So I came across Twitter pal Bear Cherian’s blog this week. Through his blog, I discovered a whole world of South Indian Twitterers/bloggers. Good to know. I’ve been intensely curious about South Indian culture ever since I joined a new church last April. Plus, it turned out my church almost booked Bear’s band a couple months ago. Small world. Anyway, so on his blog , Bear asks an interesting question: “What are you wearing…?”
He writes, “This is just a “poll” of sorts to get some perspective on your views. It’s for something I’m working on, which I hope to let you all see/read soon.”The jist of his poll is this: Do you wear jeans to church? I wanted to comment, but my thoughts were too scattered. This topic is too fresh, too close-to-home. It warrants a rant.
Desi culture tends to be far more conservative than American culture in general. That’s the understatement of the year. Desi culture is all about respect for your elders. Respect for traditions. Respect. Respect. Respect. And I get that, I really do. But sometimes (stay calm, PG), it goes a little too far.
Take for instance the time I sent an email to my youth group. I abbreviated the word “Pastor.” I wrote “Pr.” I got in trouble. I didn’t really get in trouble. But I got chastised. Because anything other than writing out the word is considered disrespectful. I didn’t know that. South Indian culture is not quite my culture. Pakistani culture is pretty close. I miss nuances and probably violate a number of cultural practices unknowingly. But I’m trying to learn. Because I want to be a better communicator. (It doesn’t help that I’m outspoken and female. Not good. Right now, I pretty much follow a culture of my own making. Phillygrrl culture. I’m young and impatient. I’ll learn. Not.)
At the same time, I can be a dress snob when I want to be. I don’t remember wearing sweat pants in public during college. Ever. I’ve always dressed up more than my peers. I like to dress up. I like to dress up for church. That’s one of the reasons I enjoy going to church. It’s a soothing social ritual that gives me the chance to wear shoes I don’t normally wear. (There are other reasons, relax.)
But in the past year, since I stopped going to my old church (where I always wore Indian dress or formal dresses/skirts), I’ve started wearing jeans to church. Why? Because I have a life. Because when it comes down to going to church dressed casually or not going, I’d rather go in jeans. Life is hectic. If I can get to church on time, I really don’t care what I’m wearing. I try not to look like an ogre, but that’s besides the point. (Came across another great blog which lists churches across the world that allow one to wear jeans.)
That’s one of the reasons I’ve felt so comfortable in this new church. We can all wears jeans and not be judged. Part of the reason I never became Mennonite is their emphatic obsessiveness with women’s clothing. Conservative Mennonite women can’t cut their hair. They have to wear veils. They can’t wear any pants, let alone jeans. It’s rigid. But now I can wear jeans. To church. That’s freedom.
When you’re a little kid, your parents dress you up for church/synagogue/mosque/etc. When you’re an adult, you’re busy. You have college/grad-school/career/job to worry about. You have to balance a social life with all of that. With youth across America losing interest in religion as we speak, if a conservative immigrant church based in America is petty enough to sneer upon their kids for wearing jeans, then they should also be aware that come 10 years, those same kids won’t be there.
So I guess my answer is, yes. I wear jeans to church. And yes that’s integrating American culture with desi culture. But sometimes, one has to compromise.
(I probably should’ve just argued that jeans are a lot more dressy/formal now than they were 10 years ago. Moot point. It didn’t work with my mom, and I showed her a Vogue cover. Sigh.)
Can’t wait to read your post, Bear! Keep us updated :)