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Inappropriate Purim Costumes

Inappropriate Purim Costumes


Dear Rachel,

I was so excited when my teenage daughter told me she wanted to attend a Purim party. Being that she does not seem so interested in Judaism, I thought this was such a positive step, until I saw what she plans on wearing for her costume. Basically, I am humiliated as it is inappropriate for any atmosphere, let alone a Purim party. I realize that these are the typical costumes that teenagers these days are wearing, but how can I let her know how I feel and yet still encourage her move to celebrate Purim this year?

Worried Mom

Dear Worried Mom,

I hear your dilemma, as you want to encourage her to go and to support her involvement, and yet the way she is going about it is far from ideal. Furthermore, you are clearly stepping on toes by criticizing her choice of costume because she is a teenager, after all, and this is clearly something she is excited about and wants to wear—and chances are that she is concerned more with being cool than with being appropriate.

So what to do?

Well, there is no real easy answer, but I do have a few suggestions for you. For starters, is there anyone else in the community that she respects, and who will be at the party? Is there another woman whom she likes and looks up to? If so, try speaking to that person and explaining the problem. Ask if that person can call your daughter and tell her how excited she is that she is coming. Then let her ask your daughter what costume she will be wearing. Maybe, if she has to describe to someone she respects what it will be like, she will recognize on her own that it is inappropriate for a Purim costume, and will change it by herself.

Another idea is to print out some great articles for her about Purim and the power of Esther. The irony, of course, is that this is the holiday where we celebrate the concept of beauty and power as a Jewish woman, and it sounds like her chosen costume is the antithesis of that. Maybe, if she were to learn more about the meaning of the holiday and the role model she has in the story of Purim, she will be interested in a costume that reflects the spirit of the day, and not current society.

And perhaps the easiest and best idea might be to replace it altogether. A general rule with all children is that we can’t give them (or even insinuate) a “no” without finding a “yes” that can be the substitute. As much as possible, you want to support your daughter’s decision to attend this Purim party and try to keep negativity away. If anything, we learn from Esther that the best way of getting rid of a problem is allowing it to reveal itself rather than directly pointing it out. So I think you want to take an Esther approach with this one!

So what can be your “yes” to the “no” that you feel towards this costume? Well, what if you were to go out and find her a beautiful costume? And I mean a really nice one. And it might be costly, but it will be worth it. What if you find her a gorgeous Queen Esther costume (or any queen costume), or something that will make her feel and look beautiful, but in an appropriate way? Maybe give it to her as a surprise, and tell her that you were so proud that she decided to go that you wanted to give her this gift, and you really hope she likes it. Explain that her qualities of strength and beauty remind you of Queen Esther, and you thought she would love the costume. (Now if you know she will never wear such a thing, then find an appropriate costume that you know she will wear and love, and one that she feels is a real gift!)

If she receives a gift from you, chances are she will be moved that you bought her something, and ideally will want to wear it because she will like it. And even if that is not the motivator, she will most likely feel obligated to wear it since it was a gift from you. You can even tell her, “I know you had a costume, but I thought you would just love this, and I spent hours trying to find the perfect one, and I can’t wait to see you in it!” I mean, if a little Jewish mother’s guilt doesn’t work, I don't know what will!

So, I hope these suggestions are helpful. And I hope that Purim is truly a time of celebration for you and your daughter.


"Dear Rachel" is a bi-weekly column that is answered by a rotating group of experts. This question was answered by Sara Esther Crispe.

Sara Esther Crispe, a writer, inspirational speaker and mother of four, is the Co-Director of Interinclusion, a non-profit multi-layered educational initiative celebrating the convergence between contemporary arts and sciences and timeless Jewish wisdom. Prior to that she was the editor of and wrote the popular weekly blog, Musing for Meaning. To book Sara Esther for a speaking engagement, please click here.
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David Pinto Montreal, Canada March 4, 2014

Tell us what the costume is about! What is the point of a letter in which a mother says the Purim costume her daughter wants to wear is inappropriate, but does not tell us how it is inappropriate? Reply

Anonymous Melbourne February 12, 2013

Oh Dear! I don't want to be a party-pooper, but it might be wise to find out who is organizing this party, who is expected to come, and if there are going to be alcoholic beverages or worse. Don't interrogate your daughter, but do discuss with her the importance of acting responsibly when everyone else is not. Perhaps you can offer an exciting alternative and invite friends for something better.
Just because it is called a Purim party that doesn't guarantee it's 'kosher'. Reply

a frum 16 yr. old who was curious to read this. North Miami Beach, Fl March 6, 2012

purim costume I think that every Jewish mom gets divine inspiration in times when she doesn't know what to do, and I commend this lady for seeking appropriate advice. I admire "rochel" for being able to and giving such valuable advice. Reply

Judy Jacksonville, FL - Florida February 26, 2012

RE Teens look.
I am in my late 50's but can remember when my parents did the same thing. (yes even my dad pick what I could or could not wear). They began to let me make my own decision after I began to act more adult like. Doing my chores w/o being reminded, helping out -just because, etc. Then a heart to heart talk. I gave a little, and so did they. Maybe it might work for you. Reply

Goldie Omaha, Nebraska March 14, 2011

Inappropriate Purim Costume Does she have peers who have perhaps a little more conservative tastes? Young girls are more apt to listen to their contemporaries than to their mothers. I can only add to the excellent advice given here, but it's been my experience that most girls that age like to follow the crowd, and hopefully they aren't all willing to draw adverse attention to themselves. And finally, the thought also occurred to me that she might be willing to cover up just a little bit with a fancy scarf or wrap that would go with the costume and yet hide the objectionable parts of it. Reply

Lisa Providence, RI January 19, 2011

Inappropriate Purim Costumes Did you explain to your daughter there's a time and place for everything?

