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Sunday outfit: about miniskirts and tankers

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Sunday outfit: about miniskirts and tankers

Imagine a woman from distant America. She grew up in a small town in a Catholic family, then lived in Chicago, went to various Protestant churches. And suddenly decided to turn to the Orthodox faith. Not finding understanding in my own family, not having support in the form of Orthodox acquaintances, despite my own social phobia — I nevertheless found my church, my church. How a modern American woman does not live the simplest life of an Orthodox parishioner, how mothers of four children find time for church life, how a feminist enters the ancient tradition with all her heart, describes – brightly, figuratively and sincerely – Angela Doll Carlson in her book “Almost Orthodox (M .: Nikaia, 2019), an excerpt from which we publish.

He shouted to me from the other end of the parking lot. At first I could not make out the words, but I understood that, firstly, this person appeals to me, and secondly, he is angry. I was also angry, kicking the heap of autumn leaves lying on the ground. They were dropped by a tree near our car, parked near the college in the town of Mount St. Joseph.

My mother at this time was in a hurry to the so-called "corps of the arts", where she was to give piano lessons. I didn’t go with her because I didn’t want to wait for her in the narrow corridor. I wanted to go home to my room where I could play or read. I didn’t smile at all on a hard chair in the music department, so I wandered around the parking lot and kicked down the leaves that covered fresh seedlings of bushes and trees. A stranger man is enraged. I stopped and turned to him. He came closer, and now I could hear his cry: "Hey, boy, stop it!"

Probably, he was misled by the old jeans that I had inherited from my older brother and a simple T-shirt, and also a short haircut in the style of Dorothy Hamill (American figure skater, Olympic champion). One way or another, I did not correct him. I put my hands in my pockets and ran after my mother. This was the first time I was mistaken for a boy.

“It is necessary to wear the best Sunday dress for the liturgy,” Janet wrote to me. We knew her only in absentia. I was looking for an Orthodox church in Chicago and dreamed that I already had “someone of my own” in it. When in the community you initially have at least one familiar person, it is easier to join it. Janet was friends with my Chicago girlfriend. I could not find any closer "insider". The Orthodox parish, which she recommended, was far away, almost outside the city limits. Actually, I hoped I wouldn't have to go that far, and still decided to try.

Further in her e-mail it said: "Men usually come in suits, and women in skirts." I shuddered at the thought that someone was dictating what to wear. My inner punk rocker reared up, just thinking that the “best outfit” automatically implies a skirt. I like skirts, but I do not like being told what to wear.

In Nashville, Father Gregory warned only that parishioners should attend the liturgy, dressed "correctly." Some women preferred to come in skirts and cover their heads, but this was left to their discretion. John Chrysostom's rules were about the same. I did not like the letter of Janet, and yet I decided to fulfill all the conditions and climbed into the closet to find suitable clothes for my first visit to the Orthodox parish in Chicago.

The cover of the American version of the book

Believe me: I was the only woman in this church wearing a skirt and black army boots from Dr. Martins. As usual, I sat on a bench at the very end and looked around the temple. Parishioners are mostly elderly. The chorus singing is slow and mournful. The familiar heavy smell of incense hits the nose. I began to sing along with the crowd, repeating "Lord, have mercy." Then for some time I shifted from one foot to the other, standing among the community members. Inside, everything was gurgling with anger and frustration. When everyone started walking ahead of the sacrament, I slipped out the door and went to the car. I decided not to look for Janet and tried not to look anyone in the eye.

When I arrived home, I wrote to my Orthodox friends about my impressions and asked for their advice. All of them lived far away, not even in the neighboring states, but further, and at that moment I was especially acutely aware of the distance separating us. I was lonely and bitter. In my email, I asked for forgiveness for my egoism and constant concern about myself, my love. But my friends, wise people, will surely find something to answer to dispel my doubts. If they find that I need to return to this temple, abandoning their rebellious claims, I will obey. While I was writing, it became clear to me: I chose too small an excuse, so that from the first visit I could reject a community that could become my home. Is it possible to turn away from her just because there must come in a skirt? And yet this question did not give me rest. Why did what I wear turned out to be so important?

***

“Try something else. Go somewhere else, ”Marcia offered to me when I was just beginning to pave the way for Orthodoxy.

With her, we, too, were strangers personally; all our communication was “electronic.” I had a lot of questions, the answers to which I wanted to get from a modern woman, following an ancient tradition. I already learned some answers: I heard something from a priest and even from a bishop, as well as from a poet who met by chance and from a friend who also recently converted to Orthodoxy. I was introduced to him by friends at a party. But I wanted to talk to someone who was “in my skin,” in a very similar situation to me, that is, plunged into a completely new world for myself and did not lose myself.

