A Woman's Spirituality, Measured by Hosiery

Beige Stockings and Modesty in Hasidic Brooklyn

Lisa Anchin

By Judy Brown (Eishes Chayil)

Published August 28, 2012, issue of August 31, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 2 of 3)

Let me explain. It was Tuesday, mid-August, a day the sun wrapped its heat rays tightly around New York. It was 3 p.m., and like every suffocating day that month, I filled up the baby pool for my children in the yard, settled on a plastic chair with cherry ices and dunked my legs in the pool, right where the water spurted from the hose.

It was then that the Hasid passed. It was then that he saw me — beige pantyhose transparent, legs seemingly bare — and, looking quickly away, hurried to tell the rav. I had not seen him at all. I did not know of the bewildered chaos going on in his mind until later that night, when my husband came home and stared at me quizzically.

The rav had called, he said. Could it be true? That I had sat outside with no pantyhose at all?

“Whaaaht?” I said.

“It’s true. The rav told me. He said he wouldn’t tell me who it was, so I shouldn’t ask, but a man had certainly seen you outside with nothing on.”

My mind sped over the day’s details. There was breakfast, then prayers, laundry, then shopping for Shaindy’s socks. The children arrived home. I had taken them outside. There I had filled up the pool and sat by the edge, with my feet in the water.

But I had certainly been wearing pantyhose. I had opened a new pair that morning: Berkshire brand, city beige, very sheer, medium, 100 to 135 pounds. Pantyhose, the realization then struck me, that had been very wet. Finally, I understood.

I explained it to my husband; I explained it to the rav; I explained it to my friend who had heard and wanted to know. It wasn’t my legs, I repeated again and again. It was the wet pantyhose that only looked like my actual legs soaking in the pool.

There was a hint of skepticism, but within a day, everyone had calmed down. It was agreed. Exposing my bare calves and ankles? Even I would never do that.

It is the way things are in the confined ZIP codes of Brooklyn, where an ancient way of life still thrives, along with its dress codes, language and traditions.

Is this good? Is this bad? I do not know. It is a warm world that is suffocating yet reassuring. And though these incidents are unsettling, the cheerful upside to it all is the times I get to tell on someone else. Like two years ago, when I told the rav that my friend Rivky and her husband go to the movies.

It happened accidentally. I had come to the rav to ask for advice about a different subject entirely, but he had asked me about this and that, and while trying to remember, I said: “Oh, yes. That was right after Rivky and her husband came back from the movie.”

He stared at me in shock. “Rivky? And her husband?”

Oops.

I forgot.

We don’t go to the movies.

I immediately corrected myself. I told him it was a documentary. About stars. Or penguins. Or starlike penguins. It was hard to believe. The things they do in movies. I mean documentaries.

This is not a double life. It is, rather, a coping mechanism. We, the Hasidish-ish, do not want to be secular. We just want to watch a particular movie. Then we want to go back.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • From kosher wine to Ecstasy, presenting some of our best bootlegs:
  • Sara Kramer is not the first New Yorker to feel the alluring pull of the West Coast — but she might be the first heading there with Turkish Urfa pepper and za’atar in her suitcase.
  • About 1 in 40 American Jews will get pancreatic cancer (Ruth Bader Ginsberg is one of the few survivors).
  • At which grade level should classroom discussions include topics like the death of civilians kidnapping of young Israelis and sirens warning of incoming rockets?
  • Wanted: Met Council CEO.
  • “Look, on the one hand, I understand him,” says Rivka Ben-Pazi, a niece of Elchanan Hameiri, the boy that Henk Zanoli saved. “He had a family tragedy.” But on the other hand, she said, “I think he was wrong.” What do you think?
  • How about a side of Hitler with your spaghetti?
  • Why "Be fruitful and multiply" isn't as simple as it seems:
  • William Schabas may be the least of Israel's problems.
  • You've heard of the #IceBucketChallenge, but Forward publisher Sam Norich has something better: a #SoupBucketChallenge (complete with matzo balls!) Jon Stewart, Sarah Silverman & David Remnick, you have 24 hours!
  • Did Hamas just take credit for kidnapping the three Israeli teens?
  • "We know what it means to be in the headlines. We know what it feels like when the world sits idly by and watches the news from the luxury of their living room couches. We know the pain of silence. We know the agony of inaction."
  • When YA romance becomes "Hasidsploitation":
  • "I am wrapping up the summer with a beach vacation with my non-Jewish in-laws. They’re good people and real leftists who try to live the values they preach. This was a quality I admired, until the latest war in Gaza. Now they are adamant that American Jews need to take more responsibility for the deaths in Gaza. They are educated people who understand the political complexity, but I don’t think they get the emotional complexity of being an American Jew who is capable of criticizing Israel but still feels a deep connection to it. How can I get this across to them?"
  • “'I made a new friend,' my son told his grandfather later that day. 'I don’t know her name, but she was very nice. We met on the bus.' Welcome to Israel."
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.