If she's NOT interested in Judaism, you can't force it down her throat - she'll only hate you for that. It's possible she doesn't "like" religion itself, and you need to ask her about that. Reply

Anonymous levittown, NY March 24, 2008

inappropiate purim costum Did your daughter go to the purim party and wear the costume she chose? How did it work out?

Lisa Russell Yakima, WA March 21, 2008

I don't think it's fear I'm responding to Cathy in Yardley, PA who's thinking that this mom is scared of her kids and that that's "what's wrong with parents today." I think this woman is wise to seek outside advice; and not to directly confront her daughter. leave it positive "I'm glad you're going to this party" and ask for outside help- this daughter isn't at an age where she's going to listen to, appreciate or want to respond to her mother's critique. Forcing the issue will just make more war. hearing it from another respected adult is more likely to have results. AND- if mom IS over-reacting, the trusted adult might be able to point that out to Mom, too. Perhaps the frivolity of Purim will help the message of Judaism reach this girl at an age where mental walls are built and torn down in seconds. Reply

Denisah Levittown, NY March 19, 2008

inappropiate Purim costum I have been reading the comments on the Purim costum and there are soooo many different opinions Even this is a very good lesson to learn for the parents. There are so many voices out there. Who 's advice do you take? G-d says in a multitude of councelors there is wisdom Of course you cant take just anyones wisdom. Momma I think you should take some personal time out to pray to G-d about this matter which is one of very many iin your life now for your daughter and then go to your rabbi and those who have lived longer than us and live by Torah and see what there life experiences have to say. This would also show your daughter how when all the voices in the world are telling you do this do that you are showing her by example what G-d wants you to do. G-d says train up a child in the Torah and they will not depart from it When times get tough you will have shown her where to go for her answers . Go in prayer to G-d and go to those who honor G-d by there study of His Word. Reply

Sarah Masha W Bloomfield, MI USA March 18, 2008

I agree with Anon in Levittown and Anon in Milwaukee's answers. Sometimes we have to let our kids make a mistake or two, (or three). Teenage can be 13 to 19, the older she is the more you have to let her bear the results of her actions. This is a costume, not a permanent body change, life threatening, or criminal behavior.

You can offer to look into renting a costume. If she accepts, go with her, it will give you time to talk about the costume, and the holiday, in the normal course of choosing. If she still wants to go with her original idea, I would let her.

Cathy, I think you are being a bit harsh. This could be a family that is just finding its way to being observant, and not everyone is equally enthused. This mother is saying she could say "No" to her daughter, but just vetoing the girl's choice could cause the her to lose interest in Purim (or Judiaism) altogether. Most issues don't deserve full face confrontation. Reply

Cathy Yardley, PA March 15, 2008

TeensLook2 How do you tell her how you feel? Duh......If she's still living under your roof, then I think you shouldn't be intimadited by your teen daughter to say NO! That's whats wrong with parents today. You're just straight up SCARED of your kids. Reply

Anonymous Milwaukee, WI March 14, 2008

I know this is slightly ridiculous. But maybe she should make her own decision on this... for the mere fact, I met an observant girl once. What set her on the path of becoming more observant was a Purim party she showed up to in a COMPLETELY inappropriate costume.... Reply

Jessica Klein Levenbown Los Angeles, CA March 10, 2008

Purim Costumes When my daughter and step-daughter were growing up, as they got older, they asked me less and less what I thought of their choices. When they did, I knew it was because they were unsure of themselves. For example, by the time she was sixteen, if my daughter asked if she could spend the night at a friend's house, it was a signal to me to say no. Otherwise, she wouldn't have asked. She would have called and said, "Mom, i'm sleeping at so-and-so's," as if she were sure that was fine. Your daughter has shown you the costume; that means she either expects your approval, or doubts she'll get it. In either case, she is looking to you to define whether it's okay for her to wear the costume in a Jewish context. It's your job to say no. Otherwise, she wouldn't have shown it to you, and if she doubted you'd approve, she might have even changed into it at a friend's house. Don't fear your child's anger or disappointment. You're her Mom -- it's still your job to say "No" sometimes. Reply

Anonymous via March 10, 2008

Teens look My mom and I shop for purim costumes every year and each year I go through at least 20 before my mom finally says yes! All those costumes I picked where cute and at the same time Appropriate! Not like the typical costumes that are showy. Why does she act so reactive?
P.S. The costumes she picks are in the kids section and UGLY! Reply

Anonymous levittown, ny March 9, 2008

inappropiate Purim costum Our children have to learn themselves how to make G-dly choices as they get older. Mom can say this costume is not appropriate but that she is old enough to make her own choice. its hurtful for parents when they see there children going the wrong way but this lesson she will learn by wearing this to a Purim party may be much greater than what you can say to her in words. She may feel during the party what you are trying to tell her without words. It's a scary thing to do. You may have to alert your close friends of what the lesson is you are trying to teach her in the safety of your congregation. Reply