Word Origin and History: c.1300, “flat, smooth,” from O.Fr. plain, from L. planus “flat, even, level” (see plane (1)). Sense of “evident” is from, c.1300; meaning “simple, sincere, ordinary” is recorded from late 14c. In reference to the dress and speech of Quakers, it is recorded from 1827; of Amish
Thank you, dictionary.com. But what that means in everyday life for a person seeking a Plain lifestyle, the simplicity that is a discipline of its own, turns out to be surprisingly complicated. Some women consider themselves “plain”, as evidenced by low-maintenance hairstyles, unadorned clothing, and minimal jewelry or makeup. Other women take plenty of time with their hair, wear makeup, and LOVE them a pair of cute shoes – and still are wholeheartedly living their version of a “plain” lifestyle.
As seen through the lens of my conservative Baptist upbringing, this is disconcerting to say the least. My childhood was less rulebound than many of my peers in our denomination – I wasn’t allowed go to school dances, get my ears double-pierced, or say “darn” or “gosh”. But I knew girls who weren’t allowed to wear pants EVER, get their ears pierced until they were eighteen, or have their hair cut short. Rules were part of life, and they provided a certain structure, even though we (like every other kid our age) pushed against them. There is still a part of me that wants to know, “What are the rules? Where’s the checklist? Can I read your theological statement?”
But now, I find that this “testimony of simplicity” is freeing in its lack of definition. Maybe for the Quaker woman with the red lipstick and the blonde highlights, simplicity means homemade food and an ordered morning routine. Maybe for the lady with the tied-back hair and the practical shoes, simplicity has everything to do with how she attires herself and nothing to do with the fact that she owns every Katharine Hepburn movie ever made.
Maybe for every person who finds peace in a floor-to-ceiling bookcase full of well-loved books, there is another who puts their entire library onto their Kindle and breathes a sigh of contentment at the blissfully empty walls.
I have no idea what plain living will look like for me. I can’t wait to find out.