This is supposed to be a loopy, poetic blog, but I'm going to be blunt.
Over the past week I have heard a number of people report (or demonstrate) that they are self-conscious entering a synagogue where the rabbi/men's section/social scene is populated in (small) part by guys in black hats. They feel like those guys are judging them.
I am the wife of one of those scary guys in black hats.
How you live is between you and G-d, not the guy in the black hat. My husband and the rest of 'em are not not judging you. We're not preoccupied with whatever it is that makes you self-conscious. We're happy to meet a new person and we don't care what you're wearing. Relax. You came to shul for a reason; being self-conscious was not it.
Sometimes after people have been coming to shul for awhile they begin to assume that the guys in the black hats want everyone to "be hareidi"; that is, to adopt the culture that the hat-wearers grew up or studied in.
I find these conversations frustrating because I know those guys, my boss and my husband and my rav are those guys, and not one of them is out on a missionary warpath to make everyone "hareidi". But no one ever thinks to ask them.
As someone once put it, "The God you don't believe in, I don't believe in either."