Wednesday, October 18, 2006

R E S P E C T . . .

Brittany bonnet, similar to what I wore that night.

Women who wear headcoverings are treated differently than those who don’t.

One evening in March 2001, while returning to Illinois from Old Fort Niagara, NY, I pulled off the freeway in Ohio seeking shelter from a blinding storm of lake-effect snow. I had been reenacting F&I and had delivered a lecture on French Colonial Housing at the Fort on the shore of Lake Ontario and had left the fort as the storm was approaching–I was in a hurry and had not removed my headwear, a “Brittany Bonnet,” made from a pattern purchased years before from a museum shop, one of a series of so-called French regional bonnets. My bonnet was warm and comforting and I still had the several layers of linen clothing on, as well; chemise, corset, two petticoats and a manteau-de-lit or bed jacket of cotton. I was warm and toasty and the layers were a good foil against the wind and swirling snow.

As I struggled through the lobby door to register for a room, the desk clerk looked up, and with a somewhat startled look upon his face, asked me who I worked for. At the time it was S7HD, a health department in Southern Illinois. That answer seemed to satisfy him, but he immediately asked someone from the room behind the desk to help me carry my bundles (reenactors do not carry suitcases) to my room. Now keep in mind, this was a Motel 6, and this service was out of the ordinary. When I reached my room and after I had shut the door and looked in the mirror, I realized what must have been the reason for the look on the clerk’s face–my bonnet looked like a nun’s coif–hence the “special” treatment.

Since I have begun wearing a head covering every day now, I notice that which ever man is next to me as I reach a doorway almost ‘busts his buttons’ to reach for the door first and hold it open so I may pass through. This gesture of respect did not occur, except as a rare occurrence, before I wore a covering with men other than my husband. I am thankful for the respect–I can only conclude that the sign upon my hair is responsible for this gesture.

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