I like to call my mantilla my "vanity veil." I started calling that when I bought it, after scouring halo-works for the prettiest one I could find, and then spent an embarrassing amount of time in the mirror adjusting it to find the cutest effects. Whee! Head accessories are the greatest.
When I first bought the V.V., I only wore it in private prayer. I've noticed on a few other blogs / comment threads that a lot of women do this. Why is the mantilla like the Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini, making its purchasers steel themselves before wearing it in public?
Women are weird about clothes. We care about them, we like to pick ones that are flattering, and we more or less stay aware of fashion trends. Alternatively, we brag that we do none of the previous items. And this too, is vanity, spoke ScienceGirl.
So far, that's not so weird.
What is weird is the policing and psychological mazes that surround clothing choices -- and what other women might be thinking of one's choices. Does the woman with the 4 inch heels and Gucci handbag think that I, in my torn shoes and science conference baggy T-shirt, am a slob rather than a fetching young lady in field-appropriate garb? Is she *gasp* judging me???
Ok, so now what if I wear 4 inch heels and a pretend Gucci handbag and go on a date? Will the women in the baggy t-shirts think "Ew, that snob?" Are they *gasp* thinking that I am judging them and are they judging me for my perceived snobbery? Notice how disinterested I am in the opinions of the men around me, including my hapless date. No, no. It's just about the ladies! Of course, if my date is charming enough, my ego grows uncontrollably and I (in my head) tread ruthlessly on the egos of the women. Why, yes, I am the hottest girl in the room. Yes, my date is the most charming man here. Why, I do believe my literal milkshake does indeed bring all the boys to the yard, for chaste reasons only. I have a smoothie machine with a metal cup like in a diner. That's why it's literal, and not a disturbing metaphor.
Ahem. Anyway. Mantillas. Yes. Women don't hide their mantillas in their rooms because of what men might think! When men weigh in saying "I think mantillas are charming / weird / old-fashioned / teh sexie!" I hear -- if I listen carefully, in my deranged way -- I hear around the blogosphere the sound of a million feminine eyeballs rolling in 500 000 lovely heads.
Sometimes people say "I wore my mantilla! No one attacked me :) Hooray!" I am happy for these naive women who do not understand true ClothingJudgment Paranoia. Meanwhile, poor Sam has been hiding in the kitchen from MantillaRaptor, who is oblivious to the effect of her terrifying fashion choices! MantillaRaptor thinks Sam is scared of her deadly claws and reptile cunning, but no. It's the mantilla.
And so we buy mantillas we wear for our own private rosaries in our rooms. But whom do we have to blame for our fear of TEH JUDGE-MINT! Well, I can't speak for all of the Catholic ladies, but I can speak for myself when I say I have no one but myself to blame! Yes, the first time I saw a mantilla, I thought it was weird, but maybe the person was from Eastern Europe or something. The next several times, I thought it was lame that Americans were obsessed with a Spanish tradition. I also thought they were a bit creepy, because from profile, you can't see the person's face. They don't creep me out if I can see the woman's face. I have this fear of cloaked, hooded figures, possibly because of all the movies I watch. If you see a hooded profile in a movie, and can't see the nose or anything, expect to see a corpse or screaming pre-corpse in the very next scene. When I went on retreat at a Benedictine monastery, the monks were lovely, kind men filled with the light of Christ. In the day. At night, with their hoods drawn up -- ugh! I had to tell myself, "It's okay! They don't have hooks or knives or saws! They are just praying! They won't kill you!" Even a lacy hood is still a hood, ladies! We all know it!
Okay, so I got over my fear, and wore my V.V. to Mass quite a few times, and always when I go to the TLM (haha, all 5 times I've gone). But the thrill wore off, and I found the darn thing a pain, because if I didn't have bobby pins skewered in just right, the thing would slip down continuously and drive me InSaNe. So I stopped wearing it. For like 2 years or something ridiculous.
I am fickle, what can I say? Just look at the frequency of my blog posts. Good thing the Church has some rules, or I would never bother keeping up with going to Mass or praying or doing confession or being charitable or anything! It's like the Mean Old Catholic ChurchTM actually understands human nature or something. Yay for structure.
But then I thought, inspired mostly by Seraphic that it would be fun to do the tradition of covering my head in church. Yes, not prayerful. Not sacred. Fun. This is how I roll, ladies. Chant is fun, prayer is fun, covering my head out of respect for ancient tradition and scripture is fun. Chant and prayer are so much fun / and when they're not, they don't get done! Thomas a Kempis had a lot to say about this attitude toward the spiritual life, and most of it wasn't good. Maybe that's why I only have read half of the "Imitation of Christ," even though it's really short and I started it 5 years ago. Should have pepped it up more, Tommy! A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, dontcha know! You'll never make it in Hollywood!
Thing is, I didn't really want to be my Newman Center's MantillaRaptor because I already kind of am. It's like Skeletor. You're a living, surprisingly muscular skeleton. You yearn for power. You are evil. Did you really have to put on the creepy hood, too?
Well, maybe you did, Skeletor, maybe you did. But I don't have to complete the look! I, who strike people as a traddie because I say things like "People should wear nice clothes to church if they have them," instead of "It's what's on the inside that counts!" and stand up for the Magisterium (yay for hierarchy!) don't really want to complete the ensemble with a lovely lace mantilla that will send the undergrads running to wikipedia.
So I wear hats.
And I get loads of ego-boosting smiles and compliments.
The best such compliment was received when I wore my church hat out for brunch afterward and was told by a gallant, homeless man that I "look like Mary Poppins!"
Reader, in my charming hat, though I am not as cute as Julie Andrews or as poised or as good a singer, I do kind of look like Mary Poppins.
But there are times when a hat won't do, like when you're running late and want something small that can be shoved in a pocket or purse. That's when I become Modified MantillaRaptor! Instead of the blasted bobby pins, I knot the thing like a kerchief using a hairtie. It stays on so well! And I avoid the scary profile-blocking hoodie effect! I end up looking kind of like this girl, who has still managed to miss the boat on church-appropriate attire:
Close, but no see-gar, Miss KnottedWhiteScarf! Thanks for covering your head, now try wearing an entire shirt!
Anyway, I recommend the knotted mantilla, if you are crazy like me and/or are sick of pins. It is very secure that way, and you look ever so fashionable. Also, your peripheral vision will not be blocked. I know some really love that effect of the traditional style, but it drives me nuts. I wear glasses, so my peripheral vision ain't so hot in the first place, and blocking it more really bothers me sometimes. I also like the freedom to look around the church more, because even with pins, my slippery, fine hair caused the mantilla to slide around quite a bit.