Thursday, January 7, 2010

Getting Dressed in Israel

They only tell you stories from Israeli buses, from the Shuk. It's time you hear about our changing rooms too. They are the true key to Israel.

I'm trying on a sweater, minding my own business, enclosed in a curtained booth, when a head peeps through, imposes itself between curtain and plywood wall. "Mind if I join you?"

Before I know what's happening, head is followed by body, and both are beside me, inside the now cramped space.

"Thanks so much! Are you sure you don't mind?"

I nod mutely. Haven't quite figured out what's going on yet.

She begins to strip. Soon she's standing there in underwear, entirely unembarrassed. I back out of the stall, feeling rather in the way.

"Oh, you don't need to go! You don't mind me sharing your stall do you? There aren't any empty ones." She steps into a pair of jeans, starts pulling the denim fabric up her legs.

I guess it's her choice. I only have a pile of sweaters to try on, over my shirt. There's no real reason not to do it front of her. I stay in the cubicle.

But I try to imagine the same scene happening abroad, and fail miserably.

Modesty can be taken to the opposite extreme too.

"Is this skirt too short?" I ask my friend. I sit down on a stool, and try to see if it still covers my knees.

"It's much too short!"

I spin around. Is that woman speaking to me? She is. "None of the skirts here are Tznius", she tells me.

"Um, right." I say. "Thanks."

She's a soft spoken French woman. She means well. She's merely giving me advice. Never mind that I didn't ask for it. Never mind that she's never laid eyes on me before in her life.

Hey, we are all one big happy family, right? Nobody is a stranger in Israel.


  1. Don't complain. At least it was not a man!

  2. dejerusalem - a man wouldnt have said its too short (unless he was part of the tzniyus patrol)...
    advice is doled out in heaping spoonfuls here, whether you want it or not. Israelis just have to offer their opinion. your babies head needs to be covered better, you should really not go there, take that ride, etc.

  3. You obviously haven't been in the Syms dressing rooms in the US as of 15 years ago. Traumatized childhood. Really.

    NO curtains.


  4. I loved this post, it seriously made me laugh. But, as a differet commenter already pointed out, there are communal dressing rooms in the US. Syms has one and it nauseates me. I really don't need to see some wrinkled old lady strip. Nor do I want to see the three hundred pound woman strip.
    Plus, plenty of heimishe stores have communal dressing rooms. Not to mention, they take heimishe to an extreme there. I have gotten that "too tight" "too short" "not flattering" comments more than once. I have gotten requests for opinions too, but I guess that's a little more polite...

  5. almost every frum (womens) store in brooklyn has a communal dressing room! when i go shopping in NY i always wear extra layers (t-shirt, slip) so im still 'dressed' while trying on clothes. awkward!!

  6. I've been found out. I'm not from NY..

    And where I'm from NOBODY would do this.

    Besides, isn't there's a difference beween a group dressing room and a private one in the mall? Can you honestly see this happening in Macys?

  7. That's nothing compared to the old nudist ladies at the Neve Yaakov pool. OK, they cover up in the pool, but not in the sauna, steamroom and a couple... forget it.

  8. This sounds like a twitter conversation in real life - maybe I will post this to illustrate exactly what twitter is.

  9. No, sorry- DeJerusalem, it isn't just women. I tried on a skirt in a very popular clothing store in Yerushalayim which I will not name. When I came out of the dressing room to look in the mirror, a man decided to offer his opinion that it looked good on me, much better than the last one I'd tried on, and I should buy it, etc. I think he worked there actually. But I was kind of bothered that he commented.

  10. Yeah, it's weird that in a culture where people are so careful to keep covered that you are told to suddenly bare all behind a thread-bare curtain just meters from a busy street. Don't think I'll ever get used to that.