Monday, January 25, 2010

My secret jeans

Well, I just finished writing one of my chapters (63 pages! It might get shorter when I edit it though), so I figured I could reward myself by taking a short break to write a blog post, before I start on the next chapter. I'm now about half way done with my dissertation - I've now written 2 empirical chapters, and if all goes well I'm planning on writing 2 more before I hand in my dissertation to my committee in 5 weeks, so that I can defend my dissertation at the end of March.

I have an on-campus job interview coming up next week, my first (and so far only) interview this job season. Yesterday B and I went to the mall, where I bought a nice pants suit for the interview- I spent approximately twice as much on this suit as I spent on my wedding dress, which just shows where my priorities lay I guess :)

There is some discussion among academic women about whether to wear a pants suit or a skirt suit to an interview- the consensus it doesn't really matter unless you're interviewing at a religious school (which I'm not), and that you should go for what you are more comfortable in. Which for me, is pants. But it wasn't always that way.

When I was a child, I wore pants all the time. But around my Bat Mitzvah time, my mom confiscated all my pants, which she also did with tons of other clothing I wore that she even mildly disapproved of for tzniusdik (modesty) reasons- I would send it downstairs for laundry, and it would never return. I was pretty upset when I figured out that all my pants had been 'disappeared' and had some arguments with my mother about it, who stood firm. But after that, from age 12-18, the only time I would wear pants was when skiing, and even that turned into a huge argument with my mother, in which I would argue that wearing a skirt while skiing was dangerous. Really, I just wanted to wear pants and look normal for once- cause who the heck skis in a skirt? If I recall correctly after getting away with wearing just ski pants once or twice, she made me wear ski pants with a knee length skirt over it.

So pants were always this symbol to me of something that religion was preventing me from wearing, but that I really wanted to wear. Apart from being something 'forbidden' and therefore awesome (to me as a teenager), there was a comfort issue. The way my hips are built, my thighs rub together when I walk. I used to think this was a weight thing, but even when I dieted down to approximately 60 pounds less than my current weight when I was in college (weight watchers), and my bones were all sticking out and I was probably an unhealthily skinny weight, my thighs still rubbed together when I walked. My body is just built that way. As a result, whenever it was warm outside and I was walking anywhere in a skirt, my thighs would get sweaty, rub against each other in a sticky and horrible way, and I would get a rash on the inside of my thighs. And it HURT with every step I took. I remember one particularly warm shabbas I spent at a friends house when we walked a particularly long distance, and when I got back to my friends house I had bloody blisters on the inside of my thighs.

So in the summer I would get rashes. In the winter, I would get freezing cold- no matter how thick your tights are, and how long your skirt is, wearing a skirt in the winter is always cold. Basically, I hate skirts. Even the couple of nice hippie skirts I have, I wear over pants. I also only wear them when I'm going to music festivals. Since moving out of my parents house 5 and a half years, I've only worn skirts at music festivals and when visiting my parents.

But how does one transition from wearing all skirts to wearing all pants? It started with a pair of secret jeans.

For my first two years of college my parents wouldn't let me live in the dorms, so I would commute to school every day. I would take a train (actually, 3-4 trains) into the city every day, and come home at night- which took roughly 3-4 hours round trip. The last leg of my trip to school was the subway- I could either take one subway that dropped me off about 6 blocks from school, or I could take 2 subways (and transfer) and get dropped off right where I needed to be.

One day it was nice out, so I decided to walk to the farther away subway station. On the way there I passed a levi's store and I ducked inside. I walked around looking at the pants, utterly mystified over what all the different things meant- what did all these different names of pants mean? What were flare versus boot cut versus straight cut versus skinny cut? I tried on a pair of straight cut jeans, and I looked hideous. See, apart from having thighs that touch each other, I also have a butt which is much larger than my waist. An 'hourglass' figure. Straight cut (and skinny cut) jeans are not cut for that shape- they are cut for little skinny white girls with no ass, and if you have an ass they make you look really fat. Anyway, I saw those jeans looked hideous on me, so I went on my way. My idea of how hideous they looked was also no doubt influenced by the weirdness and self-consciousness I felt in wearing jeans at all.

I don't know why, but a few weeks later I checked out the store again and tried on some more jeans. I really wanted to buy a pair of jeans, and I figured if I could try on a bunch of different types of jeans, I might find one that didn't make me look like a whale. And then I discovered them- boot cut jeans. Boot cut jeans are jeans that have a bit of a flare on the bottom (pictured above), and they look great on ladies with a bit o' junk in the trunk, like myself. These jeans were the first I tried on that I looked at myself in the mirror and said "Ok, I could go out in public in these and not feel like everyone is staring at me."

So I bought them.

But then the problem was, how could I wear them to school? I wanted to wear them to school, but I was still leaving my parents house every morning, and I knew they would flip out if they saw me in pants. At first I would put my jeans in my bag and change at the train station where I transferred trains. But then once I missed my next train and was late to class.

