I’m a Real Person!

“Hi, this is Avital. As you know, Brocha and Chaim had a baby (Dovid) two weeks ago. I’m organizing meals for them for the month. Can you do next Monday?”

I stared at the phone, affronted. I mean, I was just some random single girl who’d moved in a few months ago. Why was she calling me?

Then I shook my perspective and waited for it to resettle. I was an independent woman with an income who could cook and was a friend of the family. Why shouldn’t she call me?

“Sure, no problem. I’d love to! Put me down.”

I hung up grinning. I (not my mother) was going to be making dinner for a pair of new parents. How cool is that? I’m a real person!

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A Dedication

Locations accumulate associations. My desk, for example, is now associated with sitting cross-legged in my chair and gloomily staring at the to-do list of things to study and feverishly trying to avoid doing any of them. This does not make my desk the most cheerful spot in my room.

People build up associations too. This is why you sometimes have a knee-jerk negative reaction to an otherwise innocent behavior or comment from someone who has irritated you in the past.

Sometimes, you just need to get away from all the associations. This is the idea behind a vacation. You can sleep late just as well in your own bed, but your own bed has that alarm clock next to it, and it’s in your room that you need to clean in a house you need to maintain with a sink you need to empty and full of people who are potentially hazardous for your blood pressure… Thus, people prefer to sleep late in a hotel, motel, or even a campground, where there’s no sink at all. No sink, and no associations. Aaaah… That’s nice.

Judaism acknowledges this issue as well, with Succos. One reason given for moving out of our homes shortly after Yom Kippur is to help us maintain that fresh start by removing us from the association-filled environment that causes all that unfortunate autopilot behavior. Having a new home, albeit briefly, provides us with the opportunity to start over. Sort of like a troubled couple trying to piece their marriage together with a second honeymoon. Only, a little colder and a lot wetter.

Any transition in life is an opportunity to start over, to be more conscientious, to be a better or more dedicated person. Isn’t that how we approach new marriages? We promise ourselves we’ll always be considerate, we’ll never get angry, we’ll never slack off, we’ll always be in love…

And that’s how I approach the idea of moving out on my own. It’s a chance to begin a new painting with a palette of idealism. To escape any of that negativity that might have built up in my old haunts and habits and relationships by starting them afresh with a different perspective.

It’s easy to promise to become perfect when you get married, but it’s a tough guise to maintain if you don’t have much practice. That’s what’s so nice about this. It’s an opportunity to get a head start on perfection, by practicing on a new beginning.

New beginnings are a time of great hope, anticipation, and change. I’m grateful to get in an extra one now, before marriage.

A Dedication

by Rudyard Kipling

My new-cut ashlar takes the light

Where crimson-blank the windows flare;

By my own work, before the night,

Great Overseer, I make my prayer.

If there be good in that I wrought,

Thy hand compelled it, Master, Thine;

Where I have fail’d to meet Thy thought

I know, through Thee, the blame is mine.

One instant’s toil to Thee denied

Stands all eternity’s offence;

Of that I did with Thee to guide

To Thee through Thee, be excellence.

Who, lest all thought of Eden fade,

Bring’st to Eden to the craftsman’s brain,

Godlike to muse o’er his own trade

And manlike stand with God again.

The depth and dream of my desire,

The bitter paths wherein I stray,

Thou knowest who has made the fire,

Thou knowest who has made the clay.

One stone the more swings to her place

In that dread temple of Thy worth,

It is enough that through Thy grace

I saw naught common on Thy earth.

Take not that vision from my ken;

O, whasoe’er may spoil or speed,

Help me to need no aid from men

That I may help such men as need.

Separating the Simchos

I was in a household goods store with my mother thumping pot bottoms. And I thought: wow, I’m so lucky I get to do this before being engaged.

Outfitting your own home is fun. Your own place is completely fresh and full of potential. You can handpick every item according to your own particular taste. Your kitchen, you are determined, will not be hampered by outdated infrastructure. So, part crusader, part little girl choosing kitchen set accessories, you march the aisles of gleaming steel, teflon, and silicone. Since you need pretty much everything, there isn’t anything in the household goods store that you can’t examine critically, tilting your head as you furrow your brow, imagining it perched on your counter, or dicing your vegetables, or holding your chicken.

Did I mention? It’s fun!

And getting married is fun too. Mixing the two together is only going to dilute them both. And how unfortunate is that? Joy should be spread for maximum happiness. So I’m glad to have this fun now, separate from the marrying, which I will reserve to enjoy at some nebulous point in the future.

Also, there is one benefit to having to buy everything yourself. You don’t wind up with silicone tray that makes ice cubes shaped like daisies, six separate measuring cup sets, or Great Aunt Bertha’s idea of a beautiful vase.

High and Dry: Life Without a Shower

The reason I posted about moving out is because of a link to a post that The Jolly Green Midget sent me. The post is about how married people get gifts and single people don’t. Just think about it: engagement party, wedding gift, baby shower… we spend on married people constantly. And what do single people get? A thank you card afterwards.  If we’re lucky.

