My brother’s vort was a happy time. Mixed in with the happiness was a lot of tiny details that caused me lots of anxiety.
The last time I had to wear a tznius dress was summer and it’s getting pretty cold out. Plus I’ve gained weight since then, so the dresses I have don’t fit.
When I visited my parents for Rosh Hashana, I wore a long comfortable black skirt, the only skirt I have left that fits me – not suitable for an occasion like a vort.
I need a new dress. I hate shopping because nothing ever fits. My sister jokingly tells me that “tent-style” is in – but those dresses that hang on my frame make me feel even fatter and uglier.
I visit two stores each day – I have one week. That’s a lot of stores. But two a day is all I can handle.
The first two are terrible. I leave frustrated (as I expected) when the zippers won’t even close on dresses two sizes bigger than the last dress I bought.
On the second day, I try on a dress that doesn’t quite make me look slimmer, but it does make me look good. I twist and turn in front of the mirror. I start smiling, picturing a long-sleeved shell under it, standing on my toes to simulate the effect of heels. My eyes sweep over my body, and I’m feeling victorious – and so early in the game! – until I realize the hemline is a tiny bit too much above the knee to go unnoticed.
I hesitate a moment – I look good! But I know my parents will notice and I don’t want to take away from their simcha. So reluctantly I shimmy out of the dress and hang it on the rack outside the fitting room.
On day six, I’m getting desperate. I start seriously considering the bright red dresses with the perfect styles for my body shape. I even try on a lace-and-leather red dress. Then I remember I hate that look, regardless of my parents’ objection to leather in a simcha dress.
I even try on a totally Boro Park dress. But the feeling when I look in the mirror is horrendous. It pretty much fits me. It’s the “right” length, the “right” style, it’ll look good with a long-sleeved black shell… and I look like a Boro Parker.
What’s so wrong with looking frummy-frum for one night? a small voice asks. This simcha isn’t about you. Don’t make a scene. Fit in for once.
For once! And I rip off this dress and storm out, because every time is “for once,” and when does it actually get to be about me?
I seriously consider not going because I have nothing to wear. But my brother made sure to call me and tell me it would mean so much to him if I came.
On day seven, the evening before the vort, I find a dress that fits, is the right length, and actually kinda makes me feel pretty. It’s way above my price range.
I call my sister in Lakewood. She has a dress that might fit me. But I won’t be able to try it until right before the vort, when I get to Lakewood.
I buy the dress. I can always return it if my sister’s dress fits me.
Later, at home, I put on a black shell, tights, and heels, and try on the dress again. I decide to wear it, and not even try my sister’s dress. I know that dress and I know it won’t make me look good. I decide to spend the extra money because after all that, I deserve to feel pretty.
I deliberately keep my mind off that dress that was the right fit and the right price, and just a tiny bit too short.
Tonight is not about me, after all. I can spend a little extra in order not to shame my parents in front of the new mechutanim. Is it any wonder I’m starting to resent people I haven’t even met yet?
I push away that thought. That’s not productive. I’m going to join in my family’s simcha. That’s all that matters. I can hide bits of myself in order to join the simcha without causing pain.