My Omnibus Farewell Post: GIRLS GONE MILD, Wendy Shalit, Hospital Burquas, Professional Ass-Doubling, and “Modest Fashion Shows”
I didn't mean to write pages 170-172 of Wendy Shalit's new book, Girls Gone Mild. It was an accident. I have never been "mild" in my life. I get paid to tell dirty jokes. I have worked as a professional … Read More
I didn't mean to write pages 170-172 of Wendy Shalit's new book, Girls Gone Mild. It was an accident.
I have never been "mild" in my life. I get paid to tell dirty jokes. I have worked as a professional body double. I won't even eat mild cheddar. Or mild salsa. It's "medium" or bust with me.
Wendy and I are unlikely friends. Although we are close in age and both attended liberal Northeastern universities, Wendy is now Orthodox, married, the mother of a toddler, and, well, way more successful than I am. As a profile in the Toronto Star explains:
Shalit is the author of two thoroughly researched books about "young women reclaiming their self-respect" and rejecting promiscuity and the hypersexuality of popular culture and fashion.
Girls Gone Mild has just arrived on bookshelves. Her previous book, A Return to Modesty, was praised by Salon, The Wall Street Journal and Newsweek, which called her "a prodigy at cracking the codes of culture." Playboy, on the other hand, put it under the heading, A Man's Worst Nightmare.
Here's what happened. About a year and a half ago, I emailed Wendy; we struck up an online friendship, and met once in a West Village diner when she came to New York to visit with her publisher. I started reading the blog Wendy writes in collboration with some twenty other modesty-minded women.
I was sometimes sympathetic (it is hard to find a nice one-piece swimsuit these days), and sometimes turned off by the bloggers' self-righteous attitudes (oh, those grapes are sour!) towards female celebrities including Britney, Paris, and the proudly-hot-at-40 Cindy Margolis.
The bloggers are all, as far as I can tell, Christian or Jewish — and, of course, obsessed with modesty. I would always laugh — in my high-school-debater, "gotcha" kind of way — when they commented on the dress of Muslim women. Comments like "Well, that's just TOO modest." In one discussion of an "interfaith hospital gown" (clearly a paper burqua), one commenter writes "Oh- for heaven's sake–Why not just wrap up in a couple of sheets?"
That, of course, is precisely the remark I would make towards the modesty bloggers' own skirted swimsuits and up-to-the-collarbone wedding gowns.
I imagined a bunch of girls in department-store frills and bows, and clunky, secretarial two-inch pumps, marching through a church basement while awful Christian "praise music" blasted from a boom box and everyone stood around uncomfortably, and then nodded and applauded, saying to one another "See, modesty can be fashionable," all while wondering, each in his or her own head, how that spectacle was just so embarassing, and what is it those secular models have that our girls don't have? I was embarrassed just thinking about it.
So I wrote up a reply. Just a long blog comment, explaining things like "…work out ahead of time who walks, in what order, wearing what, and post the list on a wall right in the place that the models see before they walk down the "runway" …Arrange things so that the hardest outfits to get into come early in the show, so that a model's switch from first to second outfit can be done very quickly."
Wendy asked if she could excerpt it in her book. I said "sure." She offered me an opportunity to edit the piece, but I was going through a divorce at the time (oh, the irony! score one for Wendy) and never got back to her. Next thing I hear, the book is out, and a signed copy is in the mail to me.
Thus, I have written pages 170-172 of Girls Gone Mild. I have also written fifteen posts for Jewcy over the last five days, and this is me, signing off as your Guest Editor.
You can see more of Wendy here. You can see more of me at Jenisfamous.com, or in Brooklyn at Pete's Candy Store. I've also conducted an interview with Wendy — an extension of this post — which you can look forward to on Jewcy in the next few days. And finally, I'll be contributing a post here and there as an erstwhile guest contributor.
As for now — I never did get around to telling you about that time I spent Passover at my high school boyfriend's family's beach house in Nags Head. It was my first Passover; after three days of sunbathing and chopped liver, I had never been so hungry for bread.
This is the most Jewish I've felt since then.
Sincerely, Jennifer Dziura Comedian and Retiring Guest Editor