Tuesday, January 30, 2007

No Man's Land

Mother always tells the story of my birth. Despite all the deliveries that precede me and succeed me, her eyes still fog over as she retells the tale of the day that I was born. So many times I’ve begged her forgiveness, and apparently that was done every chatsus in the first half year of my life, but she’ll never give up recounting it, each occasion adding an interesting inch to the length of the pain. It’s made me a family legend.

In my own definition of things, I think it was disappointment that left this imprint in her heart. She had given birth to girls before, and good, feineh, meidelech that is. They made their way into the world and immediately took to sleeping, smiling and hanging over their mother’s shoulder.

I teased the doctors for hours before I finally decided to come storming out, according to the frazzled woman in hospital gown. But what she won’t tell you is that I made my debut wearing the shoulders of the traditional pink undei slung down to my arms and I was hollering like the world’s coming to an end.

As she cradled little puffy me, she was horrified to notice that I was born without, well, a barrette in my hair.


Yes, my family was devastated, much like you can imagine yourself. I know. Thanks for the condolences.

See, where I come from, women must be completely segregated from men, in order for them to qualify as real Yiddish kroyn. That little boy inside me, the rowdy nature in me that buckled up and rode the contractions before bursting into life – that was complete tarivas.

So here’s a tribute to all women out there that don’t fit the Perfect Pink mold. To those that aren’t all ribbon and frill, and 100% girly girl. A little performance presented by All Sides of Me.

Testing, testing. (the guitar strings, that is). Go:

Vish Vash.
Vish Vash.
Dee gantsah hoze is tip-top.

Eech aleyn halt in eyn vashen…
Dee gantsah hoez zoeber tsimachen…
Dee goyteh tit es nisht genig git machen…
Oy vee feyn iz alamool pesach tsee machen…

Click, clack.
Click, clack.
My head-to-heal attire is tip-top.

To put my nose out the door…
Or to run to the grocery store…
I get dressed in the shmoneh begadem…
Fin voos se-hayngt nisht kayn eyn foodem…

Ahem, Aha.
Ahem, Aha.
My thin voice is on the lowest notch.

I walk in military order…
To yell or run shows of a serious disorder…
I never get hyper or a little silly…
And those that do are crazy, really…

@$#@%$^$! Wohoo!! (Okay, don’t put me away again, please!)

Shsh, Sha.
Shsh, Sha.
I sing a lullaby la, la, la.

To be a mother is my desire…
And a wife to my husband, a very getrayer…
To have a baby every year…
Because I instinctively love only for others to care…

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Authorities Incorporated

I leaned back on the brick wall that lines the building exterior, my hands tucked into each opposite coat sleeve, and I tried to breathe in a relaxing pattern. I inhaled deeply and let out a nervous breath. Inquisitively, I bent over and looked around me. The place was different than I expected, in the sense that it was quiet, not the come-and-go rush I assumed it would be like. I pushed the lit doorbell again, held it down a little harder this time, and waited.

“Why aren’t they opening?” I whispered to my husband impatiently. “Huh? What's taking so long?”

I confess I didn’t come there with the cleanest of souls. My chassid had planned to go with a kvitle anyhow, and he thought I could use a blessing from a good yid that has a special bond with God. When he first mentioned it, I laughed till my guts spilled out, wiping tears away, but when the hysteria died down I noticed that I’d been doubled over alone. Yoelish didn’t think it was funny. He was convinced a trip to the Rabbi will do us good and that I have just to go to find out that he was right. He couldn't get much enthusiasm out of me when it comes to rabbis, but I did intentionally pick that old grey and navy, dull scarf to tie on my head. I figured a shpitzle veibele with sagging shoulders will distract the rabbi from my sinning insides.

By the time they ushered me in to the rabbi's room, I was already considering leaving the whole ordeal and walking right back home. I was tizzy with tension. Having never gone to the Rabbi before, what followed passed in a blur of men's black long coats and thing belts tied on top. I don’t really remember how I arrived into the big room, one laced with sefarim on its endless walls. I think we went there was a quick toll exchange between Moshe and the gabi on our way in.

