male rabbis don’t have to deal with these issues! Forgot my tallit, had to stop at (my) synagogue to get it. Not dressed properly as an adult Jew for praying in the morning without a tallit, and having your own is a marker of interest, involvement, and observance. So is having your own kippah. I tend to color-coordinate my kippot and also to wear tall ones when I am appearing in public in mixed company (meaning, interfaith services or other activities). Christian clergy discuss whether they are going to “robe”; I don’t have a robe, and won’t wear my tallit just for show (though see the picture of Rabbi Waskow at the pray-in; clearly he does). So I wear a tall kippah to be identifiable as clergy. Which is ironic, since in Israel it turned out that this style of kippah, looking as it does like a woman’s hat, allowed me to “pass” more easily and not get hassled as a woman wearing what is traditionally a man’s garb. (See my post for a synopsis of what happened — scroll way down.)

Shabbat afternoon, nap. Motsa’ei Shabbat, dress up again. This time for a discussion sponsored by our Interfaith Outreach group, addressing December issues, and immediately after to the 50th birthday party of a Jewish lesbian friend of ours. I was the only woman at our table (of lesbians) wearing a skirt. I suppose I could have worn dressy pants but I was too tired to figure out something different from what I’d worn to the bar mitzvah in the morning, and anyway too many of our clothes are still packed from the move, which is probably why I wore a skirt in the morning too. But I like skirts, too. Long ones, anyway.

Came home, my partner drove the babysitter home, and I changed into jeans, wool socks and mud boots to go out and visit the chickens. I got chicken poop on my jacket because I was picking them up and some of their feet are messy.

Sunday morning, nice sweatpants and my Crane Lake Faculty shirt. Crane Lake is one of the two Reform Jewish camps in the northeastern United States, and every year someone from the camp’s senior staff comes to talk to our Sunday School about Crane Lake and Eisner Camps. Usually I wear a skirt to Sunday School too, but I figured that this morning I could look a little more like camp. I almost wore shorts and my Birkenstocks, but decided that that was too goofy. I’m pretty goofy at Sunday School (and camp) anyway, so I figured it wasn’t really necessary…

Then change into wine-colored velvet skirt, high-collar shirt, and fringed and beaded velvet shawl. The kippah looks like rose-colored lace. The Victorian Stroll attracted between 125-150 people to listen to our amazing Choir (and, we hope, pre-order the CD that they’ll be recording in January). (Old Victorian Stroll pictures here, description of the musical program here.) When we were shopping for wedding clothes (ok, civil union clothes) six years ago, I saw a great Victorian hat in one of the stores in Stockbridge. The synagogue hadn’t committed to participate in the Victorian Stroll at that point, so I couldn’t quite justify the hat as a business expense. After 5 or 6 years now, though, I think I should buy that hat…

The sweats and Crane Lake polo shirt work fine in the afternoon to help the kids clean their room.

Now I’m getting ready to go back to (Conservative) Congregation Ohav Shalom to hear Rabbi Steven Greenberg, the world’s first openly gay Orthodox rabbi. (Don’t quibble with me; that’s how HE describes himself.) I’m going as a rabbi, a Jew, a woman, a Reform Jew, a Reform rabbi, and of course a lesbian … surrounded by people with all kinds of perspectives on the world and chips on their shoulders. What on earth do I wear tonight????!!!!!

(Read the comments; then here’s Part II)