The fall showed its true colors today for the first time in the season. The summer hovered long enough to gift us with an unusually warm September. Now I’m enjoying the northeast change of color. The trees in bright shades of reds and yellows, the fences are lined with bundles of windswept leaves, the wet sidewalks keep the browned remains clinging to its cracks. A crisp air completed the setting for this atypical six grade descriptive writing composition to enthusiastically spin adjectives in my head.
Romantic appreciations aside, there’s a wicked laugh to all this. All through the yomim tovim the weather shed our layers. We all dragged the cotton clothing back out. On Simchas Torah babies were dressed in short built ups and little bubbles except for the few that couldn’t resist showing off the new velour. All that unusual heat - right after a whole shipment of hechshered coats were marketed to the masses. Oy, sweet irony!
Some of my family members have the coat hanging in their closets, probably relying on it like a watchdog against the year's evil. The design is just a better version of the burka. If you think about it, burkas are really bold mini dresses. This, in bland navy, wide, long, big plastic buttons and sans lining must really be the most celebrated invention in the God's chambers. I'm sure he's very pleased given that Erev Yom Kippur He hassled His people to personally send a pre-recorded phone messager to my home to remind me to be brave and not let the sweltering heat stop me from wearing it. (It did).
At the shofer blozen rush Rosh Hashana the woman pressed next to me wore it, The Zimmer Mantel, giving me an up close feel of how real it is. I suppose until then the concept seemed too radical to be seen as more than an exaggeration. This woman had about eight little children around her, unless I saw double, which I sometimes do. Giving birth so many times hasn't taken kindly to her shape. She was making small talk over the deafening noise while I was clumsily shushing my own honking horn. With the coat folded over her arm, she explained that her neighbor called before yom tov and asked that she too wear it. There was a tiny note of apology, maybe defensiveness in her voice. “I thought” she said “it’s Rosh Hashana, you know? It’s a zechus”.
I felt sorry for her honest attempt because I sincerely believe it's in vain. I heard an upset inner protest of ‘why?!'. Why, why, oh why? Why would this garment be manufactured, why would this garment be bought and worn? Why would this be an act of moral bravado?
I know the answers. I know, very well, the logical formula behind this enterprise. I'm fully aware that modesty has been deduced to a tribute to the almighty, not a female social identity. I know that this religious sacrifice is about offering up one's feminine desires to be attractive. I know why a woman with a weight issue is recruited to hide behind a frock just as any. I know why this is not about the sum of one's appearance but rather why it's about this particular cloth.
I know it. At times, these answers seem to make sense - to some degree. But when I'm alone with my thoughts it all seems like a confusing calculation that doesn't match up sensibly.
As for how the garment took with the general crowd, there's much doubt that this will be more than a new year resolution . The women around the younger age are snubbing it. They don't seem to realize that the radical few determine the middle, and if the radical are extremist enough the middle is right where most people want it. Regardless, the concept is going too far too fast. I predict this will be another righteous fad that'll just melt away with time. Think sunny.