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Corona Home Attire

March 29, 2020 | by Emuna Braverman

What are you wearing all day cooped up in your home?

I was always so proud of myself. I tried not to change into something more comfortable as soon as I walked in the door. I always believed that my husband should get the best me, not my neighbors, friends or students – and certainly not the cashier at the local market. Even on those occasions where I did relax my attire, I tried to put my sheitel back on and add a little lipstick before my husband got home from work.

This became more of a challenge when he started working at home more and I began to have more appointments outside the house. But I remained conscious of the issue. I tried (even if not always successfully) to be true to my principles, to make sure I treated him as my priority.

This has all been completely thrown out the window with the new coronavirus experience, with our “shelter in place” restrictions. We are all home together, all the time. And my schedule has changed. I move a little slower. I get on the treadmill a little later which means I shower a little later (TMI?!) which means I get dressed a little later…which means I’m running around the house in my robe a lot longer! Additionally, since I don’t go anywhere – not out to teach, not even out to the grocery store any more, reserving that chore for my hopefully less vulnerable children – I feel less concerned about my appearance, less focused on what I wear.

Oops! What happened here? What about all my lessons about how you dress for your husband? What about my self-righteous proclamations about not putting on my sweats the minute I arrive home? Now I’m practically living in the modest version of “sweats” all day, every day. This is a sobering realization that became even more pointed when I started doing zoom classes. Although I didn’t put on fancier clothing, I did put my sheitel back on. God forbid my students should see me in the shmatta I’ve been wearing on my head around the house!

But of course, who is seeing me? And what is the only time I leave the house? To take a walk with my husband. And what am I wearing? That same shmatta – unless I happen to be teaching right afterwards. Amazing how years of teaching are thrown right out the window in the wake of this unprecedented virus and the ensuing shut-downs. Amazing how quick I was to abandon years of behavior and principles!

I’m totally embarrassed with myself. I will give myself one small pat on the back for getting dressed nicely for Shabbos, for recognizing that, isolated or not, Shabbos was still a day of holiness that required attire, food and dishes that attested to that.

But what about the holiness of my marriage? What about the demands of that relationship? I can see it’s too easy for some of the attention to detail that any successful relationship requires to fall by the wayside when we are with each other non-stop, when we are experiencing the demands of this new reality. But there is a real danger here. Please God, this virus will pass.

We can’t live in this cocoon forever. But the changes in attitudes in relationships could be lasting. It’s up to us to make those positive or negative. There are so many ways this could go, so many details to be dealt with. I’m focusing on a relatively simple one here.

Despite the challenges of our situation, despite our being cooped up in our homes, despite the fact that I see no one except my immediate family, I’m going to make more of an effort. Not just to get dressed every day (I am doing that!) but to get dressed nicely, to keep my husband and marriage in mind as I decide what to wear.

When the Jewish people were slaves in Egypt and succumbing to despair, it was the Jewish women who refused to give up, who maintained their faith and who continued to dress in ways that were attractive to their husbands, despite their situation. Certainly, in much less dire circumstances, I can make a similar choice. I can dress up not down for the one person who matters the most.

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