In the room, I wasn’t offered a seat or a kichelech made by the rebbetzin. I just stood at the door of the fluorescent-blue room that was empty of props but the rabbi’s heavy table. My husband rushed over to kiss the rabbi’s hand. The Rebbeh Shlita shukled in a front-to-back motion and loudly benched us with wonderful things.

"Umeyn... Umeyn... Umeyn... Umeyn..."

I nodded amens fervently. Then the rabbi fell silent. Yoelish’l spoke; he said it. I felt sick with fear when he made the admission about my personal shortcoming, my hidden reality. Yoelish told the rabbi that I have a blog, and that I feel it’s starting to poison my mind. That I stumbled upon the Internet unintentionally, and I’ve been trapped ever since. What should we do?

I began chewing at my nails. I pulled my pocket book strap back over my shoulders.

“Ah Blok?!" The rabbi's question came in a learning tune. "And there’s J Net or any other such program?”

“Yu, Yu, of course!”

The rabbi gazed down on his sefar, his fingers running through his beard through his beard. Then he balled up the end of his beard in his hand. He seemed unable to sit without jerking in little movements. Finally he looked me in the eye and asked, “In Gugle edsense (Google Adsense), iz doos doo? (do you have that?)”

My husband turned to me confused about what that adsense was all about.

“Se-iz mayglech” I murmured, my eyes fixed on my nails. It's possible to install it.

Meyn froe zoogt es is mayglech, it’s possible” Yoelish repeated to the rabbi.

“Nee." came his hoarse, pshetldig voice, "Our educational institutions are struggling financially. The melamdim in the yeshivos are not getting paid and the buildings can't be covered. Oz men ken oroishelfen, if we can help out, that would be a big mitzvah. Seshteyt duch, "shliach mitzvah eyneh nizoykin" he who does a good deed cannot be in danger. Should der eybershter help you and you should be successful in alleh inyanim, amen!”

So very dear reader, I’ve put Google Ad Sense up. Let us hope that in the merit of a combined Blogger’s effort we’ll be zocha to see a lot of riches for this rabbi and a few more rabbjs, until moschiach tsidkayno, Amen!

Monday, January 15, 2007

The Chosen and Choices

Life as a Chassidic Jew is without doubt full of challenging restrictions. However, there are some very positive aspects to its lifestyle. To name one, openness to the unexpected. It creates for its people to a world of choices. As long as you abide to its rules, your future is yours to map. Go, do, live just as you want.Thus, the journey of my life has been full of unpredictable twists and turns. It’s been an adventure of ups and downs; the experiences all shaped by the choices I made. Here is my condensed dramatic autobiography:

The Unexpected

As a seventeen year old, three years into attending an all-girls high school, I decided not to pursue a college education. I was young and hot-headed, and on impulse, dropped out from my studies and picked up an employment offer at a fellow chasid’s modest business.

Work had little excitement for a young secretary like me, but relying on the income as I looked ahead at my lavish dreams, I touched-typed away. I made my way through the streets of Williamsburg ever morning, and I returned at five o’clock precisely. My days each resembled the next. I checked in each day for minimum wage and then used a fraction of that income to shop for designer European wear; as fine and modest clothing is the absolute product of my own taste. The rest of the gold-backed paycheck was stashed away for big times to come.

On one particularly foggy day, as I was walking home in my clockwork route, absent mindedly watching my feet upset the brown puddles lying lazily between sidewalk cracks, I made a detour in my usual route. I stopped by an aunt’s house per my mother’s request.

It was that very day, that very visit, that spontaneously changed my life. It threw my world of predictability into a disarray and hung a thick veil of mystery over my future. After that sudden detour, my trips to work would no longer be the same. There in my aunt's house, as I was sitting at her dinette, the doorbell rang. At the threshold stood a middle-age couple, behind them their son, a handsome young gentleman. His demeanor and attitude had me from the first minute. He looked down, shook with anxiety, and hardly acknowledged me. It was that moment that I knew I had found my soulmate.

