Monday, November 14, 2011

The Frum Woman’s Handshake

"Shake my hand." I say to my husband

"Huh?" he replies. We don't usually shake each other's hand as a greeting.

"I need to practice" I say. "For the interview."

He looks worried.

"Because it's a woman who’ll be interviewing me." I explain. “They said her name is Ilana. I"ll actually be able to shake her hand, so I want to check my handshake is ok”

He still looks rather confused. "What's the big deal?"

"Everyone knows there's a lot they learn about you from your handshake. It's very psychological." I should know, I’ve been reading enough online posts about how to prepare for an interview. (Tip: don't say your biggest weakness is hating routine boring work.)

I’ve shaken hands with someone perhaps once in my life. I've spent my last thirteen years making excuses for why I can't shake hands with men, an art form mastered by most Frum women.

We know the hold cellphone/drink/notebook in each hand trick, the sneeze into your hand and hold dirty tissues trick, the nod and smile before he has a chance to stretch his hand technique, and when all fails the " I'm sorry but I don't shake hands with men" explanation. But that's a last resort that risks offending; we try not to let it get that far.

Basically we Orthodox women are adept at how not to shake hands, but unfamiliar with how to actually shake someone's hand, should we so wish. ( Maybe that should be my excuse next time. "I'm sorry, but I don't know how to")

Being interviewed by a woman is a new occurrence. ( And perhaps reflective of the state of women's career paths in the Israeli workplace?)

I stretch out my left hand. My husband reaches out and holds it. We shake.

“How was I?” I ask

“Fine”, he says.

“Not too limp? Not too firm?”

“Maybe a bit too strong. You shouldn’t be trying to move my hand.”

“Oh.” I say. We try again

“How was that?”

“You're fine,” he says, “can we have dinner now?”

“Hi, I'm Ilana.”

“Pleased to meet you" I say.

We both smile. I wait.

“Would you like a drink? Or shall we get started"

No hand appears on the horizon. Maybe at the end?

"It was a pleasure meeting you, FNF."

“Same here.” We both smile. Again I wait.

“Here, I'll show you out.”

I don't believe it. After all that. When I finally can.

Maybe handshaking doesn't even happen anymore? Maybe it’s an archaic custom of a bygone era, sustained in only by orthodox female paranoia?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

History of (my) Hair

Straight- "stick straight"- hairstyles were in fashion when I was in ninth grade. On my trek from home to school I ogled the glossy photos pinned up in the local hairdresser’s windows- models with choppy haircuts, layers of varying length, all falling in perfect symmetrical lines.

My torturous attempts at blow-drying resulted in puffy, frizzy, waves. Straightness was out of my reach except for on those rare visits to the hairdresser for a cut- from which I emerged with glossy locks, content until I couldn’t drag out the days any longer, my hair needed to be washed, and returned to its natural wavy state.

I counted the years until I’d be able to wear a wig. I already knew which wig I would choose; it would be fall below my shoulder in beautiful straight layers.

I didn’t count enough years. Fast forward a decade, and I was still making do with my own hair. A lot happened in the meantime. I discovered the wonders of the straightening iron, and finally straight hair could be mine. Then fashions changed, wavy was “in”, and I decided my hair wasn’t too bad after all.

Now I had a new challenge, proving that my hair was my own, and hadn’t been shaved of the head of an Ukranian peasant girl. Because I was a frum female in my twenties. And everyone knows that all women of this advanced age must be wearing a wig.

When I pulled back my hair in a headband, the Yeshiva-guy-I-didn’t-marry told me it looked like I was wearing a fall. When I cut side bangs, full bangs, again that was the latest Shaitel trend.

I stood on the roof of a hotel, watching my friend’s Chuppah, the wind blowing my fresh-from-the-hairdresser hair in all directions, and I was glad, because maybe now it would look messy enough to be obviously non-Shaitel. Then I trooped down the flights of stairs with my friends, and sat around a satin cloaked table with them, looking from one to the next and envying their glossy, perfectly set, “babylissed” curls and what they represented- lifetime membership to a fraternity I was locked out of.

