Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The Threesome

The first two years following my sister’s marriage were very traumatic for me. Memories of those times stir up feelings of anger and resentment. I'm sure if I’d see a therapist today, all my current troubles would probably be traced back to those times.

I remember especially the Sundays, I’d come home from school exhausted. As was customary, I poured myself a glass of milk and headed for the freezer for some heimish, frozen Kokosh cake. That, while reading the Balachtoongen, really did it for me.

Just four weeks after her Chassana and the trouble started. The Kokosh cake was gone. It wasn’t like my mother wasn’t baking them. Oh, sure she did. She’d spend hours kneading the dough and mixing the sugars till the entire kitchen just needed to be rolled up and baked. But my sister had just been tied to a lover forever, and she was destined to celebrate it with every piece of mezonas around.

She’d be talking on the phone to him in kollel, giggling into the receiver like an idiot, while devouring mountains of food. She had no conscious and no problem with keeping the zipper open.

She'd sit on my mother’s bed, crunching something onion-and-garlic, while shushing about things I wasn’t privy to listen to. From under the door I’d get lots of pronouns like ‘him’ and ‘his’. Most conversations ended with thankful words addressed to my mother. Hug, hug. “chachmes nashim, my dear…”

See, to her marriage was about being a threesome.

Sister would bring bags of laundry that she needed to wash ‘here’ because she’s eating dinner 'here' anyway. She'd be found cleaning in my favorite robe or only pair of slippers. It didn’t matter that she’d said good bye to me with a heart of sincerity. She was back in my life, this time owning my mother.

The kokosh cake was now being shipped off to her home, and the rest my sister burnt with a blink. My mother would do turnovers and lasagna but we got chicken. When Purim came around, our home was full of enough ribbon to wrap the globe, because my sister had a shvigger.

But my sister had no home.

Many of my friends have gone on to live such lives. The mother is there to cut the cord as the baby makes its grand entrance, the mother dictates what should or should not be done in the bedroom, and the mother listens to the daughter's cries and encourages her over and over again to practice savlanos.

To those, the men really belong in Kollel, where they should enjoy the big breakfast that the mother-in-law cooked up. The woman should be working hard to earn a living, only to fall into the mothers house where veibele would sit around and whine about how much she wants to quit work. The mother, the loving mother, is always there to make her feel better and get her through the tough times.

This bothers me, not only because the other children also need cake, but because a mother has no partnership in a young woman’s relationship. A husband and wife should learn to ride the waves themselves, and master the art of holding on. To each other.

Sunday, October 29, 2006


…the bachur is brought into the room, where he meets his bride to be. They spend a half hour scraping their vocabulary for words that can fill the gaping silence, clear their throats a few times, and trace the tablecloth pattern with the fore-finger till the parents finally dismiss them. They then hurry home where the girl can shout and jump with her pals and the boy can call the list of relative till the 6th-removed-cousin to get his mazel tov.

In short, the start of a Chassidic marriage is not very romantic.

It doesn’t get much better.

Hashem has created this world with a wisp of romance. He put the beaches, the sunset, the birds, the flowers, the greenery, the snow and rain, all onto his planet. The only problem is, he also put man.

Man and flair have never gotten along. Man tends to get to the point, consider himself less lazy for spending less time at an act. Especially since the feminist movement in the goyishe world in the 1800s, romance was amongst compromises man had to make to fit into a more female dominated society.

Of course none of these developments affected the religious. So the Chassidic community, for all the commotion, remained accustomed to its simple marriages, with more love and less romance.

Times are a changin’ for us as we learn to have better taste in entertainment. Yet, I struggle. The classic candlelight dinner is ‘so tinkle’ for Yoelish, the leisure walks are proper opportunities to discuss business, and birthdays happen only when you’re born. And even when Yoelish does express interest in any of these celebrations there’s not much we can do about it. There are no fancy restaurants you dress up for that I’ve enjoyed thus far. There’s no place I can steal a private pool from. There is no kosher beach we can relax at. And without a doubt, there is no way I can get that peck of appreciation in public.

That all without taking the little cherubs into account, those that are always 'game' right when you got ready for a two-player-only round.

The Fanceis

Satmar girl’s camp was one hell of a place. There’d be all of us Satmar from all over the place sleeping in large, hot bunks and spending every waking hour chairing and yelling for our team till-voice-do-us-part.