In a spiral of unexpected events, what is a story in its own, the next seven months were consumed by an incredible romance. Despite my young age, our love developed something so much more, for instance, into a sparkling diamond ring, and soon I stood at the tall mirrors in Brodey’s Bridal shop, trying white dresses. I watched my own reflection, a glorified angel in endless tulle, and mulled over the irony. Me, married, hardly twenty.

I was looking over to the girl standing next to me, envying her better dress, when I realized I’d known her from school. What a coincidence, I gasped, amazed to see another one of us getting hitched.

“Oh, yeah” she said to me, while the seamstress fondled her shoulders. “We’re not the only ones.”

Much to my surprise, I found many other classmates bubbling between the racks. Some were donning tiaras, some trying on ridiculous off-color ill-fitted gowns, and others crying in their mother’s arms with anticipation.

What are the odds?!

Ironically, my fellow friends were all also locating in Brooklyn, NY, of all places. They too were marrying young chassidic scholars. They too held down secretarial jobs at small business owners. They too were absolutely in love.

They too, were making choices.

My eyes almost fell out of the sockets. What. The. Hell. Are. The. Odds??

Time went by, and I lost touch again. My husband and I decided to start a family immediately after the nuptials. Nine months hence, the baby was about to join us. We arrived to the hospital in the middle of the night, gasping for breath.

“The baby is coming” I stuttered, “cu-cu-coming, right this now!!”

The nurse looked up, nose high in air, and pointed her pencil to a chair. “Take a seat, ma’am.”

Dragging our bags to the waiting area, I nodded to the other much-overdue patients. I realized that many of them were women my age, and I’d gone to school with them. Only it was now that they sat back, drained of every ounce of strengths, as they stared into the ceiling like nothing mattered anymore.

“You all?” I gawked. “Having babies??”

“What then you think I’m doing here, like THIS?” an old friend looked at me, obviously ready to pop more with anger than with child.

I fell onto a bench and wondered about this wonderful life, a life so full of choices.


Tuesday, January 09, 2007


Before I got married I went for some preparation classes. At my first class I learned about the fundamental structure of a Jewish Home in those words:

“Consider it a glass wall. Every so often there will be a glass wall in your home, one that no one will see but it will separate you from your spouse. It will make sure that you do not come too close to each other”.

It didn’t seem like an awful piece of furniture, especially when the teacher ended by saying that when the glass wall is not there, you and your mate can be so close, you can even play a game of rummy together.

Rummy?!!! Blink. Really? Bliiiiiink, blink. Wow!

Life as a married woman was full of surprises. One of them was the glass wall. It wasn’t half as simple as I thought. Let me tell you about that slob.

The Glass Wall is just the name for an animated ogre made of misshaped gooey glob of soft glass, the ugliest creature to ever walk the planet. It talks in a nosey thin voice with an ever present cheerful disposition. Little feet drag its tummy-dominated body all over in small quick steps. Most of all, it hates me.

It arrives into my life with or without notice, on its own whim. “Hey, hunnee” I find it sitting on the toilet tank reading a pashkaville that was retrieved from the garbage bin. He doesn’t even bother to look up. “I missed ya galfriend" he teases.

I cringe and storm off. It hops off and runs after me. “Cheer up, will ya? Life’s good, life’s really goooood.”


It follows me to the bedroom where I tuck myself into bed feeling miserable. I know what’s in store for me. Glass will make himself at home around here for a good few days and suffocate my personal space. I put the pillow over my head and let the mood swings bring about little sips of cries.

I feel my bed moving, and I peek out to find a sweating Glass pushing my bed farther apart from the other one. He dusts his palms off and hands me a pair of men’s washed-out socks. “Here, put this on. And close that top button of that nightgown. Sheesh. A little decency. Is that too much to ask nowadays? What’s the world come too? People have no more pride in this day and age. That’s all I see- - -okay, okay, I’m ramblin’ on…”

Just the sound of that voice makes my insides grind.

It gets lonely, talking long distance to your own husband from one pillow-planet to the other. I eat clementines while we discuss our day in the depressing way these things work. Glass sits on the night table, next to the glowing lamp, yawning away. Just when we are starting to forgive each other for an argument earlier that day, Glass perks up. “Duh, you guys are so boring. C’mon with all the mushy. Whew, gross! Can’t a guest enjoy himself? I mean, get a room!”