When I was miraculously granted the key to the club, I was too busy with planning a wedding to give much thought or time to my soon-to-be-mandatory head covering.

I tried on a Shaitel. It looked OK. I bought it. It cost a packet, but then so does everything else that goes with getting married. I didn’t think twice until after the wedding.

Suddenly I stare in the mirror and see a stranger looking back at me.
The straight hair I once envied now feels fake, and flat. I long for my own natural curls, with all their messiness and lack of discipline.

Maybe I should buy another Shaitel, a curly one. “If that’s what you want, you should get it.” TCO tells me.

But looking at the price tag, from the viewpoint of a newly married, it seems like a horrible waste of money. More than a dining room set. More than wall to wall bookshelves. More than an extended honeymoon in Europe. Just so I can look less married, more “like myself”.

Wearing a wig does save time, I plop it on without a thought to what’s underneath. Wearing a wig does symbolize something I’ve been waiting a long time for. But wearing a wig, well, it’s wearing a wig.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The "Who-She-Dated" Blacklist

I try not to be a typical newlywed. In fact, I never really liked newlyweds, caught up in their own little blissful worlds.

One common newlywed trait is matchmaking. And for newlywed bloggers- the complaining that goes with it. Suddenly singles are "pushy" and "picky" and "ungrateful" I swore never to switch roles quite so drastically, and I hope I'll stand by my word.

But yes, I am guilty of being a newlywed; of the type eager to make matches. And some things really do get me upset.

True fact - We don't know who we are going to marry until we marry them.

I have lots of different types of friends; some are loud, some are quiet, some are shark and some more easy going; basically every friend is different.

And that's normal. Most of us have more than one friend, and usually our friends are not identical.

In other words, we get on with all sorts of people.

So why, when it comes to dating, is there a perception that a girl can only date one type of person. And if a girl went out with a guy who's not exactly the same as you, then obviously you can't go out with her. Because "If she went out with Shimon she can't be right for me".

Clarification: She only dated Shimon, she didn't marry him. And it was a blind date at that. Maybe she dumped him after one date? And even if she didn't, even if she - shock-horror -dated him seriously, why does that rule her out for you?

Your friend Yitzy is friends with Shimon and with you. Why can't a girl go out with and get along with Shimon and with you? (Obviously not simultaneously)

I keep hearing the same line. "But she went out with him. She can't be right for me." Who knew drinking coca-cola with a guy boycotts a girl for life?

This is my first Shadchan rant. Sorry for crossing over to the dark side.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Bye Bye Shidduch Resume, Hello Career Resume

Now that I've quit my evening job (shidduch dating, for the uninitiated) , I've been able to give a lot more thought to my day job.

That and the fact that suddenly mortgages and bills are eating up a major chunk of what used to seem like a generous enough salary (when all it needed to pay for were clothes).
I've discovered that there aren't that many employment opportunities in Jerusalem in my field. And have started emailing out my (non shidduch) resume to companies all over the country.

If I start commuting I could probably make a significantly higher salary. (yippee)

But then I'll have to pay for a car. There goes the pay raise. (boo hoo)

But I'd have a car. (yippee)

But I'd have at least one hour less time a day. (boo hoo)

I GChat with a former colleague. She's married with a kid. She's quit her job after having a baby, and has been trying to get back into the workforce for more than a year. She has a great resume, and impressive skills. And she's still jobless.

"They all ask me how I plan on balancing work and family life" She tells me. "Then they hire a man instead of me."

It's there, but you can never prove it, never blacklist or sue.

Companies will prefer to hire a single man than a woman with kids. And what if the man has kids? That's OK, because everyone knows men can "compartmentalize". What if the woman is single or doesn't have kids? She can just get away with the sin of her sex. (Obviously there are women that break the rules. But I'm guessing many of them joined their companies while still childless.)

My friend claims that now's my last chance, if I want to change jobs. Now, when my stomach is flat, and I don't need to juggle daycare and long hours.

On the other hand job security will be a big plus when I do eventually enter that beautiful state of nausea and hormonal madness, and want to take sick leave for checkups, and extended maternity leaves. The job security I'll lose if I leave.

It's the best of times and the worst of times- for a career change that is.