Miley Cyrus, Robin Thicke, and Jew in the City

I’ve hated Jew in the City ever since I saw her nauseating video about the beauty of Mikvah, and the hate was reignited again after I saw her ruin all that is wonderful about Buzzfeed with an eye-rolling, kiruv style article about Orthodox Jews.

So when I saw that she wrote something about Miley Cyrus and Robin Thicke’s performance at the 2013 Video Music Awards, I have to be honest, I assumed it was going to be just as cliche and holier-than-thou as her other posts.

But, I have to give credit when credit is due, and I actually liked what she had to say about it.

She writes that Miley explained her song, “We Can’t Stop”, as a celebration of adulthood and maturity. The lyrics of the song are an anthem of what grown-ups can do, simply because they’re grown ups: “It’s our party we can do what we want/…Doing whatever we want/This is our house/This is our rules/And we can’t stop/We won’t stop”. But, Ms. Jew in the City explains that that’s not real maturity, in fact, it’s the essence of childishness:

“The irony in defining maturity as being able to do whatever you please is that it’s the immature kids who we find screaming that it’s their toy and they can “do what they want.” Or telling their moms and dads “you’re not the boss of me!” When considered in that light, Miley’s hyper-sexualized, know-no-boundaries song sounds a bit like a spoiled little child having a fit about how she wants what she wants!”

Allison Josephs, Jew in the City, “We Like to Party: Childishness Masquerading as Maturity”

She goes on to explain that real maturity involves boundaries and limits and knowing when to say enough is enough. I’ve written about that before, and I agree.

The article also made me think about how exciting my first year of marriage has been for me. We were no longer simply our parents’ children, we are now our own family, complete with our own family traditions. Some we’ve adopted from our parents, but some of our traditions are completely our own, and I love that. I love being able to say to my husband “I don’t like the way our parents do X, lets do Y instead”. We’re adults, and we now have both the freedom to set our own customs, and the responsibility to make sure these customs fit our needs.

As adults, we sometimes use our freedom to eat junk food for dinner and to go three weeks without cleaning our room. But, our responsible nature also tells us that these things are okay, if done with moderation. We eventually clean our rooms, and a junk food dinner is usually balanced out the next day by a healthy salad and steamed veggies dinner.

This self-responsibility is one of the best things about being a grown-up.

Edited to add:

Please watch this amazing video response to Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines. Blurred Lines is a song about how the line of consent can be “blurry” for men. This is a feminist response, and it is wonderful.

That Time The Mikvah Lady Thought I Was Abused

On my most recent trip to the mikvah, the mikvah attendant thought I was an abused women.

As I was getting ready to immerse, we made small talk while she checked my nails and feet. We had never met before, so we exchanged pleasantries such as, “what do you do?” and “where did you grow up?”. Everything was fine and pleasant. She seemed sweet. Then, I pulled down my robe slightly so she could make sure there were no hairs on my neck or back.

Her tone changed completely. “Oh. My.” she said. “You, um, you have a LOT of black and blue marks all over your neck…” Her tone was one of immense concern. I had no idea what she was talking about. “Do you know where these marks came from?” She asked. I didn’t even know what marks she was talking about.

She gently touched one, and as she touched it, it started to rub off. “OH!” she said with a huge sign of relief. “They’re not bruises!” We deduced that I had been wearing a cheap, fake gold necklace earlier in the day, and that my skin probably reacted with the necklace material in some way. She wiped off the marks with some makeup remover, and I apologized for holding her up and thanked her for helping me. “Oh, it’s no problem at all” she said. “I’m just glad the marks aren’t bruises! Then, we’d have much more serious problems!”.

We finished, I dunked, and then I went home. On the way home, I thought about the irony of the situation. I, a woman who works with victims of rape and domestic abuse all day, was suspected of herself being abused. I also thought about the Mikvah Lady’s role in spotting the abuse. I know that they’re trained to recognize signs of abuse and to potentially confront women they view as victims, but I wondered, how would that conversation go? I can’t imagine it would be pleasant. And to intertwine it with the mitzvah of mikvah? I know that mikvaot often place ads for help agencies in the prep rooms, since those are a safe spot, away from the intimate males that could be endangering the women. They’re great places to make the initial call, to make a safety plan, and to seek help. But, still, what if a woman wasn’t ready to take the first step but the Mikvah Lady confronted her anyway? Then, the mikvah would just turn in to another source of anxiety and fear. Thoughts like , “Will she ask me about my bruises today?” and “What cover story can I use this time?” will replace the serenity that mikvah often brings. Some women might be pushed to not even use the mikvah, for fear of being confronted.

I don’t know what the answer is. But I do know that for the thirty seconds that my mikvah lady thought I was abused, I felt very uncomfortable.

Niddah Diaries: Mikvah

I don’t hate the mikvah.

From all the hate that mikvaot get on the jewish liberal internets, and from all the love that they get from chareidi kiruv rebbetzins, I naturally assumed I’d be on the side with the haters. I roll my eyes when those women in the preachy youtube videos talk about how mikvah is such a spiritual time, a time to connect with God, a time when the gates of heaven are open just for women.

