Thursday, October 15, 2009

Primal Needs

There are three things no woman should buy herself. Flowers, perfume and jewelry.

I may build my own sukkah, fix the computer, and kill intruding cockroaches, but I do have my limits.

My subconscious mindset worked out fine when I was growing up. My father came home every week with flowers. Granted, they were usually big yellow sunflowers, when I would have preferred pastel roses, but still, flowers they were. My grandmother got out a red satin box on my annual visit, and fished out delicate gold lockets, and antique charm bracelets, which I proudly wore.

After my father died, he still managed to send me perfume.
At my 18th birthday party, when we were still in the year of mourning for him, my big sister gave me an unopened bottle of perfume, in a faded purple box.
"This is from Abba" she said.
Then she explained.
"He gave me perfume for my 18th birthday. Two bottles of the same perfume. I never understood why he gave me two identical bottles, until now. The second bottle is for you. Abba made sure you'd get your birthday present from him too."
It's not a brand that is known nowadays, and it's not a fragrance that I would have chosen myself. But on Friday nights, and when I'm missing him, I spray some on.

I graduated college, and began clocking in a full work day. The salary arrived in my bank account every month. Still, the rule didn't change. Clothes, CDs, books, yes. Items expressing affection, no. They are supposed to be received as presents from adoring males, after all.

Then one Friday night, curled up on the sofa after the meal, I noticed the living room looking bare, despite the pictures and ornaments and flickering Shabbos candles. The flowers were missing. The sunflowers.
When Thursday came around again, I gritted my teeth, and approached the flower seller on the corner, with his big plastic buckets, and stack of cellophane and rubber bands. I chose yellow roses, not sunflowers, and he wrapped them up for me. I walked to the bus staring straight ahead, not looking left or right, at my male colleagues who were also bearing bunches of flowers, for their wives.
Now I try to do it every week, on the weeks I go straight home, and not on to a date.

The final stage in my emancipation arrived at the Rosh Hashana sale. There was a necklace there I fell in love with.
"I can’t buy that" I told my friend. "It's gold."
"It's real jewelry. I don't buy myself real jewelry."
"Why not? Treat yourself."
Indeed, why not, I realized. I pictured all the weddings, with my former classmates adorned in white gold and diamonds, gifts from their in-laws before Kollel life began. I usually wear Michal Negrin pieces, dangling colored bits of shiny glass embedded in copper. That's the only type of jewelry I think to buy myself, since it's not the real thing, in my eyes.
I look again at the necklace laid out on black velvet. I try it on. I ask the price. I hand over my credit card.

I've been getting a lot of compliments, when I wear the new necklace, and the matching earrings I got too. I'm enjoying them. All the same, I'd have preferred them to be presents, from my husband. Even though my he'll probably be in Kollel and it will be my salary footing the bill. It's the thought that counts. A basic female primal need.


  1. How can anyone call you a feminist?

    While sure, gifts may be pretty, I would be very frustrated if a guy spent a lot of money on me and I didn't like the gift. I have already bought myself quite a bit of 14K. I trust only my taste.

    Being annoyingly practical, I find weekly flowers a waste of sometimes needed money (what gets saved up in a year of flowers can translate into bling).

    As for perfume . . . my brother in law is in the business.

    In the spirit of alleged feminism, primal needs for the female species differ.

  2. Hmmm

    Jewelry: Quite a few girls that I've spoken to about jewelry (in da biznezz)hate what hubby/bf buys them and would really prefer to buy their own stuff. Some guys just dont know how to pick out something that the wife would like.

    Thank G-d, wife loves what I get her.

    Flowers: Wife couldn't care less.

    Perfume: Ditto. I mean, I got her some sweet stuff from VS, didnt like it, got her a 100 buck box from Cartier, she didnt like it either. She's just not into perfume period.

  3. Why not buy yourself jewelry? I never bought into the idea that a girl needs to wait till she is engaged/married to receive it as a gift. As long as you can afford it, it's nice to treat yourself.
    I remember several years ago, when a group of friends were chipping in together to buy a gift card to a jewelry store as a birthday gift to a (single) friend, one married friend refused, saying she'd buy her own gift because "jewelry should only be given by a parent or husband"--my response was "huh??". How anal/1950's can you get???

  4. How much do you spend on your flowers?

  5. Flowers die and are a waste of money. Most perfumes make me sneeze, and besides, my husband doesn't like perfume. He's never sure about his taste in jewelry, so buying it makes him uncomfortable.

    And yet I feel very loved and appreciated. I don't want him to feel uncomfortable, I want him to feel accepted. I don't think I'd be really comfortable with a perfume/jewelry/flowers guy. I love it when he brings home a bottle of wine for us to share.