Although camp was a waste of time and energy, it taught me my first lesson of Chassidic society. And this lesson is still relevant today.

We’re all better then the next. The Williamsburg girls would pull at their sleeves, put on white tights and white sneakers and have a kick out of the way the Monroe girls were SO YUNCHY. The Borough Park girls considered themselves so smart, because they walked casually between people that the Williamsburg girls openly gawked at. When other mosdes would visit us there’d be busses full of ‘moderns’ that would make no secret of how hysterical the naïve, clueless Satmar ‘kids’ where.

And so it goes on. It’s the simple math. A chimreh less is a brain and a half more.

Things have changed within me, as I’ve learned to judge the human value by individuality, not heritage. But the world around me can not shake the feeling that you are better for being less restricted.

At the risk of bad-mouthing my own people, I must admit I think its time for the anti-semitism organization to take this matter in its hands. As they’re chasing George Allen out of the Senate for being an unenthusiastic recipient of the news of his Jewish origin we ourselves show no respect for the fundamental aspect of our sacred religion. That is, minhagim and mesorah.

How should the none-jew resist from mocking our traditions if we do the exact the same?

I’m especially unhappy about the sect I’ll dub ‘The Fancies’. These are people that drop SOME restrictions common in their society. They’d take this heroic act as an opportunity to find themselves ‘open minded’ and scientist worthy. They’d blow at their manicured nails and schlep at the stockings that get a run the first time it’s worn and feel like all others are SO schupid! Duh, they wear some mascara; they can now see the world a lot better!

Even those that are mature and open-minded find it hard to live the culture. I know some very brilliant people that understand that every culture has its quirks, and every culture is no more the NEB for ‘em, but still have a tattooed fear of acting it because they’ve been mocked for it as a child.

I’m not a doctor, but I think I’ve seen what’s in the human brain a couple of times. If you haven’t yet, let me tell you that it is very complex. No snowflake is the same. And if you are interested in escaping the block vote, learn more about being a unique person, not looking like one.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

No Women Allowed

The average Joe comes home from work, takes off his construction hat or loosens his tie, and falls into the couch where he flips the channel and catches the game.

The average Joel comes home from work, drops his tefillin and hat in a place that makes the wife cringe, eats dinner while asking the kids the sedra and then escapes to shul for two hours.

Two hours!

Two hours every evening, and two hours every early morning. That’s without putting Shabbos into the cheshbon.

As an unmarried girl, my calendar did not include any Shabbos mornings. There’d be Friday night with lots of food and socializing with friends, and then a circle of sleep until the men would come home from shul. I’d roll out of bed and serve the morning suda while stealing from everyone’s slice challah.

Becoming a mother brought with itself the ‘wonderful’ time of Shabbos morning. The kids are up at eight AM, and after a half hour of shushing them you gotta get your pack of bones out from under the covers. Then I’d spend 3 hours with a rumbling stomach waiting for the Yoelish to get home.

Three hours!

When he gets home he has no big social scandals or zaftig shmooz’n to relate to me. It’s simply shul, where you daven and learn. What’s to relate?

I can’t explain it to him, but having your husband spend more than half his non-work life at shul makes me really wonder about it. I’ve been to the veiber shul, popped one eye through the tiny hole but came out none the wiser. It was just black on black vibration.

I need a one day pass to check the place out.

I’m sure there are ‘kipkes’ men talking about things I’d stop and listen in, people from out of town I’d be obliged to stare at, bummes that spend all their time smoking out the window, or those that I’d watch from the corner of my eye taking a bedika to the dayin. I’d spend two hours soaking up all the pubic hair in the mikvah of course, then enjoy the showers that are supposedly warm and dry my face while making my way to the kaveh shtible. I’d sip my coffee while interacting with people Yoilish never mentioned he knows, then do what’s customary and drink another dose of caffiene. I’d spend some time learning and davening, and watch guys zoom messages to god through their cell phone.

The next day I’d spend telling Yoelish all about my day at shul.

Can anybody make the guy talk?

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Yiddish Chayn

I have very keen memories of my grandmother’s house. I remember the smell, I remember the ‘brown theme’, I remember the candies, but most of all I remember the blush.

An einikle kallah would come in and she’d come running. Blush Bubby.

