Monday, July 27, 2009

Sex and the Shtut, Part 1

On a hot summer day, the three of us met at Spoons to welcome an old friend to Boro Park. It seemed strange being in Brooklyn during the summer, but with my usual bungalow colony closed due to a less-than-sufficient sewer system, I’d be more relaxed in an empty city than my nagging shviger’s bungalow. So, here we were: Hindy, Mirel, our newly arrived friend Eidel, and me.

Eidel, originally from a certain kiryat near the entrance of Yerushalayim, had recently married Motty and moved to Boro Park. For a perfect girl like Eidel, there was no one more perfect than Shulem Mordcha Miller. Motty’s parents owned what seemed like half of Brooklyn, and their newly-renovated house towered over all others on their stretch of 50th Street. Eidel had always dreamed of marrying one of those rare “earner-learner” types that actually does both, and moving from the shtetl to the shtut in America. I first met her while staying with my aunt and uncle one summer in Yerushalayim, but that was years ago, back when broccoli and strawberries were still edible. We had always kept in touch, and visited one another often enough for her to know all about my life. In fact, it was my friend Mirel’s shviger who was the shadchan for Eidel and Motty.

“So, Eidel, tell us all the details…How is everything going?” asked Hindy. Always the first to jump into anything, Hindy was one of those girls who married a Yoely who worked in real estate, or diamonds, or…well, we weren’t really sure what he was doing this week, but the important thing is he got her out from under her parents.

“Oh, well, you know, things are very nice. I feel so honored to be able to cook my own Shabbos meals for my own house, having my own husband to sing just to me every Shabbos. The house my shver bought for us is so nice, and everything is just…just so great. I feel like I finally have a real purpose, and…”

Mirel rolled her eyes, clearly fuming from Eidel’s naivety and couldn’t contain herself. “You finally feel like you have a real purpose?!?! And what is that supposed to mean? That if I don’t have a husband to cook for and slave away for, I’m nothing? That’s so…well, that’s just such a tired way to think! Where has it gotten us? Waddling down 13th Avenue pushing a double stroller, with another baby on the way?”

Eidel seemed caught off guard, and awkwardly adjusted the band over her sheitel, still uncomfortable having two things on her head all day. “Another one on the way? You mean you aren’t excited and full of hakaras hatov to the Eibishter for such an honor?!?! Hindy, you have, what, five children? Tell her…”

“Look, motek, I may have five children,” Hindy giggled, struggling to find a way to explain the rest of the thought to Eidel, “but if the, umm…act of making them wasn’t so nice, I can’t say I’d even have one.”

“What?” gasped Eidel.

“Yes, it is true, some Chasidishe women do actually enjoy sex, and are zoche to have men that do more than a little ‘in-out, in-out’ every now and then,” responded Hindy, as she poked and withdrew her index finger rapidly, mimicking what many men thought sex was.

“Look, Eidel,” I took this as an opportunity to jump into the conversation, “Hindy is, well…it might take you a while to get used to her. And as far as Mirel, she’s in a unique position, don’t take it too seriously.”

The truth was, I had to try myself to brush off Mirel’s comments. Mirel was one of those women who not only didn’t need a man, but felt burdened with one even in her house. Luckily, she had married a macher who was in Antwerp, Yerushalayim, Miami…anywhere but Boro Park, almost every week. It was a setup that suited her well, but I happened to know that even when Duvi was in town they didn’t sleep in the same bedroom, much less the same bed. Was this whole setup really something that made Mirel happy, or was her hard disposition a developed in response to her inability to find happiness otherwise, sort of an “enjoy my misery” type of defense mechanism?

After lunch, Eidel scurried off to begin making dinner for her husband when he returned from work, Hindy, we assumed, went home, and Mirel and I strolled together down 50th Street. As we walked together in silence, I couldn’t help but think about Mirel’s situation.

“So, no judgment, but do you really feel satisfied in your relationship? Don’t you ever have the need to feel the weight and warmth of a man against you? You can’t really believe that Shimon’s unnecessary…”

“Weight and warmth? I try to go without adding more of either one of those into my life…I mean sure, there are times when I need sex, but that’s why I have those gadgets hidden under my bed. Believe me, Shimon might think he knows what he’s doing, but I know me better. If you want something done right, do it yourself, right? I know how to push all of my body’s buttons, and I don’t leave socks on the floor or piss on the toilet seat.”

“Sheesh, does growing up in London make you that cold?” I laughed to entertain her, but I wasn’t so convinced. Soon enough, the two of us arrived at my door and we parted. I went inside, but with the kids upstate with their tatty and bubby, the house was just too quiet. The quiet, however, wouldn’t last. I barely had time to get my sheitel off when my phone rang. When I checked the screen, I saw “Hindy Jampel Cell”, and I could only imagine what awaited me on the other end…but it turns out I couldn’t imagine…

“Hi, Shayna…honey? It’s Hindy…you have your car, right?”

“Well, yeah, do you need it? Don’t you have your own?”

“I do, but I need something that people don’t expect me to drive. You see, I’m going to Crown Heights, and people there know my car, so I need to be secretive, I don’t want to get diverted or spotted.”

Being her close friend, I knew about these trips to Crown Heights. Hindy and Tuly were part of the secret world of frum swingers. At least once a week, sometimes more when Tuly was out of town, Hindy would search through ads on countless websites (Craig’s List being the favorite and most productive) looking for frum couples and singles interested in “spicing up” their sex life. Most of the time, these led to Crown Heights, where, according to Hindy, “all the kinky shit goes down. I mean, these Chabadskers have introduced me to things I never knew existed. They are quite creative, and under all those messy beards you can find the most surprising things.”

If it was surprising to Hindy, there was a pretty good chance of it being surprising to anyone. Though she grew up in a more-than-frum family, the unique location of Montreal’s Chasidic community in a hip, alternative area gave Hindy more contact with the outside world than anyone would want. By the age of 17, Hindy had slept with more struggling francophone artists, aspiring hip-hop artists from West Africa, and college professors than she could imagine, and had taken part in her share of coke-induced threesomes…but that’s just what made Hindy special.

As I pulled up in front of Hindy’s, she jumped out of the house in her “secretive sheitel”, shades darker than her normal color and much shorter, her face covered by huge, dark sunglasses. This was a lady looking to hide.

To be continued...