Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Weatherman

Naming my last date is easy. He's the Weather man.

Now there are a lot of stereotypes out there about a certain nation being obsessed with the weather. I'm an open minded girl. I don't believe in stigmas.

Except that in this case they were spot on accurate.

"Did you enjoy the weather today? So nice and sunny. With only a light breeze. I loved the weather today. Such a lovely day! Wouldn't it be great if every day was like that? I don't see why the weather has to change every day. I wish every day the weather would be the same. Don't you sometimes wonder why the weather has to change?"

"Well it is giving us something to talk about …"

Let's just say he didn't get the hint. I'm still trying to figure out how he dumped me for our "Hashkafa being incompatible". What Hashkafa exactly? The evening reminded me of the advice given in My Fair Lady. When in doubt, stick to the weather, your family and your health.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Until he shows up

Remind me never to listen to a cab driver again. Telling me I'm better of walking. Huh! I mean, I'm sure he meant well, but I'm freezing. This may be my favorite coat, but it's not very warm. Everywhere seems so much further in heels. I hope I won't be too tall in them. Why do all the men in the street have to be Arab? Aren’t there any Jews in Jerusalem? And why do they think I'll understand what they are saying to me in Arabic? I hope I'm not being stupid, walking here alone. Was that a whistle?

Oh good the guard is waving me through. He's not making me open my bag. Lucky, I don't know how I'd get it closed again, if he did. It's not easy fitting a science book into an evening purse. I suppose I don't look very suspicious. Maybe he recognizes me from the last time I was here. It was only a week ago, after all. I'm a regular, you could say.

Please, please, that can't be him. No. God, listen to this prayer at least, don't let that be him. The trick is to avoid eye contact. That's the main thing. Let him be for someone else. It can't be him, right? Surely they would have told us about the beard? I'm going to ignore him. Circle round and make a quick dash to the bathrooms.

Is that what I look like? What a mess. Don't know why books romanticize the windswept look. It's not a success on me. Now where's my lipgloss? Umbrella, book, Mp3, cellphone, ID tag, keys, tissues, disk on key. Disk on key? There's top secret information on that. It's not supposed to leave the office. What’s it doing here? Oh well, hope I'm not abducted. Ah, there's the tube. Nothing like a dab of Clinique.

Whoa. She's tall. I feel so short all of a sudden. Is that blonde natural? Nice jacket. Didn't know non religious women still wore suits. At least not in Israel. Hey. One second. Belle Du Jour, last night. Only hookers wear designer suits, it said on the blog. Hmm, is she one? Oh it's a tweed jcket. Probably not then. Maybe a guest from abroad. Come to think of it I'm wearing a suit too. Wonder what they'd make of me abroad, wandering around hotels dressed up and unescorted. I wish the Amazon goddess hadn't come in. I felt much prettier before.

Nine on the dot. I'd better venture back into the ring.

Phew. Beard man is gone.

Now this one looks cute. Perfect, in fact. But why isn't he smiling? And now he's walking away.Sigh. Guess it's not him.

Another scan of the territory. I see a black suit. Black hat. Walking next to a woman in a Shaitel. Right.

Who's that guy? He looks chilled. Is that a white Kippah? Weird. Who wear's white Kippahs nowadays? Oh it's knitted. White knitted, with a thin blue border. Makes more sense. But he can't be for me. Yeah there's a girl in a long skirt. That fits. Is that a sweatshirt? How does she get off so easy?

Where can he be? Does he think this is fun for me?

Stop. Think positive. Music. Classical music. Coming from the piano over there. It sounds pretty. Tonight this scene reminds me of a ballet. Yeah that's it. Not a primitive mating ritual. A ballet. Men in suits, women in dresses. Grouped on either side of the stage. A flurry as they meet each other in the centre. Pairs pull back to the sides. Perfect symmetry as they align, to fill rows of parallel sofas. Man opposite woman. He removes his hat. She lays down her purse. He speaks. She nods. Waiters glide over, then withdraw. Now she speaks. He answers. He looks down, twiddles his fingers, clears his throat. She looks down, plays with her necklace. Pattern repeated in every set of seats. Matching outfits, matching body language, identical conversations too, probably. Great choreography.

