Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Chapter 29: Email Ultimatum

Hi Karen,

How was Shavuos? Did you manage to go to the Shiurim you were planning to? I ate a very good cheesecake, but I'm ashamed to say that I still have no idea how to make one myself.

I have a request for you, Karen. I know you don't want us to meet. I understand why you feel we are not suitable for marriage. I hear your fears about certain details which I mentioned.

But let me explain my reasoning please.

We are still corresponding. Despite the so called irreconcilable differences you speak of. If there is really no chance of this working, perhaps we should say goodbye and wish each other good luck in life?

I hope your heart trembles at the thought, as much as mine does.

I enjoy writing to you; I enjoy reading your emails. I feel that we have somehow "clicked", is that not so? There is a meeting of the minds. We understand each other.

Perhaps I'm enjoying it too much. Your words, your lines and phrases, burst into my thoughts at the most inopportune moments- while I'm learning, Shmoozing, while I'm meeting some other young lady. I think of you too much, that's the long and short of it.

Rav Kumperneil says a Talmid must focus entirely on his learning if he is to hope to accomplish anything in Torah. The specific Tafkid of finding an Eishet Chayil, an Ezer Kenegdo, must of course be deserving of time, however this must be carefully monitored. The act of meeting must be focused, to the point, without distractions.

I feel our correspondence is a Zchut, a privilege. I thank you for the time you spend, the honor you bestow upon me.

I do not wish to suggest we cease corresponding. You are obviously a young lady with many worthy qualities. Ok, I'll be honest, I think we understand each other, Karen. I would really like to meet you. Please give this a chance. Perhaps my background, which you so object to, will not prove to be an insurmountable hurdle?

This is a turning point, Karen. We cannot carry on ignoring what we are doing any longer. Rehashing the same conflicts in writing will not bring us any closer, or break us any further apart. The only way is for us to actually meet, and talk about it, and see where this is going.

Awaiting your response eagerly,

The phone rang. Karen grabbed it and pressed the green button, before the pealing tune could wake up the rest of the household. "Shulamit " the display was flashing. Could Karen ignore her, wait till tommorrow, when she'd had time to think? But tomorrow she'd be at work all day, it was difficult to find a private corner there. She answered.

"Shulamit. Hey"

"Yeah, the date was ok."

"You're right, we do have a lot in common"

"Yes, it was a good idea of yours. I'm very impressed at your matchmaking abilities."

"Oh, he wants to go out again?"

"That was quick, usually we only give an answer the next day."

"Right, I do see that if you've spoken to him already there's no reason to wait around."

"So do I want to?"

Karen ran her fingers over the mouse on the desk, dragging the cursor backwards and forwards across the screen, highlighting Yishai's name in blue.

"Sure, I'll go out with Daniel again."

There was no reason not to.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Coming out of the Blogging Closet

When to tell him? When to share the scandalous news? Will it scare him off, make him run away?

But I'm going to have to share it with him, at some point. 'Him' being whoever I one day am destined to marry. Marriage is about trust, and has no room for secrets.

The question is- when?

The answers I got on Twitter ranged from:

A. After 4 dates - "I would get a Kosher phone, just I need the Internet for Facebook, and for the anonymous account I have on Twitter, and for this blog I write. But aside for that I barely use the internet."


B. After five years of marriage, or three kids. (Whichever comes first?) -"By the way dear, you should check out my site, I've been sharing there a lot of juicy details about our marriage. But don't worry, it's anonymous. Oh is that the baby crying?"

Why am I even worried? Any guy who's right for me will be cool with the idea of me writing a blog. Right?

Not quite.

The real issue isn't with the fact itself, of the blog's existence. Because I stand behind that decision, the same way I have no problem saying that I'm online on Facebook, and Gmail. And someone who can't handle that, not even the basic concept, I guess he's not for me.

No, what makes me tremble me is all the stuff I've written in my blog. Basically, despite y'all reading it, my blog is my diary.

And would you want the guy you are dating to read your diary? Would you want your husband to be reading your diary, for that matter?

There is the personal, the private. There is the sad, the shocking, and the sarcastic. There are the hidden thoughts that burst out at times, surprising even myself. There are the meanings that come across in a different way than I intended. Lines that are misunderstood, intentions that get blurred.