Blush Bobby would brush the makeup up and down the kallah’s cheek bones in a not very fashionable line with a not very attractive color. But she’d constantly repeat, A Kallah must be shayn, A kallah must be shayn!

Our aunts and uncles would krechts. Makeup is not tsnuis. But babby would insist. A kallah must be shayn!

Years later, and these kallahs are now mothers of families. I meet them at simchas, at parties or just anywhere and the blush is still there, deep imprinted on both cheeks. It’s bubbie’s memory.

But things changed. Below the cheeks another few chins have been added, around the forehead some wrinkles have emerged and at the place of the waist sits a 15 pound metzayveh, memory of the times that were.

I watch my friend get herself a new dress. She dons a size 18woman, walks back and forth in front of the Tauber’s mirror all the time wiggling her behind in both directions. Then she walks out feeling just fine with the way she looks. Wiggle, wiggle.

Only a kallah darf zeyn shayn?

I know that we women should be the symbol of modesty. We should not flaunt our figures or mess with our faces (admit it, you have acne. Everyone must know!). But on the flip side of the coin, how do we keep our men from looking if there’s nowhere to look away to?

I don’t suggest we should all stand in line for a lip-plumping procedure. I don’t suggest we go on the carrot diet. I suggest we acknowledge our duty and let our men know that at home too, there is a hot girl.

Drop the Kaff’s, go for a waxing.

Yes, mostly the important message that our gender holds should be communicated in the stark night, while you are following instructions A to F from the Kallah’s Heart Attack Manual. But some of it should be conveyed by presenting yourself neatly, femininely and modestly.

Why do we think the abdominal extra is another freebie we take home from the hospital after the birth of our first, to be filled with lots of chocolate while the kids are at school? Why do we think a healthy mother is one with folding hips? Why do we own just one decent dress, and live our lives in a big, baggy, La Smock robe?

Women rush out of the mikvah, with cold raw hands, and half-tsiflogen sheitlech. It doesn’t occur to anybody to stay for another hour and prepare an isha nooah.

Are we really modest or just living on easy street?

Monday, October 23, 2006


Give me a minute while I muster the courage.

Okay. Here goes:


I’m taking a deep breath. Saying this wasn’t easy.

As a chassidish girl, flirting is useless and embarrassing. Well, some of you might not think what I do is flirting, or ever realize that I am a flirting, but deep down I’m a terrible flirt.

I don’t get all pink in the cheeks, show cleavage, wink with one eye, take on a cheerleader voice and breath, hike up my skirt, run a finger through my hair. No, that’s the secular version of flirting. All I do is notice that something G&G is a few feet within me, and wonder if he notices me.

It is at its peek when I’m a niddah and I get this keen desire for anything man. Yes, I know, only the man has a right to be ‘undersexed’ and act crazy when he does not have a release, but I too can lose my mind, and I lose my mind from losing my mind.

Here’s what happens. I walk down Lee Avenue. There’s a guy coming in my direction. I move to the side – pushing the carriage almost off the curb. I look far, far away. I am thinking about my grocery list. I am really not noticing the man that just passed me. I don’t turn my head. I don’t look to see if he glances up. Because I know he isn’t.

But as I wait for the ‘WALK’ signal all I can see in my mind is the guy. His shape, his glasses, his glasses, his levish. I wonder if his wife is a stone while they are together. I wonder if he checks out porn every so often, I wonder if he has a whole secret life. I wonder mostly about his mate, and if she has any idea what it means to satisfy a man.
And then I wonder if I could do a better job at that…

When I get home the yungerman’s intimacy troubles  that he might or might not have are not with me. But mine are. Because I can’t stop flirting with chassidish men, my way of flirting.

The goyim in my building are easy. I come into the elevator, they push and wink, and I proudly ignore them. But the super-human super-cute chassidish men, that don’t acknowledge anyone woman, they kill me.

No offense to you Yoelish. You’re the best lover a girl could have. But still, feeling sexy in the presence of men is a torturing desire. I have yet to find another woman that admits to feeling the same.

According to my non-scientific assumption, no relationship can refrain from fizzling somewhat after 1 year. And no one can feel the same about a stranger and a spouse of 10 years. The heat in the relationship falls away and is replaced by deep love. And even more, I have concluded, that although deep love is more important than heat, heat still really calls your name.

