Monday, August 25, 2008

Bookmark on My Life

I started covering, full time, on July 3, 2008. I had been covering at home for about a month prior, and wearing a wide headband out in public.

This is something that I had been building up to for several months. I had, in my need to know everything been reading a Catholic message board and came across some very heated debates about whether or not women were still required, under the new canon laws, to wear veils to Mass. Both side of the debate can get very...agitated by the discussion, for reasons that I can't understand. However, as I sat there reading it, it just struck me that covering was, at least for me, the right thing to do. But I shook my head, and thought, no, no, it's an old fashioned tradition. The Church took that requirement out. We no longer have to wear them, most women don't, and you'll just look silly.

But the thought wouldn't leave me alone. So I started investigating. The first sites and blogs I found were all Muslim women, wearing the hijab, explaining how they were doing it not because they were forced, but because God had commanded it. And then they would list the reasons behind the command, but it came down to something as simple as that. God said so. And so, without knowing that there were other women, aside from the Amish and some of the Mennonite branches that covered all the time, at least in the Christian faith, I went looking for more arguments for the continued covering by women in their churches. Boy, did I ever find them. Some wonderful, well thought out, well researched posts and articles. There was this entire community of women out there who felt as I was beginning to feel, that God had called them to this, to covering.

I looked at the classic passage, 1 Corinthians 11, where St. Paul instructs that women should be veiled when they pray or prophesy. That the veil is a symbol of the authority that is over her, whether that authority is God, her father, her husband, or the priest. And she should cover her glory, her hair, on account of the angels. Out of respect. Okay. By St. Paul's direction, women should cover their hair in church. The Church, when they published the new canon laws, left out any mention of headcoverings, which means that it is not forbidden, nor is it commanded. But Paul did command it. So, I fall back to that original command. Paul did not say, "these particular women, right there, in the first row, must cover, but the rest of you, 2,000 years later, you don't have to anymore." No. He said that women should be veiled when they pray, out of respect for the authority of God, and for the angels. Why the angels? Who knows. I've seen some interesting arguments as to what "on account of the angels" might mean, but I'm undecided on why the angels care that I cover. The important fact is that that little phrase, "on account of the angels" shows that it does matter to them.

Right. So, covering in church was clearly (to me) commanded in the Bible. I would start doing that, but in a subtle way, so as not to distract the other parishioners from their worship. I was distracting enough, since I cannot take communion yet, and so there is some maneuvering when people come back to the pew after receiving. This is where the large headbands came in. But I felt, at least for me, that this was a cheat. It didn't cover my head, not at all. But for the time being, it was what I had. While I tried to work out what to do, the headbands were better than nothing.

And while I'm thinking of all this, it comes to me, that we are also instructed to pray unceasingly. Right. I can do that. Oh! But wait, I have to cover when I pray. So I found an old scarf of my sisters, green with purple polka dots, sheer, and quite long. And when it was time for me to pray at home, when I felt the need to pray, I would go into my room, lock the door, and wrap this scarf around my head to pray. But people would knock, they would interrupt me, and I would have to whip off this scarf (so I didn't look odd) and go answer the door. They eventually understood that if I was cloistered in my room, I was praying, and not to be disturbed, but this just came to feel silly. I was not praying unceasingly, because whenever the need struck, if I wasn't able to get to my room, I couldn't cover. This didn't mean that I didn't pray, but I felt wrong about it. Knowing that I should be covered, and not being. And so I didn't always pray when I felt that I should.

Then, one day, doing yard work, enjoying the sun and the weather and trimming our trees, the thought came: I am constantly surrounded by God, and His angels. If He is everywhere, and we are to cover in His Presence, then that means covering all the time. Everywhere. And it was that simple. I would cover all the time, and honor God and the angels, and then, whenever and where ever the need struck, I would be able to pray. So simple.

And so in June I took the plunge. I explained to my family that I was going to start covering, and why. Around the house I could wear large kerchiefs, which cover, at the moment, 99% of my hair, and all of my head. My hair is fairly short, so that when I put it up in a little miniature pony tail it disappears under the back of the kerchief. But I couldn't wear those in public, and certainly not to work. They just weren't appropriate, dress wise. So I ordered two snoods. Very basic, one in black, one in white. That way, they would go with anything, and I hadn't put a great deal of investment into this, should it not work out. You see, I was still nervous, still worried that I would feel like an idiot, or people would say something.

While I waited, and worried, I continued to wear the headbands, but all the time now, to get myself used to wearing something on my head, and to get the people I worked with used to seeing something on my head. And then the snoods arrived. Two days before I was supposed to go on vacation for a week. So I wore one to work the next day. I figured, that way, if it was too much, if it was difficult, then people would forget about it while I was out, and when I came back, everything could just go back to normal. I knew that I should cover, that it was right, but I was still nervous.

That morning, I slipped the white snood on, pinned it with some bobbi pins, tied the ties around my little pony tail, to make it a little bun, and hopped in my truck. I was nervous, but I still felt that it was right. And then, I turn off of my street, a turn that I've taken a million times, and I saw the cross. It was just a shadow, formed out of the pylons on the interstate overpass that I drive under every day on my way to and from work. I have driven past those pylons hundreds of times, and I have never seen the shadows form a cross before, and I have never seen them do it since. A trick of the light? Maybe. But my nervousness melted away. I was confident. I was obeying God. It didn't matter what people at work might think.

But you know what? All I heard, all day, were compliments. People thought that it was lovely, that it suited me, somehow. And all of those compliments were nice, were lovely, they made me feel good, but it wouldn't have mattered. I knew that I was going to cover for the rest of my life.

And I'll be the first to admit that I haven't been covering for a very long time. A little less than two months. But here's the thing: it feels like forever. It's so simple, so instinctive to get up in the morning, pull on the kerchief before I leave my room to walk the dogs. To change into a nicer scarf as I'm getting ready for work. (I still have the snoods, but I bought a few nice scarves that I prefer.)

People that I don't know are more polite, men tend to pause, to hold doors, to let me go first. A random twelve year old at the grocery store told me that I looked pretty. And since I know I haven't changed except for the scarves, I make the connection.

And I've noticed that I, personally, have started to change. I'm...adversarial with men on many levels. But that's a story for another time. The point is, I'm not nearly as respectful as I should be to men who deserve my respect. My stepfather, for one. A good man, a loving man, who married my mother and accepted the responsibility for two nearly grown girls who had been badly mistreated by the 'father' in their lives prior to him. And I obeyed him, when I thought that he was right. But when I thought that I knew better, or that his wishes were just stupid, well. As I said, adversarial. Now, though, I still have the thoughts, but not as many. I think, I pause, I take a second, and I remember that he is a good man, with many years of experience on me, and I think about what he is saying. And you know, he's still not always right. But I can have a conversation with him, and we can work to a solution. Which he was always willing to do, but I wasn't. And the scarf makes me more careful in how I speak about others, what I think. I've, apparently, got the vocabulary of a sailor. I don't use it as much anymore. I slip, but I'm working on it.

Now, that's not to say that I'm done. I would, personally, prefer to switch to all skirts and dresses. But that's a slower process, changing over my entire wardrobe, since I generally wear slacks to work and therefore don't own many skirts. But I wear a skirt or a dress as often as possible, and my other clothes are checked over to make certain that nothing is too tight, or shifts inappropriately when I move.

And that's that. My bookmark. I want to be able to look back when I've been covering for six months, a year, and more. And see how much I've grown, how much I've changed.

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