Recently, I read an article about how women of faith dress to adhere to the traditions of their individual faiths. While reading about how they choose to dress in order to reflect their faith, it struck me that such an attitude is admirable. How lucky they are to have the personal confidence and such deep faith that the attitudes of others don’t change what or who they are. Their thinking was that “this is what is right for me and I’m comfortable with my decision to follow my teachings”. Reflecting all religions, they live in the United States and I have to wonder what is different in their thinking than that of most people. Or is it that some religions have changed so much that there is no longer any pressure on it’s members to conform to any standard but that of faith?
Immediately, I am thrown mentally back to my early teens. My family were members of a Pentecostal church where they had worshipped since the family had moved to North Carolina when my mother was about fourteen years old. It was a very conservative church even by the standards of the 1950’s and 1960’s so we were different. When I was young, it didn’t matter to me since I was snugly ensconced into not only my own family but also the family of the church. There is a closeness and bonding that occurs when you are different from everyone else. Our family attended church every Sunday morning, for both Sunday School and the main service, the Sunday evening service and every Wednesday night. That, of course, doesn’t include the youth activities when I was in my teens nor does it include the weeks of revival when we went every night of the week.
It wasn’t until I hit my teens that the differences became more apparent. We weren’t allowed to go to movies, play cards, wear makeup or earrings, attend dances, or swear. When talking we tended to sound a lot like Sarah Palin with the gee whizzes and such since even saying “golly” was frowned upon. My mother wasn’t allowed to participate in gym in high school since the wearing of shorts was forbidden. She was forced to quit school instead. I know that changed something in my mother because she never mentioned it to me and I found out only after she died; my parents trained me to know that I would go to college which must have been their own aspirations. I attended the prom, but I didn’t dance; I did sneak into one movie, “Tom Jones”, no less, and still feel guilty about that. Women weren’t allowed to wear pants and I still remember the shock of seeing my mother for the first time in a pants suit.
Being a dutiful daughter, I never rebelled against my parents but I did rebel against my religion. I was used to being different so later in life when my difference from others was remarked on it never bothered me. I was busy trying to conform somewhat to what others were doing and making my own mark driven by my own ambition to succeed. In life, a door once opened closes on the past and all efforts go toward forming the new now. After sorting a lot of familly memorabilia, my husband once remarked that he had never seen anyone who had reinvented themselves so many times. After reading this article, I wonder now if all the striving to succeed has taken something away and that in winning I have lost something. I know I have lost that small town girl that I was without regret. Without a doubt, my parents were and would be proud of what I have done with my life. I still keep the core values and beliefs that I was schooled in. That has become a way of life for me and they have formed me into what I am now. I am different on the outside, but remain very much the same person that I was brought up to be. I have been able to pass some of the things that I was taught to my children. I see their goodness, generosity of spirit, and their core values reflect those of me and my husband. Being different is best if it comes from the inside and the outside is a reflection of what you are.