Saturday, January 25, 2014

The Sock Manual

A marriage is generally founded on the following two-part premise:
     a)      Every man – even the best of them – generates a certain amount of dirty socks
     b)      Most of those dirty socks are going to end up on the floor – your nice, clean floor!

Because of this universally acknowledged truth, I have keenly felt the need to develop a Dirty Socks Marriage Manual in aid of all you young wives and wives-to-be out there.

The first thing to understand is: This phenomenon will not change, no matter what you do or say. For generations wives have suffered, raged, prayed, even tried to bribe their men into compliance, but the problem remains, unaltered.

I once read a cute article (if memory serves, which it often does not, it may possibly have been on, but I have absolutely no recollection of who wrote it. Sorry!), wherein the writer described how she had tried various approaches to correct the situation, such as attaching a cutesy Post-it note to a sock, imploring her husband to “Pick me up!”. Dejectedly – inevitably, I would have said – she had to admit that even this humorous strategy had failed. (The funny thing was, though, that when I made an - unsuccessful - attempt at locating this essay again, and entered “dirty socks” in the search engine, I found countless digressions on the topic – evidently, there is a lot of dirty sock pain out there!)

Therefore, I hereby offer a radical approach to the problem; an approach that aims at preserving your sanity and your healthy blood pressure levels:
  • Do not let his dirty socks on the floor spoil your good mood – just smile serenely, turn your gaze Heaven-wards, and (here it comes!) blithely step over them!
  • You may increase the efficacy of this method by humming a little ditty as you step along.
  • Strive to ignore the twitch of duty that might bid you to bend down and retrieve them, while simultaneously ignoring the twitch of rage that bids you to yell your head off and tell him what’s what. Also strive to banish from your mind the highfaluting lines fed to you by rebbetzins, kallah teachers, and such, who may have told you that a good wife always feels it is a holy privilege to pick up her husband’s socks, the dirtier the better; indeed, she feels elevated by it! These ladies weren’t doing you any favors!
  • In a real emergency, such as when his mother is coming to visit, you may kick the offending article(s) under the nearest piece of furniture. Hopefully this will prove to be a bed, but sometimes it might even turn out to be the dining table (floor-length tablecloths are of the essence), or the living room sofa – just ask this experienced wife!
  • There is no cause for concern – if it ever gets to the point that he really wants his socks washed he’ll find them and bring them to you, don’t worry!
  • Don’t nag, don’t even discuss the matter – just try to find the serenity to let events unfold; then shrug your shoulders and smile innocently and say “Oh, really – you don’t have any clean socks? What a shame…” Then snicker quietly to yourself. Having to go to his niece’s wedding in dirty socks will resound more with him than anything you could ever say. In a worst-case scenario, he will find that he quite likes wearing dirty socks, and then you’ll never have to worry again!
  • Never use the word “never” (as in “you never pick up your socks”), because you remember, there was that one time, on your wedding anniversary, when he wanted to impress you, and proudly put three socks in the hamper. Obviously he overlooked the other seven under the bed, but still, you know – he did it!
  • Always avoid the word “always” (“you always leave your dirty socks on the floor”), because you know very well that once he left them in the car instead.
  • Learn to say “Do I know?” and “Do I care?” – but in a loving way.
  • As a last resort, play dumb. You know you know best anyway.
Since I like to spread pearls of wisdom all around, I also want to share with you a great T-shirt that I just read, the message of which seems to be uncannily applicable to the issue at hand:

“L-rd, give me COFFEE to help me change the things I can change;
and WINE to help me accept the things that I can’t!”

Did I ever mention that I drink quite a lot of wine? Serenity now!

Shalom Uv’racha!


Saturday, January 11, 2014

Traveling Light

There are some people who are very proud of how little they pack when they travel, gallivanting about all over the civilized world with nothing more than a sleek carry-on case – and then there is me. My situation is altogether different. Any tasteful accoutrement that could possibly become useful in some remote emergency scenario – I’m packing it! I do not (yet) as Queen Elizabeth II does, travel with my own white leather toilet seat, but I have given it some thought... 

In any case, traveling light is not for religious people. Fuhgeddaboudit! First, there is obviously the issue of bringing the extra Shabbos outfit. And depending on where you are going, it may not be sufficient with one outfit for Shabbos – oh no, there has to be one for Friday night and another one for Shabbos day. I see it more and more even among quite non-materialistic women. Who came up with that? Is this a new chumra, a new religious stricture? Because G-d has seen that outfit, thank-you-very-much, and He gets fed up with seeing the same dress over and over, and He is drumming His fingers, as it were, waiting for you to come up with something new already? Or maybe it is based on the frequent changing of vestments that the Kohen Godol would perform on Yom Kippur? Five changes, back and forth between gold and white linen. Because obviously we all want to be very holy.

