Dress Code

I just got back from not quite two weeks in Israel and Jordan with the Campbell University Divinity School Study Tour (for a full recap, head over here–and keep reading. There are about 12 posts).

One of our leaders reflected in his blog today about the dress code to which we had to adhere in various places on our trip. Sites owned/run/overseen by various faith groups required modest dress, which basically meant no shorts or bare shoulders or too much neck. We didn’t have any men wearing wife beaters in our group, so it meant they had to resort to pants–usually the convertible kind in which the legs were unzipped to shorts rather quickly later in the day. It did mean the women had to be more prepared about their dress. Our leader was mindful of the schedule and would let us know when we had to think about what we were wearing–if the women weren’t already mindful about asking. And so we would appear at the bus in long skirts (worn over shorts so the skirts could easily come off later) or long pants, a shirt with a neckline that didn’t plunge and sleeves that were long enough–or a scarf to cover the tank tops some chose to wear that day. Occasionally, hats were required–usually for the men.

In some ways, it was an exercise in benevolent self-interest. Yes, our mode of dress was out of respect for the Orthodox/Catholics/Jews/Muslims who owned(?) the site. But we also knew that if we weren’t dressed appropriately, we would not be allowed to enter or participate in the site. And no one wanted to miss out on a moment of this whirlwind tour.

In the grand scheme of things, I agree with Tony’s take on whether God cares about how we appear in his/her presence. At the same time, I have a different take on the dress code.

Perhaps it’s because I’m a woman and women are usually more affected by these things.

We all have our visions of how Arab or Muslim women dress. Usually they have on long sleeves and pants, and their heads are covered in a hijab. I can count on one finger the number of times I have seen a full burqa in the US. The same was true in the Arab areas we visited. Usually, the women (and girls) wore long sleeves, pants and hijab. I can count on 7 fingers the number of full burqas I saw (which may speak to the more liberal nature of Palestinians and Jordanians–or that these areas are more secular than you might expect).

Although I’m not advocating the burqa, I must confess that it was nice to have to wear pants and short or 3/4 length sleeves. Although wearing a burqa rubs my feminist fibers the wrong way, it sure does take the question out of what to wear, feeling like there’s nothing to wear, and wondering how one’s butt looks in those jeans. And so, in some ways, I appreciated being made to cover up. Then there is no question about the usual things with which American (and I’m sure other Western) women are so obsessed (tan lines, varicose veins, cellulite, arm jiggle, leg jiggle, chub rub…the list, I’m sure, goes on).

The dress code also makes me mindful of our typically less than modest modes (or retail choices) of dress for women and girls in our country. When thong underwear is marketed to girls who are barely in elementary school, we have a problem. Our daughters become sexualized way too soon; our women spend far too much time and energy trying to pull hard in the tug of war of aging in an effort to keep an iron grip on youth and beauty.

Would that we all take more time to think about our dress–not resorting to sack cloth and ashes, but keeping some things under wraps more than we do–and about what our bodies can and were made to do instead of how they look or are adorned.


Books I Probably Shouldn’t Take With Me To Israel

I’m headed to Israel in a coupla weeks and I’m trying to think about what would be useful for me to take so I can catch up on some reading–as well as what might help me have even more context for where I’m going. But I’m thinking there are things on my list I might be better off leaving at home.


Gideon’s Spies: The Secret History of the Mossad

I can’t imagine that going over very well…because one never knows where one stands with so many groups always vying for something over there…

Every Spy A Prince 

You know…another book about the history of the Israeli intelligence community. I’m not sure why I’m so fascinated about the spy game, but I am. You should see what I’m planning to take with me on the plane for those times when the ol’ Kindle isn’t allowed to be up and running.

My personal favorite…one I discovered at an indie bookstore in DC last summer and really hoped to read before we left:

The Media Relations Department of Hizbollah Wishes You a Happy Birthday

I’m hoping to someday really and truly understand the Israeli-Palestinian conflict…as well as the things that led to the making and undoing of the Middle East. As best I can tell at this point, everyone’s right and everyone’s wrong. But how did we really get here?

I’m sad I won’t get this one read in time, but it may actually make more sense to read it after the fact.


The Source. I call it the Damn Israel Book–a shout out to Barbara Kingsolver who, while writing The Poisonwood Bible (one of my all-time favorite books. ever.), referred to it as The Damn Africa Book (DAB for short). I swear. This book is a mere 905 pages long and tells the story of the people that lived and moved around a tell in Israel. A friend of mine asked me for the Cliff’s Notes…my response was: discovery, death, digging in the dirt, hope, destruction, despair, digging in the dirt, growth, destruction, death, digging in the dirt, movement, despair, hope, digging in the dirt, the end.

I read Anna Karenina AND War and Peace in a single semester in college. It has taken me this entire semester to get this book done.

