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The Epidermis Epidemic

The Epidermis Epidemic

Where has all of our clothing gone?


Health care policies are not the only places where people are suffering from lack of coverage. Less discussed, but perhaps equally dangerous, is the lack of coverage of clothing on people's bodies out in public. I can't be the only one who has noticed that we have a raging epidemic of revealed epidermis, but this problem of people being scantily clad has received scant attention.

Health care isn’t the only place where people are suffering from lack of coverage.

Maybe it's the fault of "Casual Fridays" that became popular in offices some years back, but now, any day of the week, and in every setting imaginable, people of all shapes, sizes and ages are revealing themselves like nobody's business, exposing some personal real estate that truly is nobody's business. Honestly, other than going to shul, the last time I saw a woman out in public wearing a shirt that had sleeves and material covering her upper trapezius I was looking in the mirror.

I am puzzled by this fashion phenomenon. Did exposure to the sun's ultraviolet rays suddenly become healthful? People dressed like they're sauntering off to the beaches of St. Tropez risk not only their health, but also the unforgiving glare of a jaded public that has watched too many episodes of "Dancing with the Stars" to have much sympathy for the average figure. Trust me: seeing so much skin on folks is frequently not a pleasant visual. But even when it is pleasing to the eye, the baring of this much skin leads to public health hazards. Drivers distracted by the sight of young, attractive things could easily drive off the road and knock down a Starbucks. That would result in a tragic waste of Organic Shade Grown Mexican coffee beans.

Are we in the midst of some catastrophic fabric shortage or something? Why else are manufacturers selling shirts with only one shoulder, and dresses with giant swaths of material cut out from the backs? Women have even been reduced to buying skirts so tiny that if they dared to bend down to pick up their keys, they could get arrested. (At least in Utah.) Maybe this is why so many people are getting tattoos – at some deep level, people want to be covered with something, even if it's a dragon or a fairy etched painfully into the skin.

Unfortunately, other life forms are piggybacking on the trend. Why, just this week I saw a delivery truck boldly advertising its contents of "Naked Juice." I feel bad that we have set such a poor example for fruits and vegetables. Even they feel compelled to peel it all off.

I feel bad -- even fruits and vegetables feel compelled to peel it all off.

This is one of the many reasons I am grateful that Jewish tradition has set out guidelines for living, so that I won't fall for the latest gimmick. Even Adam and Eve realized post-haste that when going out to the annual shul fundraising banquet, the invitations did not say "Fig Leaves Optional." They had to actually go to the department stores and buy entire outfits. The Almighty is clearly a strong supporter of people wearing clothes in public, and He prefers that we wear enough material to keep what was supposed to be private, private. This is really a huge relief, since I've never had a hankering to tattoo myself with a dragon, an anchor, or even a rose with the word "Aloha" wafting above it. Call me old-fashioned, but I like my dragons in fantasy books, my anchors in the sea, and my roses in a vase.

Bucking the trend of buck nakedness in public makes me stand out from the crowd, and I am darned proud of it. Sometimes people look at me funny, as if to say, "Was she dropped from a time machine stuck in 1960?" But I wear my non-fabrically challenged outfits with pride. My taking a stand for sleeves and other skin protection is even a public service.

For example, last Sunday I was shopping at Target along with the teeming masses. Near the cookware aisle, a young man approached me, balancing an enormous plastic bucket and a 20-pound sack of dog food. (Small digression: Only a man would shop at Target without taking a shopping cart.)

"Excuse me," he said. "I'm new in town. Do know if there's a kaylim mikvah around here?"

For the uninitiated, a kaylim mikvah is a small pool used for inaugurating new dishes and cookware into a Jewish home. Because I was one of the only females in the gigantic emporium wearing that elusive commodity, i.e., a full outfit, this guy was confident that I was among the few, the proud, and the brave who would have had this critical piece of intelligence at the ready. And if my more discreet clothing might have left the guy wondering for a second, "Could be Amish!" my beret (not a bonnet) would have been the final tip-off.

I happily supplied the newcomer with the information he needed, pleased that my clothing style radiated the message: She's a member of the Tribe, and not a Maori tribe, either!

So as the hot weather months approach, I'll be switching to lighter cottons, but will still refuse the right to bare arms. Not only will my skin and self-esteem get more protection, but you never know when someone else will need me to tell him where to find the closest minyan.

June 19, 2010

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The opinions expressed in the comment section are the personal views of the commenters. Comments are moderated, so please keep it civil.

Visitor Comments: 33

(32) Ava, November 6, 2010 12:29 AM

I like the way you write, just smalty enough for my taste!

mazel tov

(31) Ruth, July 9, 2010 2:59 AM

Missing the point....

Iris, Judy never said that modest dress protected anyone from attack. It's about self-respect and being respected by others.

(30) Julie, July 7, 2010 4:27 PM

I agree 100% with your article. Historically slaves were denied shoes and proper garments to cover their bodies as a sign of disrespect and ignorance. The modern masses don't recognize the correlation and represent themeselves in the same way when they dress inappropriately.

(29) Paula Davis, June 25, 2010 5:55 PM


I told my granddaughter that when you show too much skin you are advertising your body parts, but when you respect yourself and dress modestly, others will respect you too. Instead of advertising you well formed tuchus, advertise your well formed spirit.

(28) Iris, June 25, 2010 4:43 PM

Rape is not about sex

For those of you who think women are raped because they are scantily clad have it all wrong. Women are not raped because they are sexy or alluringly dressed. Rapists do not rape because they see sexy women. They rape because they want to CONTROL another person. Rape is often a crime of opportunity. How else can you explain the rape of elderly frail women or young children? It is NOT because they are dressed immodestly. Want to dress in long sleeves and long dresses, go right ahead? That is your choice and right. But don't think for a minute that that will protect you from a rapist who thinks he has the opportunity and can get away with it.

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