And that is only when you are a guest in somebody’s home; if you are staying in a Jewish hotel you need three outfits – one for Friday night, one for appearing at the Shabbos se’udah, and one for when you wake up after the afternoon nap, for G-d forbid that anyone should harbor a suspicion that you don’t own enough clothes. Needless to say, each outfit requires its own accessories, shoes and jewelry, and chad gadya, chad gadya – one thing leads to another – and this is coming from somebody who loves clothes, accessories and jewelry…

Then there is all the other Shabbos equipment. We are used to traveling to remote spots – spiritually remote, if not geographically – where Shabbos is barely known beyond a rumor, and everything must be brought along. Shabbos candles with holders and don’t forget the matches!; havdoloh candle, wine, bechers and benchers; a nice tablecloth of course, and a little something for covering the Challah (plus the Challah itself, obviously); a cholent pot; a Kosher Lamp for reading in bed and something to read in bed; masking tape for the light switches in case you should get absent-minded, and – it just never ends… "Her poor husband" you are thinking now, "all that heavy lifting!" Not so. He explained to me at an early stage of our marriage that his - rather impressive - muscles were purely cosmetic. They are no use at all. I do most of my own heavy lifting.

Kashrus brings with it its own packing needs. Aside from the frequent necessity to bring along certain food stuffs (try to find parve chocolate along the US highways, or bishul Yisroel tuna!), there are the pots and the pans, and the vegetable peeler and three colors of paring knives and cutting mats and sponges, and disposable plates (three sizes) and extra-pretty disposables for Shabbos (I thought we had dealt with Shabbos already…), and always an electric pump thermos for frequent tea drinking, even on weekdays, and kosher wine, and a proper corkscrew that won’t break and cause untold suffering.

And we always bring our own pillows, otherwise we can’t sleep. And hard-boiled eggs.

In my computer I have numerous packing lists, each refined for its specific purpose: for car vacations or air travel, domestic or international, for Europe or Eretz Yisrael, for Pesach and for the rest of the year, and a special one for a certain college campus where my husband is occasionally asked to substitute – complete with a map of our room marking each electrical outlet. There we have to bring our own linens and comforters and towels as well. And tables.

I even started working on a packing list for when the Meshiach comes, because that’s when you want to be ready and not waste time dithering back and forth about what to bring to the Holy Land. My dear cousin and I have been discussing this topic – we are in absolute agreement that among other things, we will need a special Meshiach kleid – a beautiful dress for greeting the Ge’ulah Sh’leima. May we all be zoche to do so!

So – no, traveling light must be something that the Gentiles have dreamt up for their own amusement – not something that applies to us at all.

I have just returned from a visit to my European country of origin – need I say that I was assembling my packing for about ten days in advance? Don’t ask! There is no need – I’ll tell you anyway. In addition to all the customary necessities, I went all out this time and packed an extra-small hot water urn, with an adapter to fit the foreign-type outlet – no more fiddling with pots and unreliable thermostats; I bought stuff for a really pretty Shabbos belt and sewed it together – and packed it; and then the gifts, of course…

And aside from the kashrus aspect per se, one must definitely take along some food, just in case. My husband always says a Jew doesn’t even go up in the attic without taking along a little something to nibble on, because you just never know. I used to think he was a little over-zealous, bringing along food even on air planes where we had already ordered kosher meals. Wasn't that enough for him? But he kept harping on his theme of how Jews must bring food wherever they go. 

And then we had a charming little adventure some years ago which taught me. We went to Eretz Yisrael with Turkish Airlines (first and last time), and on the return trip everybody's kosher meal consisted of only a mini-container of apple sauce and three saltines – because the main course, the Actual Food, had gone missing, and the staff had the audacity to tell us that this was the way kosher dinners came. If my husband hadn’t had some fruit and little bags of nuts and candies handy that he generously shared with his fellow Jews - including his wife - there would have been mass starvation, I can tell you.

This time I flew with Norwegian Airlines (which I will willingly do again), a discount airline that doesn’t even offer a kosher meal, assuming you would be willing to pay $30 extra for meal service. (Halal food they do have. Go figure.) So my dear spouse loaded me up with salads and chicken and Milky Ways to eat before the chicken – and the ubiquitous hard-boiled eggs of course – and the concept of schlepping has now taken on a whole new dimension.

Traveling light? No, I don't think so. But I simply MUST buy some of that extra light-weight, spinning luggage. Matching, of course. In pink…

Shalom Uv'racha!