I roll my eyes hatefully and turn to the wall. I see rummy cards all over. There, there. A joker!

During dinner, Glass piles extra ketchup, mustard and seltzer bottles on the table. He has no table manners whatsoever. And he talks so much; I can’t put a word in edgewise.

Scrubbing away the dishes later, as I yell the chorus of Father Don't Cry in my lethal way of singing, Glass flutters his eyelashes in frustration. "He-l-l-l-p!" he holds both hands over his ears. "Have pity on me, will ya?!" And so, my music comes to a barbaric end.

When I get ready to go outside with my husband, Glass too schleps his hat on and hurls a scarf around its neck, all hyped. He walks between us, throwing me almost off the curb, going on about this and that with rolls of freezing vapor escaping his mouth.

I don’t even pretend I’ll miss him when I find him packing to leave the next day. What a relief it will be. Life, the way we knew it.

Grrrr! Change of plans. Something came up, I have no idea what, and Glass is staying for another week. At this point I'm so angry I don’t know how to let go of all that fume.

Ah! Yoelish! Good ol’ Yoelish! He can handle some of my feelings, can't he? It takes no time at all for me to be complaining to him, then about him, then with him and ultimately blowing at him in the silent way that eats me alive.

“Finally some quiet around here!” Glass lying on the carpet between our beds, sipping a beer. “This place is full of chitty-chatty, chitty-chatty” he gestures a moving-duck-face with his hand.

I get beside myself with anger when Glass visits us outside the home. Like while we’re on vacation or at a relative. Oh, the maternity ward, that makes my nostrils expand in lack of a better gesture. Just when the unborn child is about to make its debut, I notice glass curled up on one of the hospital chairs checking the channels. When the baby is born to its teary-eyed parents, Glass pushes his way in like a real grandparent. Takes the bundle from me, swings it from side to side, but forgets about it if me and my Yoelish are about to celebrate.

“Not now, you people. We’ve got this cutest baby to look at! Lookee here, doesn't the kid look just like its papa! coo. tsu, tsu...”

The day Glass leaves our home is a holiday. I walk him out the door with a beating heart, feeling newly-married all over. As I close the door, he presses his face back to the peephole:

“Ya neva, eva, know when I’ll be back, ya extra-kind hostess o’ mine! ! !” and tapping his belly he makes his way down the hall with victorious “ha, ha, has!”

I lock the door, close every bolt.


(Note – This post is my last one” blineder” that gets carried away with outlandish, over-the-top analogies... I couldn’t resist just this one more time...just this one time… :)

Friday, January 05, 2007

Fitting In

For me, the focal point of a simcha is the challah. It's only natural for me to head directly from the coat room to whatever smells crusty, and remain there, at least in mood, way past the badchen's gig. My appetite is relentless.

Yeah, well, today as ever, I'll just eat my watery vegetable soup here and leave the floating kneidle to dry.

Damn cooked carrots they call stew.

I blow over a spoonful and feel sorry for myself. All my life I've been trying to fit into a mold that's too small to fit almost anyone naturally. All my life I've been following a world of rules to become someone I'm naturally not. All my life I've been denying myself certain pleasures because my mother would look me up and down and make me feel awful if I'd be who I am.

All my life I've been trying to live another life.

A first cousin comes over to our table to enthusiastically vinch mazel tov. Mma, maa. Cheek, cheek. "Mahazel Tuhuv! You look really good! Turn around. And this way. Wow. What are you doing?" She feels my waist to check for the garment of magic.

She plops down on the empty chair next to me, picks the maraschino off an untouched appetizer, and mesmerizes the audience by telling a 'beferishe' story about a friend of hers that passed away from yene machlah and came back in the form of a bird to request that a $20 loan be repaid.

We all gasp. Seiz doo a bashefer of der velt.

"Unbelievable!" I exclaim. (Oh, for crying out loud!) "Din v'cheshben.."

It doesn't take long for all the dead-visiting stories to come rolling, and I'm not there anymore. I'm looking into my empty plate, knocking the spoon softly into the poor kneidle to the musical rhythm, my left ear positioned in a way that suggests it's listening, and off I am thinking about a subject I read on a blog and the ensuing comments.

