It’s interesting to note how quickly your view of social norms can change based on the society that you find yourself in. About five years ago, I was a practicing and strictly observant Orthodox Jew who wore only long skirts and modest attire. Though I was studying at a university, I had many interactions with the Ultra-Orthodox Jewish world. At the time, I was asked to purchase a pair of jeans for myself as part of a costume for one of my college dance teams since I did not wear or own any pairs of pants. I went with a friend to the local mall and tried on pair after pair. Each time, my friend told me that they fit perfectly but the jeans were so tight and felt completely immodest – I couldn’t possibly have worn them outside the changing room. Finally, I settled on a pair of jeans that was twelve sizes too big (I realized in retrospect – I still have the pair and it still doesn’t fit) that I bunched and belted together to keep it at my waist. The fabric of the jeans flowed very loosely down my legs. Yet even when I was swimming in these practically skirt-like pair of pants, wearing them was still a huge decision as the jeans felt incredibly revealing.
Fast forward five years and here I am wrapping up my six weeks at a naturist resort where it is completely normal, comfortable and even liberating for me to walk around unclothed. Every individual here is viewed and treated as a person who deserves respect, and not just as a body. Putting on clothes is what seems to make people stand out and be sexually attractive here, and everyone seems so much friendlier and without pretensions when they are sans clothing.
While I totally and completely dread having to put my clothes back on tomorrow morning, I still understand and appreciate the social norms and values of the Ultra-Orthodox world. This post is not about anything as grand as moral relativism, but it is interesting for me to have experienced such a variety of personal truths regarding something as small and seemingly inconsequential as the clothes that we do or do not wear.
posted by amybetho