But once it IS done, I’ll reward myself with finishing

From Beirut to Jerusalem

I was halfway through when I had to stop to focus on The Source. This is Thomas Friedman’s description and account of his time as a reporter in the Middle East in the early 1980s. It wouldn’t seem relevant to read a book that was written 25 years ago, but some of the same names he writes about then are the same dictators that were tossed or people are trying to toss this year. And since all those guys had such a long-standing regime in the area, it IS still relevant even 25 years later. Friedman has a good style of writing that is, at times, very humorous. That Middle East at that time was incredibly colorful, and you really get a sense of how much it paralleled our own Wild West.

I do hope to get this one finished as well…but I think they’ll let me in the country with this one if push comes to shove.

At least, I hope they will.

2010 Year in Review

My 30th year (or the 2010 year in review)

This year seems to have passed by, quickly and under the radar…and when I think about all that’s happened, I shouldn’t be too surprised. So here goes the 2010/age 30 round-up:

I did my first marathon…got my first tattoo…survived a semester with two practica…attended soccer games for my child…ran my first 10K in Charleston…smashed my 10K time in VA Beach…finally got my child the resources he needs to catch up and be successful in school…took a family trip to Williamsburg…took another trip to DC…finally went to the Holocaust museum (I’d been wanting to go since it opened my junior year in high school)…saw the Newseum…revisited powerful monuments…took in the city…navigated my family through the metro…went to the beach…survived the hottest summer on record of late…lost some weight…found some muscle…read some really good books…started a dissertation…had it scrapped four months later…fought (and lost) more dissertation battles (I’m just hoping to win the war)…was introduced to Anusara yoga by my sister in love and have gone to a class almost every week since…sent my child off to high school…got ready to attend wrestling matches and then he broke his arm…cleaned out the closet in my home office twice (and it needs another two rounds)…had a lot of family time…squeezed in a half-marathon…did a total of five races this year…celebrated Thanksgiving in a different way…had work done on our house…broke the book embargo…started shifting my taste buds away from coffee and to hot tea…discovered the beauty of Brooks shoes…made new friends…renewed bonds with old friends…finished my last required class for this degree…met a lot of new babies (all girls)…left church…found church…saw my husband get a job that went along with his calling…did honest to God therapy in a university counseling center…beat my head against a wall…and a desk…posted links…shook my fist at the Wake Co. school board, NC voters and Westboro Baptist Church…increased the tweeting…started Insanity…had the best birthday (31st) I’ve had since Mom died…got selfish…reached out…prayed a little more…opened to grace…mellowed a bit…borrowed books from others I have yet to return…did a Warrior Dash…contemplated giving up football…discovered the beauty of the salted caramel hot chocolate…had only one pumpkin spice latte…broke bread with some really great people…spent more time in the kitchen…realized my level of competence…and how far I have to go…

We Made An Excel Spreadsheet

I was in session today with one of my clients who is navigating her role in her family–and how to spend the holidays with them. She and her husband will spend their time driving half way across the country where they will split their time among his parents, her dad, and her mom (hers are divorced) and all the respective siblings, aunts, uncles and grandparents. In order to devise a plan that will allow them to maximize the time they will spend with each part of the family, they literally made a spreadsheet to work it out.


And that’s how it is for a lot of families. Adult children have divorced parents…and maybe a partner with divorced parents. Or have divorced parents and have a partner with one “set” of parents. Or have two in tact sets of parents but live in completely different places. Or two in tact sets of parents who live near by but have nothing in common with the other set. Sometimes you can get all those people together in the same room. Most of the time, you can’t.


And then you make a spreadsheet. Because the holidays are stressful enough. You can’t go throwin’ conflict on the fire, too. Even though you may spend the entire holiday season feeling pulled in 17 different directions and/or caught in the middle of a few. Or a feud.


I am thankful. I am one of those few lucky (blessed) individuals whose parents never got divorced. I have a partner whose parents never got divorced. I like his people; he likes mine. We can all–and frequently do–spend time in the same room together.


And so here’s what my Thanksgiving gathering looked like: A trip to Columbia, SC with my husband, son and father to stop at the home of my husband’s sister, brother-in-law and niece (and really, they’re my siblings, too). While there, the parental in-laws stopped through on their way to the final destination of us all, and we all (all 9 of us) went out for dinner. The parental in-laws took the niece and charged on to Washington, GA. We got up the next morning (Thanksgiving morn) and headed there ourselves…to the home of my brother-in-law-in-law’s people. His parents, brother, sister-in-law and two nieces. Add about three others who weren’t spending the holiday with their families (one of whom is because they really shouldn’t spend time together without a therapist on retainer), and you have 18 people for Thanksgiving. Two went home after the big meal, but the 16 of us remained…and actually enjoyed one another’s company.


Thank God I don’t have to make a spreadsheet. But I am mindful of those who do. And I feel a little guilty–because what I just described is so NOT the norm. For those of you navigating the rough waters of the holiday season, hang in there. My hope for you all is that you can find a way to get what you want and what you need from the people you love most–and that your holiday will be short on conflict and feeling pulled in so many directions.