Where is he?

Hmm, good opportunity to check out the menu. I've always wanted to do that. Coffee is the same price as a soft drink? OK. That's it. I'm ordering a coffee tonight. Correct, coffee is more intimate. Soft drinks are for dates one and two, hot drinks are only done on the third date onwards. But tough. Too bad. I've drunk enough coca colas to last me a life time.

Still not here? Should I call home, and have them call the rabbi, and the rabbi call him? What a performance. I'll give it another few minutes.

Wait. I see a white and yellow blur through the glass. A taxi has drawn up outside. Is that a black suited figure? The door is swiveling round. Someone is stepping out. Tall and broad shouldered. I'll stand up. His back is to me. Now he's turning. Oops. He must be sixty if he's a day. Better sit down again.

Do I dare go into H.Stern? Don't want to have him thinking I'm too into diamonds. Catching me gazing starry eyed into a display cabinet is not the way to get off on the right foot. I guess I'll risk it. There's nothing else to do here.

Stop. On the right. Yeshiva guy. Approaching me. Saying my name.

I knew I shouldn't have worn heels.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Is Blogging Tznius?

Or more to the point, is my blog Tznius? Got some not-so-positive feedback recently. Here's my response.

Being a Bais Yaacov girl means many things. Most of them are good. I made a conscious decision to study in the places I did, to belong to the society I do. I don't regret it.

But along with the schooling came a pattern. The pattern of Chareidi society at large, perhaps. What not to say, where not to go.

When I was in high school it was non Jewish music, movies, boys. These subjects were taboo. Good girls didn't even think of them, at least not aloud.

Even now, in the discussions of "kids going off the derech" flourishing in the Frum press, so many theories are produced, for what drives teenage boys and girls to hang out together. What they never mention is hormones. Awakening needs, wants, temptations. Teenage boys want to be with girls, teenage girls want to be with boys. Sometimes it's as simple as that.

Some kids do it. Do the forbidden, the banned. They are branded as at risk.
They cross the red lines. Other's don't. The kids who behave according the rules are embraced. These are the top Bais Yaacov girls, the prize Yeshiva students. No one ever thinks that they too may be battling temptation every day.

I used to envy my friends in the more modern schools. Not because they were allowed to do more than me, but because in their their schools they spoke about it, openly. They could, and did, question, discuss, seek advice, all without fearing disgrace.

When we grew up not much changed. As least not for those of us still single. Now it's the Shidduch- crises, not the Kids-at-risk crises. Again the debates as to causes and symptoms.

But again so much is left unsaid, unacknowledged. It's not only about being left behind, while peers move on to the next stage in life. It's not only about being in a strange limbo, with no defined place in society. It's not only about burn out, and fears for the future.

There is another factor too. We are Frum, we do follow Halachah, we do work on Emunah and Bitachon and want to build true Torah homes. But we are also human beings, mature men and women, struggling with desires, some of them physical, battling with pulls in different directions, every day.

I'd like my blog to reflect this, the different facets that together make up being a Frum single girl in the 21st century, with all that that entails.

Some of you don't feel my blog is Tznius, or appropriate. My apologies.

Mixed Messages

"The surest way to tell the prostitute walking into a hotel is to look for the lady in the designer suit. Fact."

From Belle Du Jour. Diary of a London Call girl.

Now where does that leave us Shidduch Maidels?

Better stick to the Marriott, girls, and not venture into the Ritz-Calrton, at least not in your best black suit. Don't want to give some gentlemen the wrong impression.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Living in a Bubble

"Raise your hands if it's a challenge for you to look your husband in the eyes."

I almost raise mine. It's sure a challenge for me.

I've looked hundreds of men in the eyes. Deeply, soulfully, admiringly. I've even resorted to fluttering my eyelashes at them. But I'm yet to look my husband in the eyes. I wonder what color eyes he has, and when I'll get to see them.

Oh, that's not what she means. She's talking about relationships with our husbands, about Shalom Bayis. I guess that's what this Shiur is going to be about.