I try to hold my facial gestures from moving with my thoughts. In my mind, I argue with the topic's arguments, think about the mood of the discussion, and absentmindedly slip me feet out of those high pumps.

I perk up when I realize I've been spoken to. "Yeah, yeah. I know what you mean." (I have no idea what you were talking about, my dear sister.) Wake up, I tell myself.

I look around for my kids, wave to an aunt, and spot my brother jerking his head sideways at the mechitsah.

My brother always seems to be bored with male companionship. At every wedding he signals for his wife twenty times. We've come to expect him to be hovering in that area. His wife, Paris Hilton, would make her way over to him in her clickity-clack way and halfway disappear on the other side, leaving her rear in the women’s section for tsnuis.
I watch her, or what is left of her, and wonder about my big brother who doesn't seem to find his place between his male counterparts. I've always assumed that side to be superior in social interaction.

My thoughts are already weaving a new web and then a blog about the mysteries of my brother when I realize everyone’s quiet. The kind of quiet that turns the music and all noise off. My sister Rosie O'Donnel shakes her head in Paris's direction disapprovingly.

"Zee zayt ois a shrek! Ah shrek" Her hands fly in the air with despair.

(What? Where? How do you mean? )

"Look at this little skirt she's bursting out of. It's ekeldig. It's not even tsee dee zach. She looks like she's wearing a pajama. Mommy eats her heart out when she sees her like this. I'm just plain worried. Zee glitcht with every day. I've tried to talk to her but her head is in the wrong places." I was afraid Rosie was going to cry. She looked so sincere. No wonder she's the family favorite.

I hand her a napkin to dab her eyes with.

"I know" (now), I nod like an old, sad lady. (C'mon. Glitched? She's got her brains stuck in a clothing rack. I wonder what you would consider me had I not been sobbing along with your veygeshreyen.)

Barabara Streisand, the sister in law from Montreal can't agree more. "He isn't even the type for any of this. He was such a good boy. Zee hut eym fardarben!"


All women 'round the table are now actively worried for the well being of our dear family member. For some reason, I feel like I'm on fire. I feel like they're talking about me. For a change, I’m not bored.

I want to fit in. I want to be an insider in a community whose mold is too small to fit almost anyone naturally. I follow every program, and every exercise to become an eligible member of this celebrity society. I'm not brave enough to be entertainment, in a Paris way.

Hillary Clinton, a younger sister of mine, she always likes to share little darling bits of info that she coaxed outta you. "Uh, uh. Paris' on birth control. I know for sure.".

"WHAT?" I gasp. "Really? I thought she's nursing clean?" (I can hear the rear end of my brain exploding in laughter, and wonder what set it off).

Barbara is already bent over the table probing Hillary for a source. Laura Busch, like always, tries to stop this. She won't accept the loshan hora.

I hand my nagging son the whole basket of sour pickles and tell him to disappear. Nem. Gey shoin. I've got more important stuff to worry about.

Barbara Streisand sips some lemon soda. "My mother saw Paris on the bus the other day. She wasn't wearing palm. Everyone looks at her. She looks very modern. How does she think she'll do shedichum?"

Shedichum! Vey! God help ME!

I suggest to Barbara that maybe Paris should go to the rebbe for a kvitle (ha, ha, ha. not funny) so that she can find the way.

Rosie explains to me that there's really little we can do. "You can tell everything about a person from her clothing. You can see that she wants fremdeh felder. Shpitzle, She's erger than you think. It's bad."

"I see. I see.” (Okay, coward, this has surpassed funny. Can you for once, not act heart stricken?)
I can't take this anymore.

Why can't one be who one is?

I start at the challah. I tear off a chunk and chew with loud thumps. The hell with fitting in!

I won't ever look like Rosie anyhow.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Mailer Demon

Dear Friends,

Happy Nework Year!

I know I'm a couple of days late, but I'd like to apologize to all of you for closing my email account. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know you personally and I hope to continue to hear from ya via the comments. I do miss it all.



Shpitzleshptrimpkind@godmail.com (kidding)