And the same way there are many facets to my character, there are many facets to my writing. So depending on whichever posts he stumbles on first, he can end up getting a pretty slanted impression of me.

It's dangerous ground.

I'm just hoping there comes a point in my future, where I'll be dating a 'him', and I'll be able to tell him about my blog. And whatever he reads first, and whatever impression it may give, he won't doubt me. He'll know me better than that.

So back to the eternal question: When should an anonymous blogger tell the person they are dating about their blog?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Tasting another World

We spoke about sheifos a lot, in seminary. Ideals, religious ambitions, spiritual goals. We said man is defined by his sheifos. We spoke of homes of Torah, saintly husbands, pious children, worlds of Chesed, revolutions of inner character work. We had big dreams.

I spin the glass around, between my fingers. I look up and out, at the sea and sand beyond us. There are two Israeli Air Force officers, flanking my right and left. Another couple of guys have joined us too, but they are less glamorous in their civilian shirts, so I don't pay them quite as much attention.

We speak about trips to Europe and past conferences. They follow me, as I walk from drinks table to the railing. They've been smiling at me all day, looking to see if I laugh at the jokes the lecturer makes, catching my eye in the silent pauses. I can barely believe that these good looking, polished, sophisticated army officers are interested in me, but even clueless me can read the signs.

I always wondered what my place in the social ladder would have been in a secular mixed school. Would I have been the quiet one, the girl that no guy asks to dance, the wallflower?

I don't feel like one now, with four guys vying for my attention. I savor the thrill, treasure it; it's new to me.

I'm not doing anything wrong. Networking is a good thing, it's one of the reasons we are here. This is perfectly respectable. This isn't cheap, or shady. I'm not being hit on, I'm not flirting. But it's fun, a lot of fun. It would be so easy to continue the relationships. It would take only a few words to exchange numbers, to meet up again.

They are all extremely intelligent, much smarter than the average guys I meet. They are the elite, the result of careful selection, done by the army, and not by my family's amateur 'finding out' phone calls. They are mature and responsible. I feel like an equal with them. I don't need to dumb down my words, I don't need to explain anything. I wonder what it would have been like to grow up with guys like this, learn in the same academic institutions as them, be automatically and naturally surrounded by eligible young men.

If only they were Frum. Two of them do have Kippot. Small Kippot, so small it took me a while to notice them. One mentions taking it off, travelling bareheaded when he was abroad. I'm disappointed, but not surprised.

"Think about what you really want", someone advised me recently, when I was making a past decision. "Think about the type of home you want, and what's going to get you there."

I can see cafes on the coast, amusement, fun, with these guys. I can see company, excitement, romance.

But I can't see a Shabbos table, I can't see Torah, I can't see truth. Where can it end? Will it bring me closer to where I want to be?

So we say goodbye, at the end of the day. We say a lot more, in the last smiles we exchange, the words we leave unspoken. And I let them go. I go back to my borderline spinsterhood, and my Shidduchim.

I'm alone at home again, missing the guys and the taste I had of another life. I hope that God is valuing these choices. My sheifos are a lot simpler these days. To stay as Frum as I used to be, to cling onto what once was so natural. The goals may sound simpler, but the battle is much more difficult.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Summer in the Heights?

I'm coming to New York!!!

Well to be more accurate, I found a place to stay in Washington Heights, and the unbelievable happened and my boss gave me three weeks off in August, without blinking. (I don't think he realizes that I'm already in a vacation day overdraft, but I'm sure not going to be the one to remind him.) So…all that's left is to book a ticket.

But before I do that- I want to ask you, my dear American readers- is it a good idea?
Because some folk here are telling me that August in New York is horribly hot and humid, and smelly, and worst of all - dead- with everyone clearing out of the city.

Fact or Fiction? I'm collecting votes.

And if you're of the "Do it!" camp, then have any advice and tips?

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

A Girl's Guide to Fashion Bargains

My Guide to Tznius shopping is more for those "I desperately need a new outfit for wedding/date/trip and don't care how much it costs" occasions. Or in other words, a lot of the places mentioned are pretty expensive.

But how can a girl look stylish without breaking the bank?

Nothing compares with the satisfaction of finding a bargain. A female returning home with bags filled with clothes bought at half price is the modern equivalent of a triumphant Amazon huntress.