A warning would have been nice. I was looking for some uplifting spirituality, not a reminder of how lacking I am on my own.

I hope my mother, sitting next to me, is not upset. I hope she's not thinking of how much she'd give to look into her husband's eyes. An opportunity she's not had since he died.

I wonder how many other widows, divorcees there are in the room. I catch the eye of a single woman in her fifties. She's managing to mask the pain. Or perhaps she doesn't mind. Perhaps by now she's grown numb, grown used to it. Used to never ending references to things she is missing.

We all live in bubbles, bubbles of our own making. We have a tendency to think that where we are holding, so is everyone else.

Please, remember the others.

Before you speak of children, remember the childless.
Before you speak of spouses, remember the single, the widowed, the divorced.
Before you speak of families, remember those who are alone.

It can work in the other direction too. From sagas designed to pull at heartstrings, to casual episodes to spice up a talk. Melodramatic tales are casually dropped. References that can drive some listeners to tears.

I've been in the corridor, outside, when women have stood up and left Shiurim in the middle, able to take no more. I've seen their faces as they've leaned against the wall, outside, shaking, fighting back the memories that the careless mentions brought back to them.

So before you tell of sickness and disease, of hospital wards and intensive care units, think of the terminally ill.
Before you tell of death, of deathbeds and burials, think of those who recently lost a loved one.

Tact, sensitivity, consideration, these should be values in our world too.

Pause, stop a moment, remember there are people in the audience for whom this can be a sensitive topic, choose your words with care. There are some places where even angels fear to tread, and rightly so.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

To go or not to go

"You're going where?!"

A score of faces turn to me in horror.

Maybe it wasn't a good idea to bring this up at the Shabbos table.

"It's a conference. For work."

"You want to go to Germany? Of all places!"

"I don't want to go to Germany. But that's where the conference is going to be. In Berlin."

"So don't go."

"But it's for work. I need to go. You know I'd never go just for a vacation."

"You don't need to go. You want to go. Nobody is forcing you."

"Well yes. OK. True. I could skip the conference entirely. But I really want to give a presentation there. It's a great opportunity."

"Work. Phuh. IBM also justified being in Germany before the war, they also said it's just for work."

"This isn't the same thing. Germany is the least anti-Semitic country in Europe at the moment." Even in my ears it sounds lame. I feel I'm playing devil's advocate.

'It doesn't make a difference. Their streets are soaked in Jewish blood."

"So is King George street. So is Machane Yehuda."

"For a child of mine to step foot in Germany is as bad as watching her bite into a ham sandwich."

Gulp. Thanks for the guilt trip.

I've always loved my family, for being so open minded, so chilled, laid back.

"As long as you're happy." That was my parents' motto, when I was growing up. Well, add "And marry a nice Jewish boy" to that. But still, not much to ask, after all.

But we all knew the unspoken rule. Don't buy anything German. Not cars, not napkins, nor anything else. When I bought a German produced gluestick by mistake, I had to return it to the store. The best erasers were the ones stamped with "Made in Germany." I'd make do with others.

The ironic thing is that neither side of my family went through the holocaust. My great-great-great grandparents died of either old age, or cold and starvation, in Russia, before the German army reached them. Their descendants, my ancestors, had already emigrated to safer lands, years before.

I sometimes wonder if it's guilt, guilt at being safe, that made my family even more insistent to boycott everything German.

Around me I'd see my peers , grandchildren of survivors, not understanding what the fuss was about. When I travelled to Europe with them, I was the one who refused to visit Austria for a day trip. Instead, we went to Lichtenstein, and that only after I'd researched its WWII treatment of the Jews.

But I never sacrificed anything big for that ideal. Anything that really mattered to me.

And now that I'm asked to, I'm questioning, reexamining the values I was raised with. It could be I'm seeking a logical way to salve my conscience. Simply putting career before principles. I hope not. I'd hate that.

But is the land of Germany, today, still a land that no Jew should tread on? If that is indeed the truth, then why do almost no other Jews seem to feel the same way?

Friday, November 13, 2009

Reason #243 I'm glad to be Religious

It's the swimming. The separate swimming. Praise the lord for his mercy.

