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Cricket’s Sweaters

            What with Cricket’s thinning hair, and aging temperature-control-system, and the onset of colder weather, plus a much-needed visit to the groomer, Cricket needed something to cover her up – both for warmth and for modesty. We already had one sweater: a red and black plaid one that came as a gift from our neighbor (when she realized it was too small for her brother’s dog) and that originally went to Ellie, who doesn’t really need or want to wear a sweater. Then I went online and found a white and grey cable knit sweater, so Cricket would have something to wear when the red and black plaid started to smell.


            Strangely, Cricket actually seems to enjoy wearing her sweaters, though getting them pulled on over her head can set off her panic response (aka biting), so we have to be careful not to dilly dally when dressing her.


            But even now that Cricket really needs to wear sweaters, because you can see all of her age spots and cauliflower bumps and pink skin shivering in the cold, I still can’t really go whole hog into dressing her up, because she wouldn’t put up with it, and because my mom would roll her eyes at me, and because I can’t actually afford it. And, really, Cricket and Ellie would much prefer having any extra money spent on food and treats than on clothes.

“I really don’t like clothes, Mommy.”

            The thing is, I have wanted to dress the dogs up forever, but I felt guilty about it, because Cricket was so resistant to wearing jackets and harnesses, and Ellie and Butterfly, and Dina, all looked like they were being punished when they had to wear anything at all. But recently, Cricket’s friend Kevin, the mini-Golden-Doodle, has been wearing sweaters and sweatshirts all the time, and he looks so cute and cozy and loved! For Halloween he had an adorable hoodie with a skeleton painted on the back, and I felt like such a neglectful dog mommy looking at naked Cricket in comparison.

            I actually hate dressing up myself, because it makes me feel self-conscious, and all of my body shame gets triggered. Instead, I live in a uniform of sweaters and jeans and sneakers, to avoid drawing attention to my body. When I see adult women all dressed up I tend to feel intimidated, and vicariously exhausted, and triggered into body shame just by looking at them. But Cricket and Ellie look perfect to me, and they are unselfconscious about their bodies, and I keep wishing that I could dress them up and live vicariously through them, and they won’t let me.

“No clothes!”

            In the midst of my longing to dress up the dogs, I noticed a series of videos showing up in my Facebook feed starring a dog named Noodles. Noodles wears the most wonderful outfits, with chunky necklaces, and colorful glasses with beaded chains, and frilly shirts, and she has so many different hairstyles, and she just makes my inner little girly-girl swoon. The videos themselves are hilarious too: all about Noodles’ imaginary officemates and office politics, or that time she got drunk for her third (aka 21st) birthday.

            So I scroll through Amazon for sweaters I wish Cricket would wear: sweaters with stripes and plaids and cables and ruffles and lace insets and skirts, and then I watch Noodles giving the camera side eye in her lacy blouses and braided hair, and for a few minutes I get to feel like the little girl I could have been, and maybe still am, deep inside.

There’s a little girl at my synagogue who has her own sense of style. One day she’s dressed like a widow from the 1920’s, with black netting around a small black hat on the back of her head, another day she’s a fluffy bumble bee, another she has pink hair and wings on her back. That’s not the kind of little girl I was, obviously. I was intensely conscious of how people looked at me and judged me, and more often than not I wore hand-me-down clothes from wealthier families, so I didn’t have a choice of what to wear. But when I see this little girl at synagogue, or Noodles on Facebook, or even Kevin in his hoodies, I imagine the joy I might have felt as a little girl, if not for the abuse. And seeing Noodles in her dresses and bows lets the little girl in me play dress up vicariously. And it’s wonderful! So watch out, Cricket. You may have to deal with more clothes sometime soon.

“Protect me, Ellie.”

If you haven’t had a chance yet, please check out my Young Adult novel, Yeshiva Girl, on Amazon. And if you feel called to write a review of the book, on Amazon, or anywhere else, I’d be honored.

            Yeshiva Girl is about a Jewish teenager on Long Island, named Isabel, though her father calls her Jezebel. Her father has been accused of inappropriate sexual behavior with one of his students, which he denies, but Izzy implicitly believes it’s true. As a result of his problems, her father sends her to a co-ed Orthodox yeshiva for tenth grade, out of the blue, and Izzy and her mother can’t figure out how to prevent it. At Yeshiva, though, Izzy finds that religious people are much more complicated than she had expected. Some, like her father, may use religion as a place to hide, but others search for and find comfort, and community, and even enlightenment. The question is, what will Izzy find?