I Went To The Mikvah With Nail Polish And The World Didn’t Explode.

Yep. Last month, I went to the mikvah with a fresh coat of Shelac nail polish on my fingers. The mikvah lady checked my nails and feet (what for, I’m still really not sure) but didn’t say anything about the polish. She didn’t ask me who my rav was or how fresh the polish was or what type of polish it was. All she did was say, “Oh, what a pretty color!”.

Now, I know the halacha. I know that wearing shelac nail polish in the mikvah is acceptable, specifically if the polish is not chipped. The reasoning is as follows: It is impermissible for a woman to immerse if there is a chatzitzah on her body. A chatzitzah is defined as both something that covers a majority of the part of the body, AND  something that a woman is makpid (careful) to remove. The rabbis have expanded the definition of chatzitza to mean EITHER majority OR makpid. The definition of makpid is viewed as both subjective and objective, meaning that it’s not just a matter of the individual, but also a matter of what women generally care about. Furthermore, a minority of rabbis have said that if something is going to have the status of makpid in the future, it will have the status of makpid at the time of immersion as well. Since most women are careful to remove chipped nail polish, it is considered a chatzitzah. Furthermore, following the minority opinion, many modern day rabbis have ruled that all nail polish must be removed prior to immersion, because it can chip at any time and once it chips, most women will be makpid to remove it. Freshly painted regular nail polish is considered okay if one does not follow the minority opinion that future chipping will constitute present chatzitzah. However, gel/shelac manicures are different. Gel and shelac manincures last for several weeks, and even then, it is advised to have a professional remove the polish, as the polish is actually bonded to the nail. This type of manicure specifically does not chip. Therefore, the concern that it will chip shortly and be something that a woman is makpid to remove is not present, and the nail polish does not constitute a chatzitzah even under the minority opinion.

However, I also know that mikvah attendants can be quite finicky, and might insist that no nail polish is allowed in the mikvah, ever. I was all prepared for a fight. I was prepared to tell her that  I had my nails done the day before with my friend who is terminally ill as part of a ladies day to help her get out of the house and have some fun, and that my rabbi (aka myself) had ruled that gel nail polish is not a chatzitza, and I was prepared to storm out in a huff and tell her that any sin I get from not immersing this month was going be on her. (anger problem? nahhhh….)

But I didn’t have to do any of that. She took one look at my nails and told me they were pretty and then proceeded to make idle chit chat as we walked from the preparation room to the mikvah. I dunked, and she said “kosher” and that was that. No fight. No making a statement. Just a regular day at the mikvah.

In my opinion, that’s how going to the mikvah should be: pleasant and non-confrontational.

Splitting the Chores

My mother is an amazing woman. She works a full time job and takes care of her house and cooks fabulous shabbat meals and still maintains her sanity.

Yesterday, I was speaking to her on the phone, when my husband came home from work. He looked around and noticed that I was in the middle of doing laundry. He asked me, “Should I switch the laundry now?”. I asked my mom to hold on a moment while I explained to him that yes, the laundry was ready to be switched, except for one load which was already in the dryer and that he should just bring that one upstairs so we can fold it.

When I got back to my mom, she said “Your husband does laundry with you? WOW.”

My father is one of the “manly men” from the previous generation that works all day, comes home and sits on the couch and relaxes after work, eats the dinner my mother prepared for him, and then goes upstairs to watch a game while he gets ready for bed. Meanwhile, when my mom gets off of work, she does the grocery shopping, cooks dinner, cleans the house, and makes all the social arrangements.

My parents like to say that when they got married, they made an arrangement: My mother would be in charge of all the minor, day to day decisions, and my father would be in charge of the major decisions. But, they realized, throughout the course of their marriage, there has never been one major decision!

You see, they came to the realization that all of life is simply a series of small decisions. A couple doesn’t just decide to buy a house, they decide to go to a few open houses, decide to talk with a real estate agent, decide to make some offers, and finally, decide to transfer a whole lotta money to a bank that’s going to own them for a very long time.

And while, this “big decision/small decision” method may work for my parents, it’s not the marriage that I want. Sometimes to a fault, I want every decision to be made mutually between myself and my husband. This is just as true for decisions like “should I take this job?” as it is for “what’s for dinner?”. He knows that one of the most frustrating things he can say is, “Honey, I don’t care, you do what you want.”

In general, I think it’s healthy that we do things together. I like that he chips in with laundry. I like that I can bounce all sorts of ideas off of him. Still, sometimes, if it’s my turn to make dinner, I should just choose something and be okay with it. And, well, that’s hard for me. I know that even if I think chicken is a good choice for dinner, he may not be very hungry and might only want soup. Or, he might have had pasta for lunch and not want it again for dinner, but I won’t know until he tells me.

In some ways, I’m happy that we have a 50/50 marriage. But sometimes, I think that the problem is that we don’t do things 50/50, we do things 100/100. There’s absolutely no reason why we both have to go to the grocery store together (other than, of course, we like each other and want to spend as much time together as possible) or both decide together what to have for dinner. Instead, we need to get better at splitting the chores evenly, instead of us both doing everything, so that we can have more time to spend with each other doing the things we really want to be doing.

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.

Working Moms and Busy “Others”

I’d like to be frank about something here. I know what I’m about to say is not popular, but I’m going to say it anyway. I really don’t have that much sympathy for working moms.

I really don’t mean to downplay how hard it is to be a mom and also work full time, but in my world, that’s normal. When I was growing up, my mom worked full time. Both of my grandmothers also worked full time while raising children. Almost all of my friends’ moms worked.

I am not a mom, but I still have a busy schedule. I go to law school full time, and work part time, plus I have an hour long commute each day, meaning that I don’t get home before 9pm most nights. And once I get home, I have papers to write and cases to read and client files to go over.  I often do the grocery shopping while falling asleep, and my laundry hasn’t been done in two weeks because I just don’t have time for that. Forget about ever making the bed. And yet, there are not blogs and magazines and books dedicated solely to coping with my schedule. How come having a busy schedule is only sympathy worthy if part of the schedule includes children?

Still, despite my non-sympathy, being a working mom scares me. When my sister-in-law was recently complaining about a hectic day she had at work, it started with her pre-school age daughter being sick and having to arrange last-minute childcare before she left in the morning. Then, in the afternoon, she had an off-site meeting that went longer than it was supposed to. Since my sister-in-law is nursing her baby son, she pumps milk during the day. The late meeting meant that she had to find a place in the unfamiliar office building to pump, keeping her co-worker (and ride) waiting. Another time, she told me that her office building was closed for repairs, but all employees were expected to report in to a temporary site. She went to the temporary site, and found that she, and the rest of the employees, weren’t able to do a lot of work from there, since they didn’t have their files and other necessary things with them. While her co-workers had to stay and find busy work to fill their time, her boss gave her permission to leave early in order to nurse (there was no place to pump in the temporary location).

I know that my sister-in-law is an incredibly hard worker and very dedicated to her job. She’s also quite smart and good at what she does. Still, often when she talks about work, it’s often about how her children interfere with her ability to do her job well. It scares me that my ability to do my job well will be impacted by my children.

Perhaps, just maybe, this is the real reason why it irks me so much when moms complain about how hard it is to balance their work and home life. Perhaps, every time I hear that discussion, it reminds me that soon enough, that will be my fate as well.