In my previous article I wrote about my journey towards wearing a covering at mass. The last paragraph of the article ended like this:
“I am now openly covering. Just recently a teenager asked my what I was wearing on my head? I explained in a few words and she smiled and told me she thought that was pretty cool. I smiled back and thought yes... yes it is.”
I like that ending. At 34, this devotion is dear to my heart and I am a contented mantilla wearing Catholic. At the same time, that paragraph sounds almost like the end of a romance novel or a fairytale. “And they lived happily ever after.” (My mantilla and I in this case.)
Yet day to day life, like marriage is a combination of fairytale and tugging children's hands. The first story does not mention the time when my facebook page showed the status update: “Not good. Burned a hole in my mantilla trying to iron it.” or the fact that I have lost a very pretty, and slightly expensive, mantilla of Flemish lace, and after three years I still do not know where it went.
It also doesn't mention the times when I dug up a crumpled mantilla from the bottom of my purse and cracker crumbs rained on my feet so I had to shake it out before putting it on. See, if this was a fairytale, a cute set of wood critters or doves would have come to pick them up, but no such luck. Take a tip from me after 5 years of covering: put your mantilla in a little pouch, plastic, organza or pretty lace, it doesn't matter. Actually, it does. If you have young children, chose a rather indestructible pouch. Calico or plastic will work better than lace, because lace can be delicate and you want to be able to shove the mantilla in with one hand while keeping eyes on a toddler at the same time. (Your husband might be carrying a baby.)
And of course 'happily ever after' does not mention those days when you look up in the mirror of the church bathroom -after marching a potty training toddler there- and instead of the serene picture of devotion that you expect, you see a wild woman with a birds nest of hair in which a comb is clinging with it's last two teeth, and the 'glorious crown of lace' hanging like a wet dishtowel.
Then there are the cases where you will suddenly have an opportunity for worship and don't have a mantilla on you. Now of course this can't deter you from grabbing the chance, but you might feel slightly... naked. It becomes such a part of your 'church going attitude' that you will miss it when it is not there and you are before Our Lord. I have not gone to the length however that the nuns went when my mother went to school, if someone had forgotten their chapel cap: they put a tissue on the unfortunate student's head.
No tissues for me! What I do have, after 5 years, is a head covering 'wardrobe'. There was of course the beautiful Flemish mantilla that I started out with and that got lost. There is a lacy shawl that I can wear as mantilla if the others have gone missing. There was that mantilla which had a hole ironed in it. Unfortunately that one could not be saved. My current mantilla was bought online and was a bargain for pretty Victorian lace. I did sew a comb in it. (Do! Do! Especially if you have children.) I also have a simple black chapel cap, and several wide, headband like covers in calico or lace. What can I say? I am weak. I would almost say: some women have shoes, I have head covers. But it's not really the same. Each purchase has been made for a particular reason. Because while there is no rule that says a mantilla has to make you look dowdy (it doesn't), you have to also make sure that it remains a devotion, and not just a fashion accessory.
One of the reasons was 'ease of wear' while you are holding a new baby, and it shows that alternatives have their own charm. Because it's not a matter of what you place on your head, but how it changes your heart. And it does.