Dear Mrs. Bluth,
I just came home from seminary and am already regretting it. My friends, those from sem and those who stayed home, dress modern – shorter and tighter skirts and shirts. My parents are what I would call “middle of the road to modern” and my mother’s skirts don’t always cover her knees and are sometimes too tight – which she blames on the fact that she has put on some weight. Yet, she has made it clear that my friends are not welcome in our home, in part, because it sets a poor example for my teenage siblings.
So now we get together at someone else’s house or at the mall. I am nineteen and don’t feel my parents should be telling me how to dress. My house, though, has become a war zone.
At my parents’ suggestion, I am sending you this letter. I hope you can give us some tips on how to resolve this issue. Thank you.
Reading your letter raised my blood pressure and caused me great emotional discomfort on your behalf. For the most part, I am annoyed at parents who want their children to “do as I say and NOT as I do!” as the earliest and most influential role models kids have are their parents! It annoys me when children are given a whole litany of mixed messages, sent to yeshivas and Bais Yaakovs where they are taught about tznius and good middos and then come home to parents who dress completely different and act in ways that are not in line with those teachings.
So, I must wonder why is it that your mother sent you off to a year of seminary in Israel and expect you to dress in a way she is not willing to adhere to. Being overweight is not an excuse; there are plenty of designer styles she can choose from no matter what her size.
Now, don’t think you are being let off the hook, though. There’s a simple, logical equation you are having trouble figuring out so I’ll walk you through it.
You went to a Bais Yaakov, you went to a seminary in Israel – I assume that in both places you learned what a bas Yisroel should strive to be and the modesty of dress she should adopt. You are nineteen and want to prove that you are mature, responsible and dependable and ready for your independence. Well, if the example your mother sets offends you, why do you choose to offend yourself by following that example. Dress with dignity and modesty; take pride in who you are. You set the good example and, maybe, when your mother sees her daughter dressed elegantly, stylishly and confidently – and in a tznius manner – she will follow suit. Sometimes the student becomes the teacher and must set the example.
The very fact that you say you are offended by your mother’s attire leads me to believe that you don’t choose to dress that way. Fall back on what you learned in seminary, about the beauty and the strength of the Jewish woman. It is not in displaying her body in tight clothing and drawing negative attention her way. Follow the ideal as discussed in Friday night’s Eishes Chayil, where it says that our beauty and strength comes from within and emanates outwardly by how we carry ourselves, how we project the quiet grace and poise that does not require flashy, low-cut, short and tight attire to be noticed.
Something in your letter resonates that sentiment and, if I can help you achieve this by speaking with your mother, I’ll be more than happy to do so.