Tznius Envy

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There are deadlines, and then there are deadlines. I’m the Writer in Residence this month over at BrooklynTheBorough.com, and I was supposed to turn in my column Friday. How I feel about deadlines is best expressed in an email that my (other) editor (at Scholastic) just wrote me in the form of an epic poem beginning “O deadlines! How I hate thee” and spiraling from there.

But sometimes deadlines can be fun. Nicole, who runs BrooklynTheBorough, asked me to write “a piece just about being a Hasid in Brooklyn…you know, a slice-of-life sort of thing.” I know she wanted me to write about the conflict between Hasidic and hipster worlds, but I just couldn’t stomach it. (Sorry, Nicole.) It’s just that I live that way 24/7, and there really isn’t much of a conflict.

rabbi coutureSome people go to yechidus for love or financial decisions. I go for fashion advice.

The broken deadline got me writing about everyday life in Hasid-land, which I don’t often do — mainly because I hate getting too garish or showy about it. I can write fiction, and I can write about what I think about things, but if I started getting blog ideas from walking down the street? Well, (a) I’d be here till tomorrow, but also (b) I’d feel like I’m faking it among my family-in-law and my friends even more than I already feel.

Even so, a deadline is a deadline. And so I wrote, and this is the pastiche that came out. I’m actually sort of proud of it.

The bar mitzvah was a totally crazy affair, as might be expected. In one way, Hasidic Jews are unfailingly, unflinchingly conservative. In another way, it’s an anything-goes scenario. The party started at 9 pm, an hour away from Brooklyn, which isn’t crazy until you remind yourself that the target audience is 11-to-14-year-old kids …” and that these parties often go for four, five hours. The mechitza was in full force with a wall dividing men and women, which meant that I couldn’t even play arm-candy to my wife. Our cousin Shmop was there, who’s just about the nicest, most magnetic and fluid guy you could think of. He’s Orthodox but modern, clean-shaven and he wears a tie — both things that make him stand out in this crowd — but he’s got this lackadaisical, no-stick personality that makes him able to get along with anyone. Seamlessly. Five minutes after we hook up, he’s gliding through the crowd, shaking hands and kissing the hairy cheeks of every rabbi in the room, coasting straight to the women’s section as I struggle to keep up with him, dodging furry hats aimed at the level of my head as the crowd threatens to rip the umbilical cord by which I have attached myself to him.