Between Yoelish and myself we always feel free to admit attraction to others of opposite gender. It’s unusual for Satmar couples to acknowledge the presence of others in their life, but I really believe that the only other option is denial. Natural feelings don’t go away even if you have a very good marriage.

When my husband says that a guy from work spoke about me in shul, he enjoys seeing me blush. And I feel a rush of excitement. But I know that is stupid because whoever spoke about me doesn’t give a hoot about me.

I wish I could find out what’s behind your face while you ring me up in the store, put down papers on my desk at work, or review information over the phone. I wish I could hear that you find me attractive. But deep down I know it is good that you keep that blank face, because it is what keeps me and Yoelish so tangled up together.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

www.satmar.com ??

My computer-mouth stands evidence to some overtime googling. There is a stark coffee smell on the smiling-family-picture-mouthpad in addition to what my husband refers to as the 'shiny area' on the mouth itself - a result of the stuff I munched on while oogling at the screen (won't even talk about that, it's just gonna take me down another food-related guilt trip. I've definitely been feeding one mouth too many.)

It started when I began googling the word 'satmar' for a work-related project. I alternated with 'satmEr' and 'chassid'. I needed some pictures to put into a document. No biggie.

Turned out, I discovered a gold mine. Being a chassidic girl, I thought we all utilize the web for the same reason. To get access to the news and information we're cut off from. There's mostly mainstream reporting but sometimes, I'll admit, there's stuff a little off my mainstream. Either way, I wouldn't exactly doublya-doublya for the Chassidic Bible. I have enough without the wire...

I was shocked to see how the web is a feeding tube for all Chassidic souls that have struggled with a community that does not acknowledge all sorts of people. What bothered me though was that there is no one to balance the boat. All young women and boys that are happily following the instruction sheet for life, and derive great innocence and comfort thereof, do not air any of their laundry online. Therefore, when one googles the word Satmar, like myself, you get hundreds of result pertaining to either the rift (let's not go there) or the restrictions. Consequently, the online Satmar has formed into a body resembling nothing of the innocence and happiness that our community actually consists of. As much open minded as I tried to be, deep down, I know it's not us.

No. I'm not one of the people blessed with 'innocence'. I've been out of here, returned, dubbed a 'bum' and later struggled to catch up with the robotic pace. With the help of DSL I now learnt that I'm considered a conformist. Baruch hashem for that. Identity crisis is just not something I can afford to put onto my to-do list.

Over shabbos I've been sitting on all the info I found on the web. The girl that asks questions on Yahoo Answers like "What do you think about Jews?" and then "Where can I get a small, cheap TV?". She later admits to being 18 and mostly unfamiliar with the details of sex. That makes her one of 'us'.
There's a blog that posted a newspaper piece. To sum it up, the piece suggested that the Kiryas Joel officials 'sent somebody' to sexually molest a girl, for political reasons. I'll tell ya, I wasn't sure what surprised me more, the article itself or the fact that all the eager listeners bought the shtism. They celebrated the garbage.
There's a blog, gay-ex-choosid, by a guy that was forced to leave our community because of the judgment we easily pass at others that are not template. I feel sorry for him, but I don't buy that he screws with MANY other chassidish men and knows that many men have other women while their till-death-do-us-part is in the Catskills.

Child molestation, wife beaters, extramarital relations, gay, lesbian, atheist, murder, drug abusers, mafia - - whatnot. It's all online. Almost the guide to proper chassidis.It's good we have a shabbos. One disconnected day helped wake up. There are no regular wife-beater. There are no regular 'wife swaps'. Tempted by the thrilling monster of gossip, I almost believed all of it.

Not that I'm suggesting this is the Tribe of Saints. No, no, no. Don't get me wrong. But it isn't the Tribe of Monsters either. Most people I know are innocents. Those that are not close their front door and cheat a little, with a movie - a book, a getaway - or clothing that's really inappropriate.

I myself, hmm, am a sad story in its own. I wish I could say my house is ready for audit, from above or those that have mistaken themselves as the representatives of above. But yes, I do stuff. I'm open minded. I listen to stories of 'brenen in gehinem' because of certain minor deeds and I think "what crap". I consider any good person a good person, regardless of observance. However, by means of learning more about cultures and ethnicities I have come to the conclusion that the Satmar society produces a high volume of good people.

The end justifies the means?

The big picture does away with the little mistakes?