So where are the best deals?

Bargain Stores

Heavenly- (I think that's what it's called, I'll check next time I'm there) have a big selection of pretty skirts. All you need is the patience to carefully go through the racks. I've spotted some really good French labels there, which I remember from my last trip to Paris (doesn't that sound posh?) and even some Old Navy's.
(Prices:50-100 NIS for a skirt.
Location: In the Tachana Mercazit, enter and turn right, carry on till you spot a store on your left, on the corner, crammed full of skirts on racks.)

Shibolet is a store which imports suits and dresses from Europe. They often adjust the clothes before they sell them to make them more modest (lowering hems, adding sleeves etc) They definitely don't fit into the bargain category, but what I discovered this year is that they also have an annual sale around Elul time- Elul is not only a time for introspection and repentance, it's also a time for shopping for the Chagim- at Binyanei HaUma.
Even if you don't need clothes, go for the anthropological experience. Hundreds of Chareidi women browsing though endless racks of clothing at a frenzied pace. Tip: If you find an item there that you want to buy, hold onto it tight! If you put it down for a second, someone else will be sure to grab it.
(Prices:500 - 1500 NIS during the the year, 100-200 NIS at the Pre-Chagim sale.
Location: Rechov HaTurim, but wait for the annual sale in Binyanei HaUmah)

Outlet stores ("Odafim")

I love chains' outlet stores, because they usually have more of a selection than their regular stores. Instead of just this season's trends, they collect everything left over from the last few years. Unless you still care what the color of the season is, outlets win hand down.

The downside is that it's difficult to get to them...

My all time favorites are Mango Outlet stores (In Beer Sheva, Netanya, Haifa) – All their leftover skirts from across the world seem to make their way here. It's a Frum girl's paradise
Also there's the Outlet Mall in Hertzliya which has Honigman and Castro Outlets, and loads of other Outlets in random locations across the country.

So if there's an Israeli brand that you're into – Google where it's Outlet store is located, it could be worth a trip.

End of Season Sales ("Sof Onah")

An ironclad rule: Don't buy at the beginning of the season. Ever.

Ok, ok, if you fall absolutely in love with it, and you simply won’t survive the suspense, and the praying that it's still around in a few weeks time, then maybe you can get a special dispensation from the pope. But in general – Wait!

Winter stock hits the stores in September. It's still 30 degrees Celcius outside, and the malls are filled with coats and scarves. Do you really need this now? No!

By the time the first rains fall, and a chill hits the air, we're in November, the winter stock is old news, and is going on sale- Perfect timing!

Summer is tougher. You'll need to make do with last year's clothes for a few months. I know it's tough. Hold in there. Salvation will arrive by August at the latest, I guarantee.

So when exactly are the Sales? That's a tough question. There's no particular date (we aren't as organized as the French) but it does come in waves. So if you see "Sale" signs in one store window, odds are the others will be following soon. The good news is that sales are starting earlier and earlier each year. Soon the end of season sales will be before the season begins.

Of course, the problem with Israeli stores (e.g Castro, Renuar, Golf, Honigman etc.) is that they don't have real sales. They plaster their store windows with "Half Price!"- and only if you look very, very, carefully, you'll see underneath, in tiny letters - "off the second item".

Other popular ones are "buy 2, get 1 free"- like I'm going to find three things to buy there, davka during a sale when not much is left.

Worst of all is"10 % off the first item, 20% off the second, 30% off the third, etc." I mean, do the math, that works out to only a 20% discount if you buy three items all at the same price.

Basically, Israeli sales leave anyone who remembers percentages from elementary school entirely unimpressed.

International stores are a different matter. They actually do sometimes reduce prices by fifty percent. There the trick is going the very beginning of the sale, when there's still hope of finding stuff in your size. You're best off being a size 34-36, or 42-44. Sizes 38-40 are usually sold out even before the sale begins.

Basically. shopping for bargains is all about being in the right place at the right time. Good luck!

And now comes the best part- hearing what your favorite places for finding bargains are..?

A Girl's Guide to Tznius Shopping in Jerusalem

Warning: Men should stop reading this right about now.

So you're in Jerusalem, the holy city. And you want to be holy, and dress modestly. But you don't want to look holy. You want to look good.

