The Empowering Skirt: What I Learned From My Mikvah Lady’s Outfit

I know a ┬álot of women who have anxiety about going to the mikvah. Many of them feel that they have to “put on a show” or act frummer than they are, in order to gain acceptance at the mikvah. Some women cover their hair at the mikvah when they don’t in real life. Others walk in wearing a skirt and long sleeves, so as not to arouse more questions. Some make sure to remove all their nail polish, even though they believe it is kosher to tovel.

Luckily, I don’t have to worry about such problems. The mikvah in my town is relatively open, people wear any and all outfits (I’m more surprised with the women in high heels than I am about the ones in sweatpants), and there’s really not much of an “interrogation” feeling.

That in mind, I was more than surprised when I encountered my mikvah lady leaving the mikvah. I had the last appointment of the night. When I went to tovel, she greeted me in a long skirt with pants sticking out at the bottom. I didn’t think anything of it, it was cold that night, perhaps she just wanted an extra layer of warmth under her skirt. We did our thing, and I left. I went back to the preparation room to get dressed and gather my things. As I was walking to my car, I saw her going to her car as well–wearing only the pants!

I was shocked. Not because she wears pants, but because she specifically wore a skirt over her pants in the mikvah. Apparently, she too feels that she has to dress “frummer” at the mikvah. Many, many women wear pants in our modern orthodox community, but I guess that some women might not feel comfortable with a woman in pants as their mikvah lady.

Lest you think that she’s doing this because her boss told her to, she is the boss. She is the woman who runs the mikvah, trains all the new mikvah ladies, and has been around there longer than I’ve been alive. She doesn’t have to answer to anyone, except, I guess, her clients.

It makes me think about the power that clients have in places like mikvaot. We can sit here and complain on the internet all day about the crazy rules or the rude mikvah ladies or the dirty water, but we also have to remember than we are consumers. Just as we have the power to insist that our mikvah ladies wear skirts, we also have the power to insist that they are kind, open, and welcoming. And we should utilize that power. When we are upset with something that happens in the mikvah, call and file a complaint. Write about it. Tell your friends. Soon enough, you will start to hear things like “Oh, yeah, that happened to me, too.” Well, encourage those women to complain as well. We are the consumers in this relationship, and we are the ones with the power to effect change. So let’s do it.

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Niddah Diaries: Skipping a period

When I scheduled a trip to my parents for succot, I realized that I’d most likely have to go to the mikvah over chag while on vacation. I don’t like the idea of using this mikvah (I’ve used it once before, a few days before I got married, and it’s pretty gross), and I don’t like the idea of going to the mikvah on chag, either. Therefore, it was a pretty easy decision for me to use my birth control pills to skip my period this month.

For niddah purposes, this means five weeks of being able to have sex, instead of the normal two. It also means that if I don’t want to have sex one night because I’m tired, that’s okay, because we can just have sex the next night. I’m only on the beginning of week 3 (i.e. this is the week that I should be getting my period, but I went straight to the new pack of pills). I’ll let you know how it goes, but so far, the intimacy and romance has not been lacking, even if we chose not to have sex one or two times last week.

Over Rosh Hashana, we were staying at relatives’ house, in the same city that we live in. There was another couple there, too, and the woman apparently was scheduled to use the mikvah the first night of Yom Tov. They weren’t eating with us that night, and instead were intentionally eating with an elderly couple that tends to eat quickly. However, apparently they missed the mikvah appointment and had to go back there the next night. By the end of chag, everyone at our house knew they were going to the mikvah and knew that they had missed their appointment and knew that they went again the next night.

While we were waiting for them to get back from the mikvah the second night, I had a conversation with one of my relatives about the whole thing. She, a woman in her 50s who has been keeping niddah her whole adult life, said that she didn’t understand why this women was so insistent to go now, and why everyone had to know about this woman’s mikvah schedule. She said that when she was younger, no one was supposed to know that you were going to the mikvah, and therefore, people usually waited and went after shabbat/yom tov. My husband spoke up and said, “Yeah, but delaying mikvah is REALLY frowned upon”. I spoke up and said, “She could just manipulate her birth control” (We all happen to know she takes birth control pills because she’s mentioned it before).

To me, and this relative, avoiding mikvah on shabbat/yom tov would be a priority. But for her, it’s not. And those are choices we all make.

My Secret Life

This blog is the one and only secret I keep from my husband, and it tears me up inside. I pride us on having amazingly honest and frank communication. He knows all my dirty secrets, and I, his.

I find myself posting less frequently now than when we were engaged, because now I live with him and in a one bedroom apartment, it’s fairly difficult to work on the computer without him at least asking what I’m doing. We have plenty of moments where I’m just nonchalantly surfing the internet and he’s playing video games, sure, but if he hears me furiously typing away, he’ll probably notice something’s up.

So, I find myself having to write posts before he comes home for work, or while I’m on my lunch break. When I write on my lunch break, I’ll write the posts in an email and discreetly post later, because I don’t want my coworkers to see my blog either.

My life would certainly be easier if he knew about the blog. He’d probably even encourage me to write MORE, which I’m sure you dear readers would appreciate. But, I don’t want to share this with him. I want to feel that this is my space where I can be open and honest. I don’t write too many negative things about him, because there just aren’t that many negative parts of him. But, on the off chance that something does come up, I want to be able to write about it. I want to not feel that I have to censor myself on this blog for fear that he might be reading. So, I stay private.

My husband used to be a writer, and has a bunch of published materials floating around the internet. Every now and then he’ll mention these articles, and I’ll want to compare it to my experience blogging. But then I realize I can’t, because he can’t know about my blog. He’s now a computer programmer, and I could certainly use his help in figuring out how to work certain features into the blog. But again, I can’t.

I imagine at some point I’ll tell him. I’ll open up all the old archives for him, and let him read it. It will be like showing him my diary. Which I did. The diary that I kept in middle school had all sorts of angsty pre-teen entries in it (“I hate X, because she pretended to be my friend but was really just using me!” and “I have such a huge crush on Y, but he’ll never like me because I have too many pimples. Sigh.” ). I recently found that diary and showed it to him. I would have died if anyone read that diary within a year or two of me writing it, but now that so many years have passed and I can look back at middle school and laugh, I was fine with it. In fact, I was glad that he read it, so that he can understand a little bit more about my childhood and how I developed into who I am today.

But that takes time. At some point, I’ll be ready to look back at this blog and laugh, at which point, I’ll want to share it with him.┬áBut for now, this is my secret place, and I’m alright with that.