When I was young, all girls and women were required to don swimming caps before entering a pool. How I hated those caps! They did nothing to keep my hair dry or untangled, and the ones my mother purchased were always a size too small. The rubber edges cut into my forehead, leaving swiggly red indentations after the cap was removed. Imagine your head being squeezed with pain the entire time you’re swimming.
I once asked why these instruments of torture were necessary. I was told it was because our hair might clog the pool’s drain. I asked if I could forgo the cap if my hair was as short as a boy’s. Absolutely not! I was a girl, and girls were required to wear them. In fact, it didn’t matter if I were bald.
[SIDENOTE: In old movies sometimes a woman is wearing a swimming cap at the beach. I always comment that the reason is because her hair might clog the ocean’s drain.]
Funny how, when guys grew their locks long in the Sixties, their hair wouldn’t clog the drain. Funny too how the prohibition against women swimming without caps suddenly disappeared.
Legalism. Number four on Kohlberg’s six stages of moral development. Society’s rules are followed for their own sake, not for any reason behind them.
I ran into the same legalism regarding something else I had to wear on my head back then.
If you were a girl before the late 1960s, you had to wear a hat or a chapel veil to church. The usual kind for a child my age looked something like a doily. How this did much of anything to cover my hair is a mystery.
You didn’t dare leave your veil at home or (horror of horrors!) lose it. You see, at every school Mass Sister would be armed with a box of Kleenex and some bobby pins to make sure no girl went up to Communion bare-headed.
Somehow I couldn’t see wearing a snot receptacle atop my head as a way to prepare for receiving the King of Glory.
If a woman nowadays want to wear a veil because of 1 Corinthians 11:5-6, fine. But I for one am glad this discipline was changed.
Jesus, in all three synoptic gospels, had a few comments about legalism (Matthew 12: 1-8, Mark 2: 21-28, Luke 6: 1-5).
After all, rules should exist to serve us. We don’t exist to serve them. And when we start pinning tissues atop our heads in order to serve a rule, things have gone far too far.