So I asked Marcia about the skirts and about the requirement to cover my head, which I encountered in that very suburban Chicago parish. And she told her about the internal protest, which causes in me a certain attitude towards female physiology. I do not know what kind of reaction I was expecting from her: maybe a wise advice that would help me overcome myself; maybe harsh criticism, which I need to take into account in order to move forward. After all, I know myself well, all my flaws and peculiarities of my rebellious nature. And I opened all this to my interlocutor, so that she was fully armed and knew how to operate, urging me to accept and submit.

However, Marcia simply advised me to go to another temple, and I followed her recommendation.

There are many Orthodox churches in Chicago, there are plenty to choose from. But how to understand what will be spiritually close to me? At first glance, it seemed that communities differed only by ethnicity. Among them were Greek, Russian, Coptic, Ukrainian churches.

Before I visited the temple, where it is customary to wear “the best Sunday outfit”, I have already visited three other parishes, choosing them almost at random. More precisely, I chose them by the name of the saint to whom the church is dedicated, assessing how sympathetic this saint is to me. And, of course, I considered whether they were close to my house. One community seemed too strict to me, the other relations were too ceremonious, the third was too far to go. In general, I rejected everything, like a naughty princess.

I waited for Marcia to say: you cannot be so picky, you cannot attach such importance to the location of the temple and the demand to come in a skirt. All this stuff. Perhaps there is simply no ideal community that would fit me in all respects. Therefore, we must choose one of them and stop whining.

Soon after, I found another relatively small parish fairly close to home. He had his own website, and I began to carefully look at the faces of the parishioners in the photographs. The community seemed quite modern, it included very different people, they seemed friendly and open. True, the parking at the temple had problems.

Angela Doll Carlson

Shortly before I went exploring a new church, I discovered something unexpected in myself. This allowed a ray of hope, previously hiding behind the clouds, to suddenly cut through the darkness reigning in my soul. I suddenly realized that in my unrecognizable authority and wild character there was something else besides the indomitable desire to be noticeable to everyone, to be different from everyone. Deep inside I lived another – soft and at the same time resistant, confident and calm. I did not suspect such properties in myself!

The fact is that I have lived for too many years with the conviction that my value is determined by whether others accept me. I thought that if I was smart, original, extravagant, mysterious, they would be interested in me and appreciate me.

Having considered all this, I decided to approach the acquaintance with the new parish, not giving myself a mindset to fail, but having gained trust in him beforehand. It was necessary to try to give this community a chance, and not put a cross on it in advance. For those who are tired of fighting, it is very useful to simply try to rely on God.

I did not prepare for the visit to the temple, write e-mails to the priest, ask anyone if they should come in a skirt and cover their heads. True, I still put on a skirt, but without army boots – simply because it became warm, and they are too heavy and massive for such weather. I am tired of wearing heavy shoes, tired of constant war with myself and with the outside world.

And so I arrived at the Church of Christ the Savior in time for the Trisagion. This chants includes any Orthodox liturgy. Voices singing echoing reflected from the arches of the temple. “Holy God,” was spreading around, and the martyrs depicted on icons and wall paintings listened to harmony. “Holy Mighty”, – the lives of all the saints, with some of whom I only recently “captivatingly” met, merged into a single story. "Holy Immortal", – the sounds of a powerful stream washed my whole body: hands, chest, bare legs under a knitted skirt to the knee. "Have mercy on us."

It was as if I rooted to the place where I stood. My voice joined the voices of praise. It was my favorite part of the liturgy. I crossed myself, quietly and imperceptibly entering the prayer, and joined the community of the faithful. At that moment, I was struck by one thought: everywhere, anywhere in the world where worship is going on, each of us can join him, enter into it immediately, in an instant. And it does not matter what we are wearing, what we think about ourselves, who we work with, what we had in the past and what we expect in the future. We enter the liturgy here and now. “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Now and ever and forever and ever. Amen … Holy Immortal, have mercy on us. "

The church greeted me with Trisagion chants. Actually, for this I came here. I felt that I was at home. All the excess is gone, all unnecessary burned out.

Of course, the grain of rebellion and doubt will always remain in me, this is my characteristic feature, an inherent feature. But alienation and fear left my heart for some unknown reason. And it became absolutely unimportant whether I was wearing a skirt and whether a scarf was tied on my head or, like many years ago, I dissected around the city in a leopard vest with a massive belt and heavy berets. Clothing has nothing to do with it.

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