So I started a system- I had one particularly large flowey skirt that wasn't really tight. So I would put my jeans on, put that skirt on over my jeans, and roll up my pants leg so they wouldn't stick out underneath. Then after I got out of sight from my parents house, on the way to the train station, I would quickly take my skirt off and put it in my bag, and roll down my pants legs. I would do this basically in the middle of the sidewalk- it was a suburb, but I'm sure some people saw me at times and were like 'wtf?'. I would put my skirt back on when I was on the train home, and walk home, take the pants off from under my skirt, and go have dinner with my family, who were none the wiser.

When I wasn't wearing the pants, I was very careful about hiding them so that my parents couldn't find them, particularly my mother, who was fond of going through my things when I wasn't home and then being all like "HOW COME YOU HAVE SECRET CONDOMS HIDDEN IN A BOOT I HAVE NO BUSINESS LOOKING IN, AYE?" (That particular incident ended in a pitiful lie about a health fair giving them out at school, which she bought into, due to the incredible power of denial). I would hide them between old pairs of pajamas I hadn't worn in years.

Another problem was how to wash my pants. Jeans don't need to be washed super frequently, but once I wore them to a party and someone spilled beer all over my pants(beerpants!). And I couldn't wear them to school smelling like beer, obviously. So I had to wait until I knew my mother would be out of the house for several hours so that I could use the washing machine without her knowing what I was doing. It took a few weeks until my opportunity arose- when my parents both went to a bat mitzvah I wasn't invited to- and I rushed around washing them, all the time terrified that my parents would come home early and catch me.

All that seems somewhat ridiculous and silly now, but I was very afraid of what they would do.

I don't really remember what happened to that first pair of jeans. I've had so many jeans since then. Most likely they got some holes and I threw them out, or I gained some weight and donated them somewhere. But for two years, they were my only pair of pants, and I secretly wore them almost every day I went to school.

I only once in my life wore pants in front of my parents (after age 12 of course and barring those ski pants of course). A couple of years ago I visited home for a few days. One night I went out to meet with some friends and changed into jeans before heading over there. At that point I had been financially independent and living on my own for around 4 years, and was starting to be more open about my OTDness around my parents. My mom glared at me but didn't say anything, and my dad said something like "oh so you're wearing jeans I see *nervous laughter* have fun tonight"


  1. Great Story. My "jeans" story has to do with removing my kippa. I stopped wearing one outside a reasonable distance from the Brooklyn frummie neighborhood in which I grew up. I felt like people might catch me removing my kippa from my head in the morning as I boarded the subway. It almost felt like they were saying "Ha, you're trying to hide your Jewishness!" Anyway the weird moment came when on the way home from work one evening I met my sister on the train. Very awkward moment but thankfully she didn't say anything I no longer care and although they don't really know I'm OTD (or do they?) they never really say a word to me about my uncovered head when I visit my parents from time to time. Actually some of my siblings have mentioned something but I totally brush them off. Nothing like freedom.

  2. I can so identify! Not about the skirts vs pants, but wearing jeans and especially when my mom once found my condoms. She didn't buy into my excuse but I guess yours was better :P

  3. olam hashecker- there was a few times I ran into people I knew at the train station, including one of my parents friends. I was sooo self conscious about being in pants, but the particular guy I ran into was pretty modern and thinking back, he probably didn't even notice, or if he did, he probably just thought I wore pants like a lot of people in my neighborhood did (I grew up MO, but my parents grew up yeshivish and were more to the right of most people in the town I grew up in).

    jewish rebel- I don't know if my mom really bought into it either, or if she just realized no good could come of such a conversation, so she just dropped it when I came up with something semi-plausible. :)

  4. I had no problems with jeans (i wear them all the time when visiting the folks) but the kippa thing I can fully relate to

  5. gamzoo- then I have to assume you are male. :)

    See, this is why it's important to have women OTD bloggers, cause all you male bloggers apparently can't relate to what we go through. :P

  6. Get back to that PhD thesis! Ignore the damn computer!


  7. Oh, see now I know why you went OTD. It's because your mom let you wear pants when you were over the age of 3! ;)
    Good story, I didn't do that with jeans (first pair of jeans that I bought was after I went OTD, and I wore them home and refused to change when asked) but had the whole running around-hiding stuff from the parents-etc thing with nonJewish music, books in which sex was mentioned or implied, non Cholov Yisroel stuff, movies....the list goes on and on.
    Good story, thanks for sharing :)

  8. I feel your pain regarding the thigh rub lol, being a chick with thighs that meet (thanks Eastern European relatives!)Very happy leggings are back in style. My other secret weapon is apply deodorant to each thigh, prevents the sweating, sounds wacky but was advise passed along to me by a fellow thigh rubber.
    I was never religious but did go to yeshiva for elementary and junior high, the best feeling in the world was coming home and ripping of the skirt and putting on some jeans. To this day jeans represent a sense of freedom.


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