Your wife has done it again.
Cut your hair crookedly.
You don’t need a self-loving mirror to see it. You can see it when you look upward; the left side of your bang is closer to your eye than the right.
Was she not taught how to cut hair properly by her mother?
She has issues with hair, your wife.
She has, more than once, commented on the mustaches of the “English” (non-Amish) men in town. She finds their upper lip hair immodest and offensive – not to mention representational of military aggression.
And she constantly admonishes you to shave the upper half of your beard away. She wants your beard in the style of Old Order Amish – the upper chin clean-shaven, the beard beginning at the lowest point.
All well and good. But you wish she was as attentive to the evenness of your bang. Your cut probably looks more like a spinning top than a bowl.
No matter. No time for vain contemplation. You must dress now. Your wife is dressed. She has dressed the children. You have fed and harnessed the horses, and inspected the buggy wheels for distance. All is in preparation for departure to town.
The only thing not ready is you.
In the bedroom, your dutiful wife has laid out your clothing – which she does a very commendable job of sewing. You feel righteous in the clothing she makes for you.
Each piece is perfectly plain to encourage humility and separation form the outside world. The black is the darkest of black materials, the blues are as navy as it is possible to be, and the grays and browns are purely solid.
Though the English think all Amish dress alike, the truth is that each item of clothing on each Amish person specifically identifies who they are, which sect they belong to, and their position within that sect. Hats, caps, pants, dresses, cloaks, shoes – each piece is chock full of information if one knows how to read it.
You pull on your pants. They are without cuff or crease, as per the Ordnung, and are of Triblend denim, but in a much darker navy than the English denim. Those English…how they wear such pale blue denim is a wonder. Do they not realize that diversity in denim contributes to lack of cohesion within communities?
Amish wives prefer the Triblend. Its color stays dark much longer than the English cotton denim, which fades over washings and time. Amish wives have many other chores to attend to, and sewing new pants for husbands and sons each time cotton denim fades is a time-eater best remedied by Triblend.
As you button the flap over your fly, and fasten suspenders to the waist of your pants, you wonder how the English can use zippers and belts. Do they not know these things are the height of narcissism?
But then, the English wear all manner of boastful wardrobe. That, sadly, is their way.
Praise God you are Amish.
You pull on your shirt, which is of broadcloth with a high polyester content. Amish wives – especially those with many sons – do what they can to minimize sweaty hours in front of an iron. Luckily for your wife, you also prefer broadcloth. Cotton fabrics fade and wrinkle much too quickly. Once you break in a new shirt, you like to have it for a while. And wrinkles mar the plainness of a fabric.
Your jacket is the blackest of all blacks, as specified by the Ordnung, with not a hint of gray. And your wife has constructed it with the height of modesty. Straight-cut, no collar, no lapels, no pockets. It fastens with hooks instead of buttons.
If you were headed to mass, you would, of course, wear black shoes – and your wide-brimmed black felt hat. But today, for the trip into town to sell your crop, you put on your brown shoes – and your wide-brimmed straw hat.
You hear the children outside now, running and laughing. As always, your youngest daughter’s laugh is the most gregarious. You must remember to instruct your wife to speak with her about smiling at the English in town. You caught her doing that on the last trip, and it must not happen again.
You hear new laughter, and peek out the window. Members of your community have arrived to ride into town with you. You nod and feel blessed. Although a part of you feels sad for the English you will see in town today – for all English, in fact – who do not have the community bonds of the Amish.
The English do not understand many things.
They do not understand that survival of community depends on seeing oneself, not as an individual, but as a submissive member of a Christian fellowship.
They are ignorant about modernization; they do not realize it leads communities away from dependence upon each other – which is the first step in community disintegration.
And the English, in their solitary iPod/TV, and remote computer lives, are blind to the fact that relationships and interdependence are the glue which hold a community together.
As you head out to join your family and your community, you say a prayer for the English.
Maybe one day God will bless them with the cohesion of the Amish…