I shuffle into the dressing room, clad in fluorescent crocs and a colorful but not especially flattering bathing suit. Goosebumps rise on my limbs, strands of wet hair cling to my neck. I try to avoid looking in the mirror. I defy any woman to look good in a bathing cap and goggles.

Let's face it, all females have hang ups about some part of their body. If you don't believe me, read the beauty columns in magazines, when beach season is approaching,. "How to get rid of cellulite in 20 days". "The 5 step guide to a smooth stomach". That's before we even start with the tans.

Here no one cares. There are no fake tans, nor waterproof makeup. If you don't own a bathing suit, no problem, underwear under a T-Shirt will do the job. A bikini, a housecoat, it's all good.

As I plow down the swimming lanes I catch fragments of conversations drifting by. Women greet each other, stop mid-lane and chat. It's a Friday morning , so they swap recipes, and tips for getting Challahs to rise. It's like a cozy club. Girls morning out.

In the showers I hear the French women discussing the best places to go for legs, eyebrows, facials. The Americans pull on scarfs and snoods, all the while comparing Sheitel fashions, ponytails vs. falls. They scurry to their cars and rides and cabs. Ducking in before anyone outside can glimpse them in their current raw state.

Mixed hours begin. I stay on a while, to bask in the sun, with a hot chocolate from the machine. Old men, with potbellies bulging over miniscule swimming trunks, clamber into the pool. The secular women arrive. The emancipated, the free. They slip out of tracksuits, join the men in the water. I can’t imagine swimming in mixed hours, running the risk of bumping into men I'd much rather keep my distance from. I'm glad that I'm out now, sitting on the grass, covered up in a sweatshirt and skirt.

It's not one of the standard reasons, but it is another reason I'm happy that I'm Frum. And do you know what the best thing about separate swimming is? Unlike the grocery store and library, and despite being in Shidduchim, I don't need to wear makeup to the pool!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Why do I blog?

Well I know why I don't blog, and that's for the cash. I sure don't make much money out of this blog. It's more lucrative to write for Horizons magazine, who are infamous for their "we barely pay for the ink but here's a free copy of the magazine thrown in" deal.

So far all I've gotten out of this blog is: One Nokia N97 to trial, which I have to give back next week (parting is such sweet sorrow). And one date, which I can't even write about. (I realised the toughest part about going out with a reader is that you can't post about it afterwards, him reading it and all)

So along comes Heshy and offers me the opportunity of a lfe time. Advertisers! Maybe I'll make enough to retire to a life of challah baking and scrapbooking?

Truth is I wasn't so keen at first, because I don't think much will come of it anyway, so why sell my soul to the devil?

But this ad is actually for a company that I believe in. I heard about it a year back and thought it was a good idea. It will free up Sam's Bagels for one thing, if all the unemployed and bored american newly weds are at home working, instead of plying the cafes with their pony tail sheitels and strollers, while their hubbys are shteiging in the Mir.

So here's the Ad.
Are you a busy business owner who is short on time? Do you wish you could find a college-educated, hard working assistant to help you on a part-time basis? Good news--now you can!

A 2-year old company, Secretary in Israel, will place with you an American virtual executive assistant to help you with a range of your administrative and marketing tasks. They can do everything from: making & confirming appointments, booking travel, sending gifts and cards to your clients, updating your Twitter, LinkedIn, Blog, Facebook, & YouTube accounts, and much more.

To learn more about how you can get assistance in just 5 - 10 hours/week, visit them online: virtual executive assistants.

OK. That wasn't too bad. If it doesn't work out I guess I can always try this instead:

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Too Close for Comfort

You can fool some of the people all of the time, and you can fool all of the people some of the time, but try fooling all of your neighbors, all of the time. Let's say I decided my Perfect-Shidduch-Image could use some damage control.