Never fear. I'm a secret Shopaholic. And arriving home loaded with shopping bags tonight, I suddenly felt like sharing my accrued wisdom with the world. This is going to be an exceedingly shallow post. 100% Chitzoniyus and Gashmiyut. My only defence is that a girl in Shidduchim has got to be well dressed!

Frum stores
I'm not so into shopping at Frum stores. Something about the idea of being dressed exactly the same as every girl in Bnai Brak and Sanhedria Murchevet gives me the shivers.

But if you're aiming for a Frum-yet-classy look for a Simcha, where you want Tante Baila to approve of you and suggest a fine Bochur for a Shidduch, then check out One-of-a-Kind (Location: Go down Rechov Haturim, which is off Malchei Yisroel, and then turn either left or right, I don't remember. It's on a small street that runs parallel to Malchei Yisroel)

And for an – I-may-be-an-old-maid-but-I-can-still-be-the-best-dressed-girl-at-this-wedding, look, there's a Frum designer called Shoshi Yogodayov. She's a bit-over-the-top, but much more original and glamorous than anything else you'll find in the Meah Shearim. The prices are crazy, wait for the end-of-season sales.
(Location: Go up the stairs of a building next to Noam Hafakot on Malchei Yisroel)

International Brands
Zara is the basic staple of most 'Yerushalmi' girl's wardbrobes. (Yerushalmi doesn't mean Chasidic from the Meah Shearim, but rather Boro-Park wannabes.) To go with the head bump comes the Zara pencil Skirt. Arab women also love Zara, so shoppers are guaranteed to have their heads covered one way or another.
(Location: Malcha Mall. There's one scheduled to open in Mamilla soon, and then 'there won't be a reason to go to the mall anymore.')

Mango also has a good skirt selection, their short ones are usually too short, but they have some long ones too. And I like their sweaters and tops.
(Location: Mamilla.)

Hold on a second, what about the Gap? Gap is a huge disappointment to all of us Israelis who were counting the days till it opened. American fashion simply does not work in Israel. Take the 'boyfriend shirt' – no secular Israeli is going to wear a huge baggy plaid button down shirt- that's what religious people wear! And no religious girl is going to wear it, because it's too baggy even for her, and besides, it only looks good over jeans, with half the buttons undone. The store is usually half empty, people flick through the racks and leave empty handed, the cash registers are desolate.
(Location: Mamilla, in the indoor building.)

Israeli Brands-
I popped into Mekimi once when I was waiting in Center1, and emerged an hour later with three skirts. They are specially for the religious public, but manage to stay fun and colorful.
(Location: Center1, Mamilla.)

Most Israeli chains cater for the non religious public, which let's just say is a lot less conservative than your average Frum girl. Also their prices are almost as high as Zara/Mango, but the quality usually isn't as good. But some places worth trying are:

Lord Kitch – they used to sell just T-shirts, then got so popular with the religious crowd who flocked there for their high necked 3/4 sleeved ones, that they branched into a whole range of clothing.
(Location: Malcha, Mamilla, two stores in town.)

Golf- Not that much to say about it. It's pretty Blah, but sometimes has pretty stuff.(Location: Tachana Mercazit, town (top of Ben Yehuda), Malcha)

Fox – Itsy bitsy handfuls of fabric in summer, but they stock cute sweaters in winter.
Local designer stores are Jerusalem's best kept secret. Start off at Betzalel street, and walk down towards King George street, you'll pass a couple of rows of them. Some are more expensive than others. I love the fact that their stuff is pretty unique, yet avoids the typical Israeli-Designer style of vast gray sacks with colored patches randomly sewn on, and asymmetrical hems.

My favorite store is Chumi, on Betzalel 10. They have a collection of Tznius clothes from a bunch of Israeli designers, and have an impressive selection. What sucks is they almost never have sales.

Also I recently discovered Naama Betzalel. Her style is the classic 40s-50s look. There's a store on King George, near Hamashbir, and a "Odafim" store opposite, where they stock leftovers from the last seasons at half the price. That's where the skirt I bought tonight is from :-)

So that's it for tonight. Any questions? Any tips? Places to add?

And yeah I realise this blog post totally ignores the fact that 90% of my readers are located in the States, and not in Jerusalem. Save this list for when you make Aliyah.