A blog post by Mindy, who both liked and didn’t like her school experience. She can no longer, however, be considered a BY girl.
One of the first warnings we received as freshies was about the fearful Rebbetzin Schwartz*. Rebbetzin Schwartz was the chief and sole member of the “tznius police” in our high school. We would be chatting in our classrooms during recess when suddenly from the hall a cry would go forth: “Rebbetzin Schwartz is coming!”
Everyone would hastily arrange themselves (not that there was much arranging to do) and stand at attention at their desks, their hearts quaking in their leather flats. Rebbetzin Schwartz, a blonde-wigged Jewish-looking woman in her 50s, would proudly step in with a stern look on her face. She would subject every girl to her sweeping laser eyes, be done in about 30 seconds, and walk out without a word. A collective sigh of relief would be heard and decibel level would return to normal.
One day in 9th grade, my good friend Tova* got caught in the hall by Rebbetzin Schwartz, who had the power to conduct tznius inspections at all times. Rebbetzin Schwartz may have been alerted to potential tznius infractions by my friend’s rather bright (though of course completely natural) hair color. Over the course of the next five minutes, my friend was fined $25, the going rate being $5 per infraction. Her sleeves were rolled too high; her tznius button was open, revealing a t-shirt beneath her shirt; her skirt was too long; and two other violations I don’t remember. Her infractions were not all actual school rule violations, but unfortunately, my friend gave her some attitude, which doubtlessly hiked the fine up.
Next year in tenth grade, I was dozing during recess when I heard the dreaded call, “Rebbetzin Schwartz is coming!” It was really a bad day for a tznius inspection. Not only had I not worn the required tights that day, and worn socks, but I had worn navy cotton socks with colorful argyle diamonds down the side. No one, and I repeat, no one during my four year duration, ever wore anything other than solid black or maybe navy tights (with the exception of one girl who wore beige, considered frummer). My skirt reached my ankles, I was wearing an outrageous plastic purple and green necklace with a large purple flower, my sleeves were rolled up, my tznius button was open, and I was also wearing a t-shirt underneath my shirt. Basically I was Tova #2.
Not surprisingly, Rebbetzin Schwartz called me out. Her laser eyes swept up and down my outfit. I stood there blinking sleepily. “What’s with that?” she pointed at my socks. “I ran out of tights,” I offered helpfully. For some odd reason, she let it pass. “Pull down your sleeves. Close your top button.” I dutifully complied. “Don’t wear that necklace again,” she commanded. I removed it.
And that was it. Somehow, despite having violated every single standard my friend had, I made it away scott-free. I think my deference, along with my blinking and yawning throughout the entire interview, was the cause. To be honest, I semi-consciously laid it on thick on purpose. Perhaps I thought she would pity a tired and overworked, if somewhat oddly dressed, student.
Rebbetzin Schwartz taught us in 12th grade, and ironically, she turned out to be a pretty easygoing teacher with a great sense of humor. Her KGB shtick was all an act.
*Names have been changed to protect identity, ‘cause doesn’t every BY have tznius police?
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