The First One’s Free — Experiments in Practical Judaism

The last time I was at Beit Meshugge, my friend LZ asked me why I wanted to convert, and we got talking about what I was doing, and I said my philosophy was to try to do as much Torah practice as I could bli neder, and she said that seemed very smart.

I started small and easy.  I bought a siddur and started saying the morning blessings and netilat yadaim (ritual handwashing). 

The hardest of the easy things for me was dressing appropriately, since Orthodox women wear skirts most of the time.  (I’m still trying to find out if and when pants are appropriate outside of private, sex-segregated spaces, and what sort of pants — a friend says loose-fitting pants are all right for some activities, but I don’t know what those are.)  I am really not a “skirts person” by nature.  I’ve basically lived in jeans since babyhood (my mother was no fool, and suppressed her urge to dress me in cute frilly things in favour of robust, durable, and above all machine washable clothes), and so I’m thoroughly dependent on pockets.  I loved cargo pants in the 90s.

Folks, for those of you who don’t regularly shop for women’s clothing, it’s hard to find skirts with pockets, especially in a longer length, since “kosher” skirts cover the knee completely when you sit.
 
I managed to buy some plus-sized jean skirts from Kosher Casual and Jessica London, my two new favourite go-to places for clothes.  Their sizes actually run relatively accurate, and they ship to Canada!  (Shameless plugging time.)
 
I read somewhere that the Orthodox woman is supposed to dress like a bat melech (princess).  If so, I’m very much more Zara Phillips than Kate Middleton.  I do still need to find out what’s appropriate to wear for riding, because that’s going to come up, sooner or later…
 
The hardest part about changing to skirts was getting through the winter, especially this past winter.  It was brutally cold, and there was a fair bit of snow.  I eventually resorted to wearing a long skirt with leggings under it (I’m told this is forbidden by some rabbis in some places, but the local community standard says this is ok, judging by the female attendees at Beit Meshugge this past winter), tall socks under those, and my winter boots.  (I actually found this was warmer than jeans.)  But it was still bloody cold.  (Who am I kidding?  It would have been cold no matter what I was wearing.) 
 
This is of course further complicated in my case (because nothing I do is ever easy) because I’m allergic to nylon stockings, which is why I tend to wear (very) tall socks or cotton-spandex leggings or tights.
 
To be honest, I really wasn’t sure I was going to be able to hack wearing skirts all winter, but I managed.  I wonder if that demonstrates my commitment, or that I’m just as nutty as I think I am?
 
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