The post, methinks, is a tad whiny. If you gave birth while single, I’m sure you’d be entitled to a baby shower. And seriously, a divorce party? How many of those are there, really? But I can’t help but wonder if the author doesn’t have a point about whole engagement party thing. Okay yeah: I’m jealous.

Because let’s face it: what can match the sheer joy of ripping the wrapping paper off a Kitchen Aide of your very own? Are single people never to experience this exhilaration?

And I was also thinking that if I’m going to move out, I need stuff. Even if you plan to camp in an empty apartment, you need a sleeping bag. Or an air mattress. You need something. When friends got married, we all chipped in to get them the things they needed to start their own household. But when single people move out their friends just offer to drop by and eat cake at the housewarming.

I tallied up the household goods I’ve accumulated over the years. I have:

One pot

One pan

One spatula

One bowl

Two knives

Two food-storage containers

One microwave

One iron

I’m not in such bad shape. With a pot and pan spatula and bowl and knife I can make and serve most things, in one form or another. The lack of fork and spoon might be an issue, so I’ll have to stick with finger food. I can reheat things in the microwave, make grill-cheese sandwiches with the iron, which I can also use to rearrange the creases in my shirts to more acceptable patterns. What more can a person need?

I can think of two things:

Potato kugel

A couch (or bed)

The couch nobody ever gets at a wedding shower. But the food processor with the vaunted kugel blade is a standard item for engaged folk. And yet, because I’m single, I’m doomed to face life alone, without even potato kugel as comfort, at least until my first paycheck comes in. (The furniture can wait ‘til the second paycheck. I do have my priorities straight, you know.)

Someone suggested I throw myself a goodbye party and hint that gifts are accepted. It’s a good idea, but yeuch. I can’t imagine throwing a party for gifts.  I had never even heard of the concept until my third annual Chanukah party, in 5th grade, when the mother of a new kid in the class sent her along with a present. I was puzzled at first, then a little insulted. How dare her mother insinuate that I’d throw the party for material gain. As if. I still think the idea is obnoxious.

The truth is, I don’t actually want to schnorr off my friends. I just want to complain about the injustice of it all.

Now someone explain why I’m wrong.

Deadline Approacheth

There’s a bit of a double standard in the yeshivish/ultra-orthodox community. It is perfectly acceptable for a boy to leave home at the tender age of 13 and never truly return for the perpetuity of his life. Yes, he visits for the occasional holiday or weekend, where he wallows pleasantly in the adoring ministrations of a family that rarely has to put up with him. This lasts  until they bore, he becomes the fish-like guest, his special privileges evaporate, and he begins to chafe under the parental regime. At this point, he toddles back to his dorm or apartment with a sigh of relief: family, like prune juice, is best taken in small doses.

Girls, on the other hand, are expected to happily marinate in the home juices until Prince Charming carries them across a threshold of their very own. And if that doesn’t occur before their locks become dusted with snow and their posture stroked by osteoporosis, well, there’s no finer place for a girl to be than in the bosom of her loving family.

When I was in high school I had an exceptionally dedicated and brilliant teacher who happened to be single at the age of 28. A friend once mentioned knowing where she lived because this friend’s father was friendly with the teacher’s father.

“Yes, but that’s where her family lives, not where she lives,” I pointed out. The friend gave me a “Duh” look and said, “She lives there too. Where else would she live?”

I was appalled. Here I thought of this teacher as a mature, independent adult, and she was probably still sleeping in a pink bedroom, eating her mother’s dinner, and shouting “Wha-at!” down the stairs when her father called her. Just like me. I went home and informed my parents that if I was still single at 28 I was moving out.

“Yes dear,” they said. “Wash the dishes after dinner and clean your room tonight. It’s a pigsty and if I can’t see the floor I’m not letting the cleaning lady in to vacuum it. How did you do on that chumash test you hardly studied for? And you only think I don’t see you sneaking a cookie out of the kitchen. Bring it back right now.”

“Maybe I’ll move out at 27,” I sulked, nibbling the cookie.

“Eat over the table or sweep the floor – your choice.”

“Twenty-six.”

When I turned 21 I lowered the age to 25. My parents, now somewhat touchier about the topic since I had failed to be swept away by my first suitor (or second or fifth), told me not to say things like that; they were irrelevant.

“If it’s irrelevant, than what’s the big deal?”

“You’re right, what’s the big deal?”

“So I can move out at 25, right?”

“Let’s not discuss it.”

The truth is, not all women are expected to live at home forever. Women from OOT are allowed to move to NYC and cram themselves into attics and apartments. This is considered a necessary evil for the sake of shidduchim. However, if you have had the dubious fortune of being born and bred in the tri-state conurbation, moving out of your parents’ house is Something Strange that will provide your neighbors with conversation during the 23 hours when they are not observing their machsom lefi.

Why? I don’t know. But I imagine I’ll find out. After all, I’m already 24.5 years old.