Staring Me Down…

Ah! A day in the life of Miriam. I tell ya, most of you couldn’t handle being me.

I think know Hashem knew what He was doing when he made me the way I am.

You see, I have a slight urge towards exhibitionism.  Something which being tzenua (modest) keeps in check.  My life sometimes is like a constant stage act.  As long as I look great and have my head together (i.e. knowing the topic at hand and being able to make intelligent contributions to a discussion), I feel great.

Just the other day, I went on a date with Hubby. It was exciting to get ready for the date.

Earrings–the special ones.

Finding the right head covering to match my outfit.

Checking myself in the mirror a gazillion times.

My patient hubby got extra learning time. (See?  Even taking long to get ready has a good side!)

So we went to Center One.  It’s a mini-mall type of place in Jerusalem where there are lots of restaurants. We went to one, ordered our food and sat down.

Something was weighing heavily on hubby’s mind so we talked about it.

The cold raining outdoors, the warm indoors, the food, Hubby’s voice, the fact we were on a date(!)–everything combined to make the time special!

Then came the bochurim (young single men that usually attend yeshiva).

Four of them.

They took a table right next to us.  Then, with their mannerless, I’m-so-frum-look-at-my-black-kippah-and-white-shirt selves started staring at us! What nerves!

I must say it was interesting to watch my own psychology in this whole matter.  I am not from a religious background.  Where I grew up, flirting left and right was common, everything was sexualized, everyone was grabbing for attention, etc.

At first, I didn’t realize they were staring because I was so engrossed with Hubby.  We talked and joked and laughed and ate.  I totally forgot about the world.  When there was a brief silence, that’s when I realized they had been staring.

There are different kind of stares that I have experienced.

This one wasn’t the “oh, how odd: a Black girl with a white Jewish man” stare.

It was a mean stare.  More in your face.  Like they were trying to intimidate me or make me feel small. The ignorant, oh-how-odd stares are different. Parve in a way. This was mean-spirited.

My first reaction was to immediately fall back into the “old Me”– the kind who loved attention.  I felt like I was on stage and loved it.  I enjoy the stares sometimes.  I admit.  And this was no different.  An audience!  I wanted to smile more, to talk more, to eat more daintily, etc. etc….to act.

Then my new second nature kicked in.  The “new Miriam”. I started to wonder, what would those boys think at night?  Sure, they think they can intimidate me and stare me down, but I really don’t want to be a part of their wet dreaming and sinning.

Hah! Talk about messed up.  A real party pooper thought.

So, we got up and went for a walk.

Lots of thoughts were swarming in my mind.  I was glad that I didn’t get intimidated and that I still had that want to be looked at and adored.  But at the same time I realize I am a religious, Jewish woman that appreciates modesty.  To reconcile the new Miriam with the old Miriam is no small task.   It’s a work in progress.

For instance, the new Miriam has no outlet for expressing anger.  No vessels for that.  I think that is a bit incomplete and causes me to default to the old Miriam should something upset me.   But foul mouth attitudes aren’t the decor in my world!

Also, the old Miriam seems to be able to appreciate the Torah in a different way–such as relating to Torah as female and wanting my husband to learn it, to be a part of a minyan and chant out the Torah.  The old Miriam’s favorite part in Torah service is when they bring out the Torah so adorned in all her bling and all the men show their respect to it.  Then they lay it upon the bimah and roll it open to the Torah portion to be read that Shabbat.  Then the sweet chanting of the Torah portion sings out from them.  It’s the greatest experience ever!

What does the new Miriam think of that old Miriam?  I don’t know.  Somehow there is peace and quiet conversations.  At some point, I know both will fuse into a more relaxed and real Miriam.

At any rate, I was glad that I dealt with the bochurim situation smoothly and that I didn’t succumb to the urge to flirt at them just to drive them crazy in the head.  I was glad that my new second nature kicked in before I did anything I’d have to pray for forgiveness about.  I was also fascinated that this was the first time I had ever stood outside of myself and broke down the situation this way.

Again, most people can’t be me.


Miriam Lindenberg was born in Chicago, Illinois. She made aliyah about 12 years ago and now lives with her family in the mystical city of Tsfat. Her favorite activity is writing Jewish children’s books.


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