A friend’s five year old child has recently begun showing more interest in sparkily things, despite the conscientious feminist leanings of her parents. I would like to dedicate this blog post to her. Rock on, little one! May you wear sparkles and climb trees and save the world.
I was not allowed to play with Barbies when I was a kid. I was also actively discouraged from wandering into the “girls” section of department stores. My mom was a second wave feminist; Barbie would have potentially messed with my body image, and besides that, the girls’ clothes were cheaply made, and what did I need ruffles for anyway? Ruffles were silly and completely unnecessary.
WRONG! Sometimes, in life, ruffles are necessary. I don’t know if it was due to the “forbidden fruit” status of Barbie in our house or due to something innately fancy deep inside my soul, but for whatever reason I grew up with a serious interest in femme. I loved feather boas and bright nail polish and impractical shoes and lipstick and lace and anything that sparkled. I needed the ruffles.
And as it turns out, Gd likes ruffles too.
“Hiddur mitzvah” or “beautifying the mitzvah” was explained to me as follows: wearing tzittzit or a tallit is great, but it’s even better if one of the threads is blue, because blue is fancy! It implies that doing a mitzvah can be made even better if one pays attention to detail and makes it as beautiful as possible. It means that fancy is good.
This concept blew my mind. There is no logical or symbolic reason whatsoever for that blue thread—it’s just fancy! And Gd likes fancy! If Gd likes fancy, that means all kinds of wonderful things.
I have since taken the notion of “hiddur mitzvah” to heart, and I have taken some liberties with the concept. Here is my generous understanding of “hiddur mitzvah”:
Hiddur mitzvah means that there’s a place for fancy in the Jewish world.
It means that my version of the Jewish Deity loves sparkles too.
It means that going to Shabbat services is good, but going while wearing false eyelashes is better!
It means that fanciness can be holy.
It means that bowties are even more awesome than we previously thought.
It means that there is something sublime in matching your pocket square and your socks and your cufflinks.
It means that drag queens and kings who challenge society’s norms by donning over-the-top costumes are doing Gd’s work, beautifying the mitzvah of Tikkun Olam (I view challenging societal norms to be bringing us closer to olam ha ba, but that’s another story).
It means that you should never feel awkward about being overdressed!
It means that it’s totally okay to spend too long figuring out the right shoes.
It means that it’s okay to be flamboyant.
It means that it’s holy to be flamboyant.
It means that we should not demonize feminine costume choices as frivolous or unnecessary, but rather embrace them as a legitimate expression of identity.
It means that sometimes ruffles are necessary.
Happy Pride, NYC and SF!
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