16 August 2019  |

Dear Aunt Sevvy:

Not long ago at church one of the older women walked up to me and said, “This has been bothering me for a long time. That’s not your real hair color, is it?” At first I made a joke about covering my gray. But she gave me a stern stare and said, “You should read what Ellen White says about women’s appearance.” 

I’m not the kind of person who gets easily offended and quits coming to church. I know us Adventists well, I love this old woman, and I know she didn’t mean to hurt me. She was just concerned, and had no tact. But I wish I’d had a good answer to give her. Ellen White did have opinions about women’s appearance, and though my intuition tells me that I don’t need to go strictly by 19th century appearance standards, I’d like to know what I could say next time. 

Signed, Not a Natural Redhead

Dear Not Natural,

Aunt Sevvy believes that Ellen White was a kind, thoughtful, and tactful woman and would be offended by the way people have used her words to try to control the actions of others. 

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The frequency with which her advice is misused is appalling. Modern “modesty” advocates say that Ellen wanted women to wear skirts that almost touched the ground. But even back then when some were trying to enforce skirt length on others, Ellen pushed back. “The proper distance from the bottom of the dress to the floor was not given to me in inches… “ She explained that it was a practical matter to wear a skirt that “cleared the filth of the street and sidewalk a few inches under all circumstances, such as ascending and descending steps.” (Selected Messages Book 3, 277-278.) That is just good advice! Who wants grimy, germy hems? 

While Aunt Sevvy doesn’t know Mrs. White’s exact intentions regarding hair color, we can interpret her fashion advice generally by these two principles:

  1. She didn’t want people to spend unwisely, showing off, or being unsafe or unhygienic. Covering your gray is none of those things. 
  2. Ellen White was a reasonable woman who lived in a specific time in history, and was seeing through the lens of that time. That must be taken into account when we read her advice regarding fashion, which was very different (and not always better) than today. 

I want to compliment you on your positive attitude. Any time we’re in any family or community, there will be people who are undiplomatic and pushy. You did well in assuming the best about her and laughing it off, rather than arguing with her. There’s no better way to silence critics than to be confident, carefree, living well and loving others in spite of them.

However, you might want to watch out for others in church who aren’t as forbearing and easy-going as you are, and rescue them—or at least reassure them—should this dear sister decide to straighten them out. 

Enjoy your hair, whatever color you choose it to be. 

Hair-dyed and happy,

Aunt Sevvy

You can write to Aunt Sevvy at DearAuntSevvy@gmail.com. Please keep questions or comments short. What you send us at this address won’t necessarily be, but could be, published—always without real names. Aunt Sevvy writes her own column, and her opinions are not necessarily those of Adventist Today’s editors.

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