An open letter to my neighbors:

Following what has come to my ears of the Vaad Habayit meeting on October 25th, I would like to clarify a few points:

1. I do possess more than one set of clothing. I'll be happy to provide receipts, from weekly mall forays, or give you a guided tour of my closet. I am aware of the fact that, whenever I open the door to you, I'm attired in the same faded jeans skirt, and stretched stripy T-Shirt, both of which have seen better days (think 9th grade). This is due to the fact that on the rare occasions I'm home for the day, and as such available for opening the door, I make full use of the "Yay! I'm not going anywhere! No-one (but the neigbours) is going to see me!" opportunity to crash in my most comfortable and don't-give-a-hell attire. I would further like to reassure you that I certainly would never step outside the front door in jeans skirts, as I am well aware of the ban placed on this sinful fabric by our Rabbonim, which runs the risk of confusing men into thinking I'm wearing an actual pair of jeans. The jeans skirt in question was purchased for a long ago sleep-away camp, since then I have gone to Seminary and flipped out and taken an oath to wear solely black for the rest of my life.

2. I wouldn't dream of listening to Goyishe music. The music pounding out of my bedroom is certified Jewish. It may bear a strong resemblance to rap music, but that is coincidental. Matisyahu is not only Jewish, he's Chasidic! You can't get better than that.

3. There is a simple explanation for why my mother was spotted going through the garbage cans outside. My family's financial straits are not quite so dire. She simply was looking for a library book. Yes I'm conscious of the fact that library books are not usually found in garbage cans, but she was worried she'd thrown it away, together with a pile of out of date newspapers. I can guarantee that this won't happen again. (e.g. "You what?! I don't care if you threw away your wedding ring! I'm in Shidduchim! Garbage can forays are out!")

4. The whirlwind you see in the mornings, taking steps three at a time, that is due to certain time constraints. I would love to stop and schmooze with you, but I have a bus to catch. I do admit to having a certain tendency to crawl out of bed 5 minutes before the bus is due, and the sight I present to the world at the early hours of the morning may be a tad unapealing, but don't worry, I have a hairbrush, toothbrush, and change of clothing in my purse, and as soon as I get to work I'll fix myself up. Post-coffee I do begin to look presentable. No, those were not pyjama pants and bunny slippers that you saw peeping out from under my skirt the other day. It’s a dastardly rumor.

5. About those times that a car hoots outside, and I hop in besides a bare headed ponytailed guy. It's not what it looks like. I can explain. He's a colleague who lives nearby and often gives me rides when there are conferences we both attend. I spend the drive listening to Rav Pinkus Shiurim on my MP3, when not saying Tehillim for a Zivug Hagun.

Thank you so much for your understanding.

Oh, why am I telling you all this now? Well you may be getting a phone call. A phone call about me, that would be. They wanted to speak to the neighbors. Get an up close perspective. I'd appreciate it if you can share with them how frum, elegant, put together, calm, aidel and tzanua I always am.

Thanks again!
Frum N' Flipping

PS. I'll be hanging this up in the elevator, as well as sliding a copy under every door. Please let me know if you'd like duplicate copies for your spouses.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Blogosphere

I just wanted to write. That's all. Write whatever's in my head, in my heart. Write without censorship, without holding back the things I most want to say.

Frum newspapers all have the same procedure. To start with, their authors know what not to write, what not to say. They are well trained. So was I, once. The editor has her own eagle eyes. She usually catches any untoward lines that slip through. Finally the "Mevaker", the official censor, gives his stamp of approval. There is not much I have to say nowadays, that would make it through the screening.

So instead this blog came into being. A diary, you could call it that. Except none of the diaries I've tried to keep ever lasted beyond a week. I do want to write, but I want it read too. And I'm loving it.

But together with my blog I entered a world. A virtual world. A universe builds up around me. I'm drawn in. It captures my thoughts, my time.

Not everything thought should be spoken, Solomon said. And not everything spoken should be written. Yet in this world I skip a stage. I write things I would never even say. Is that good? Is it honesty, openness? Prized in western society above all else. Or does modesty have a higher value? Should some thoughts be kept to myself? I don't know.

I do know that I'm beginning to be scared. I never planned it like this. My life is splitting into two. My virtual life, blog and twitter and emails. And my other life, which is filling with secrets, with things I can't tell. Nobody in my real world knows about this blog. I wanted total absolute freedom to write without holding back.

I wanted honesty in my writing. But now I'm losing the honesty in my life.