When I left the house this afternoon, I was dressed a tad unconventionally for Flatbush. Not that I was dressed improperly mind you; I had the heavy stockings, sensible shoes, neutral colour, etc. Yet within one block of the apartment, going in the opposite direction to where I might actually meet people I know, I crossed paths with two wives that I know tangentially. One of them gave me a rather blank stare, although that might be attributed to the fact that she was pushing a stroller with her two youngest sons (I think she's up to child #6 at least). The other woman however, is the notorious "standards" lady. When I walked by her, in her Plain Jane sheitel and all-black garb, I got the famous Flatbush stare x 9 million.
Since she was so openly ticked off by my appearance (did I mention I was wearing a glossy lipstick? HORROR!), I decided to take pause and contemplate her reaction. First, I personally found her blatant disapproval inappropriate. Even if I had been dressed completely inappropriately, which I wasn't, what gives her carte blanche to judge me? If a major concept in yiddiskeit is accepting our multiplicity, aka ahavat yisrael, then who cares about whatever "violation" she felt I was committing. If I hold differently than her, why is it acceptable in her mind to stone me with her look? What if I had reacted by becoming embarrassed versus simply offended in my own right?
In short, it was another instance of the typically warped existence that is Brooklyn. It's either the ultra right way or the highway. But what this mindset neglects to note is that there are actually many different types of yiddin in Flatbush. Yes, most of the people in this neighbourhood are yeshivish, but not all. And to expect everyone to act yeshivish is downright insulting, not to mention elitist.
So while I suppose it's all par for the course, I just have to ask what this holier than thou attitude is accomplishing. Yes, we have an obligation to ensure that our brothers and sisters stay on the derech, but without propagating embarrassment or disharmony. And I guess it goes to show that most of the time, those who cling to standards so vehemently are simply hiding behind them. Because if they were deep-down frum, they wouldn't be ticked off by others doing differently than them. Instead, they would choose to reflect on the positive versus the negative, to give proper weight to their fellow yiddin who are, just like them, tzelem elokim.