We drove to New Brunswick and back this past weekend. We had some personal business to clear up, and we needed to get our household things out of storage. Most of it survived. A box of old files and some clothes got wet and moldy, but everything else seems okay. My spinning wheels, my washtubs, my packbasket, my good carbon steel knives are all with me and useful again.
I don’t travel often, so once I’m out of my own little milieu, I am aware once again of what it means to be Plain in the world. People stare, even in Ontario, where there are thousands of Plain people. In New Brunswick, people not only stared but apparently took photos with their cellphones. (Very rude, of course.) And there are Plain people in New Brunswick, but they rarely wander out of their enclave on the border. I don’t blame them.
We went to the church we used to attend in Fredericton. The priest serving that day has known me for years. I don’t think he’s seen me in cap and bonnet though, and he didn’t recognize me at the door. This happens quite a bit when I run into people who knew me “before,” when I dressed in worldly fashion. They may stare for a moment, quite puzzled, and even say, “I think I know you.” And sometimes the connection clicks, but often I have to remind them. So what did they see before? My eyes, mouth, face shape, height and weight haven’t changed. I wore little make-up in the past, and my hair was long, unstyled and natural coloured. So how did they identify me in the past?
The cap, bonnet, and Plain dress are almost anonymous. You have to pay attention to the person before you to make the connection with the personality. So people thought they knew me, but they really didn’t. They knew my image and not me. I find that a bit sad, for myself and for them.
When people see me now, they see a Christian. They don’t see an attractive woman with sexy long hair and stylish clothes. Men especially don’t see what they use to see – the feminine figure and nice legs. While I look feminine, I look feminine in a modest way, a way that demands respect. No one makes a pass. There’s no image on which to hang that expectation.
I am a better Christian for this. It keeps me away from mirrors and other pitfalls of vanity. I focus more on others and less on myself. (Although I am certainly nowhere near perfect on that yet!) My insecurities about appearance and acceptance are gone. I am what I am.