Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Unspoken Dress Code And A Sense Of Not Fitting In

Saturday was the Priesthood session of General Conference at my church. I had not attended for the last two years and since I recently had become a teacher in the Elders Quorum I decided that I should be there. In true fashion however I chose to go wearing my jeans and a polo style shirt. I was the odd man out in a sea of dark suits and white dress shirts. Sure, there was the occasional different colored shirt but by and large the white shirt paired with a tie or a complete suit is the norm. Nobody can accuse me of being the norm, certainly not in church.

I was late as usual (that didn't use to happen) and when I came into the back of the room I hesitated and then chose to stay by the doorway. I recognized that the reason for this was that looking into the room I felt alone and out of place. When I first joined the church before very long I found myself to be one of those members wearing a dress shirt, tie and slacks almost without realizing it. I've never felt comfortable dressed up and certainly not with a tie. They always seem to be choking me, a constant reminder tugging at my mind, distracting me from what I should be concentrating on.

At some point I realized I was not satisfied with this situation and I stopped wearing a tie. It was liberating to say the least however it wasn't long before I came to understand that it wasn't enough. I needed to be me, not some image of what I or anybody else thought a church member should be. So slowly but surely I've been testing the waters and so far it's been good. When I first started coming to this ward I met Mikey and we became friends and on the first day that I wore my jeans he thanked me, saying that now he didn't feel so out of place. You see, Mikey also doesn't dress in conventional "church" attire, nor is he the standard Mormon, but he's a cool person with a great heart and a strong desire to become a better person. He also teaches Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and used to fight MMA in the UFC.

I feel that there is this unwritten dress code that seems to be in effect in the church. Nobody tells you that you have to dress in any particular way. Nobody comes down on you or even says anything, at least not that I've seen. However it's still there, on the periphery, lurking at the edge of my consciousness. I know for certain that you cannot pass the sacrament unless you are wearing at a minimum slacks, a white dress shirt and a tie. Perhaps I feel this way because this style of dress is so prevalent that you cannot help but notice when someone is different, that they don't look the same as almost everyone else. Maybe I'm only imagining this unspoken pressure because of my own insecurities. I guess that anything is possible.

At any rate, until I'm told something different I will continue to dress as I feel like on that particular day. If at any time I'm informed I need to dress differently because I'm a teacher or for me to gain passage to another class well, I'll have to address that issue at that time, but I don't see myself going back to what was so uncomfortable both physically and mentally for me. The most important thing is that I'm there right? Ready to learn with the right attitude and spirit. There is something to be said for individuality and I guess I'll be one of the poster boys for it in church.

By the way, during the Priesthood session my quorum president came back to talk with me for a few moments and after he went back in and took his seat he pulled another chair next to him and motioned for me to come on in and sit, thereby showing me that indeed the most important thing was that I was there and that I should feel comfortable and accepted. That's how I took it and I appreciated the gesture. I just need to get more comfortable in my own skin I guess.

Written and Published by Don Leach


Gary Rivera said...

Yo odio usar corbata y saco! Realmente lo detesto, aquĆ­ tenemos un dicho “el habito no hace al monje” , no creo que a Dios le fastidie si uno va en sayonaras a misa!
Seria una lastima que se fijen en detalles de ese tipo, que como vas a misa vestido o cosas asi!!

Don said...

The saying in the U.S. is that the clothes do not make the man. I believe that the most important thing is that I am there trying to learn and that if Jesus were to come back today would he complain about how I was dressed or would he be glad I was there?