But. I don’t hate mikvah.

In fact, I kind of like it.

The mikvah I go to must be one of the nicest in the country. It has a whole hall of preparation rooms, and each time you go, they give you new or disposable clean items to prep with, the bathtubs are large and luxurious, the floors and walls really are all made of marble, and even though they see plenty of women on a given night, the prep room is constantly cleaned and you could never tell someone was there before you.

A typical mikvah

Before I got married, I think the last time I took a bath was when I was in elementary school. Now, I get to relax in a bath tub once a month. It’s time to just sit back and soak and think about…nothing.

I know people complain about having to make time for mikvah, and I know that while it can be hard for me to schedule in mikvah, it must be even harder for parents with kids to schedule it in. Still, at this point in my life, it’s not really a hassle. I’ve never had to go on a Friday night, I imagine that might be a weird experience, although it would definitely give me interesting material to blog about.

I’ll be honest, the Mikvah is not a spa. You don’t get facials or massages or even manicures (I’ve heard that there are some mikvaot that offer nail services, but none that I’ve ever been to). You’re not even supposed to use conditioner when you wash your hair. Plus, the mikvah has chlorine in it, so unless you take another shower after immersing (bringing the total bathing count to 3 times in less than an hour), you’re hair is sticky when you leave.

BUT. 30 minutes in the bathtub once a month is nice. I think I’ll take it, please.

The Post-Tznius Purge

Some time ago, I was at a wedding in Israel. I ran into a woman I knew from years before, and we started talking about life and religion. She mentioned, “I hope this outfit is modest enough for this wedding. I had such a hard time finding something to wear to this wedding because I threw out all my tznius clothing after I stopped being Orthodox.” She was wearing a stylish black dress with thin straps at the top and that hit a little above her knees. She looked beautiful, but definitely was outside the norm for an Orthodox wedding, where most people wore sleeves that, if they didn’t hit the elbow, they almost did.

She wore a dress not unlike this one.

Orthodox women have a way to “tziusfy” just about every piece of non-tznius clothing. For example, on the dress above, one could easily throw on a cardigan over the sleeves and call it a day. (There are varying levels of tznius. Some women wouldn’t feel comfortable showing as much clavicle as this dress shows, they’d probably put a black or white shirt underneath the dress).

When she made the comment to me, I reassured her “You look great. No one here cares what you wear anyway.” It was true. The wedding was mostly liberal Modern Orthodox Jews who like to pride themselves on how open-minded they are, even if their own practices might be somewhat different. Still, I couldn’t help but think, “You didn’t keep one black cardigan?” That’s not one of those pieces that scream “ORTHODOX”. It’s a piece that most women, tznius or not, keep in their closets because it’s good to wear to work, good for when the weather gets chilly, and can dress up pretty much any outfit. It was a staple among my [mostly non-Jewish] female co-workers.

Sometimes, people who aren’t used to dressing according to tznius rules don’t think about putting pieces together in the way that tznius dressers have to do. They might see the dress above and never even consider wearing a cardigan with it, because cardigans only go with pencil skirts, silly. But this woman, my friend, was different. She grew up lubavitch, went through a litvish-chareidi phase in high school, a modern orthodox phase in college, and then stopped being religious all together sometime after college. She knows the drill. She knows all about shells and cardigans and various ways to turn a scarf into sleeves.

But here’s the thing. Just because she no longer dresses that way doesn’t mean she shouldn’t have the pieces in her closet to do so if she felt the need.

On facebook recently, a girl I know posted that she was getting rid of all her “super-frum clothing from high school”. (She’s about to graduate college now).

I don’t understand this trend. Maybe it’s because I’m a pack rat and have a hard time getting rid of anything, but I find that if it still fits and is in good condition, there’s usually a way to wear it.

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“Sleevies”, cotton sleeves to wear on your elbows under a short sleeve shirt to give the appearance of layering, are one of the few items I was willing to throw out after high school.

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These days, I definitely don’t dress the way I did ten years ago. Ten years ago, I made sure that every time I left my house, my elbows, knees, and collarbone were covered. I only wore skirts. I thought I was “modern” because I didn’t wear tights all the time. Today, I dress modestly, but I’m of the opinion that modesty is in comparison with the society in which one lives. I pretty much cover my knees, but I wear pants. When I exercise, I wear shorts. At the beach, I wear shorts and a tee shirt. In general, I don’t have a cut-off for how short I’ll allow my sleeves to be, but I’ve been known to wear cap-sleeves occasionally. I don’t care if my collarbone shows, but I don’t show any cleavage.

Still, I own my share of cardigans and longer-length skirts, because sometimes I go places where it is appropriate to wear such things. I don’t do the long-sleeve white tee shirt under a short sleeve tee shirt thing anymore, but I sometimes wear those white long sleeve tees with a pair of jeans and a funky necklace. Half of my closet consists of cardigans and other types of layering pieces, because layering is the greatest thing ever. If I had to, I could find a great outfit in my closet to wear to a secular cocktail party or to a chassidic wedding.

The point is, it’s not what you have, it’s how you wear it.