Finding myself in the Middle East

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Our Bodies, Ourselves

I feel like telling someone, but only in a whisper. It's a pretty momentous secret, actually. Too big to contain, too big to let out.

But you won't tell anyone, will you, O Internet?

I have a cleaning lady.

She just started coming last week. She comes every sunday for three hours and does all the things that I can't do due to Large Belly Syndrome. She scrubs out the bathroom and cleans the outside of the windows. She dusts the tops of the cabinets and the hard-to-reach corners.

I tidy up along-side her, doing the dishes, folding laudry, projecting a busy, industrious air.

My husband hired her, only telling me at the last minute.

Most of you are rolling your eyes and leaving your computer to get a cup of coffee. You have a very nice husband, you weirdo, you are thinking. Get a grip. I thought that you were gonna say something along the lines of, I'm having triplets. And they're all over 12 pounds.

But some of you understand.

When a friend of mine has a cleaning lady, and inevitably finshes that thought with "because..." as in, "I have a cleaning lady, because my mother insists and besides she pays for it." I nod understandingly and, while laughingly tell her that there is nothing wrong with having a bit of help, relish the inner smugness of, I don't need one. I do just fine juggling everything on my own.

I come from a family of superwomen. My mother works full time, keeps house in perfect condition, is primary caregiver for my chronically ill father, and mother for the kids that are still at home and are out of the house as well. She is never overwhelmed, never tired, and will stay up until all of the laundry and paperwork is done.

My sisters all work, or run their own communities, and balance everything in between.

This year, for the first time, I am not working. I am a stay-at-home-mom. And my inner superwoman is laughing at me. They all do it, she says. They all do it, and work besides. What is wrong with you?

I try to explain to her that as a stay-at-home, I am with my kids much more, and it takes a lot of energy. Plus my husband WANTS me to have some help. And I am due in 3 weeks. And...

And nothing. My imperfection is showing, and that is why I have a knot in my stomach, and that is why I have not told anyone about my weekly visitor from Sri Lanka.

And maybe I'm reaching, but I think that I know why.

I feel like we grew up in a generation that requires of itself perfection, and not just perfection, but effortless, breezy perfection. Our mothers did it all. We need to do it all too, and be thin and have perfect teeth besides.

In my neighborhood, the majority of the girls are slender and pretty, their children dressed like little mini-me-s, and they attend chinuch and shalom bayis classes twice a week. Everyone is all smiles. Everyone looks, well, perfect.

Through my own battles with eating disorders and unhealthy body image while I was all smiles I know, the hard way, that effortless perfection is very, very, messy. I KNOW that. I teach that. I write about that. True perfection is G-dly. We are all trying to emulate Him, and in this world of klipa and sheker, we get everything all mixed up.

I am in the middle of reading a book, as reasearch to flesh out my body image workshop. I'm not sure how much help this book will be to that end, but the author says something so nice, so true, so heartfelt.

She says how everyone and her mother is thin and perfect. Thin and perfect is nice to look at for a while, it's easy on the eyes, but it's actually boring. What is interesting, what is sexy, what is endearing?

And I misquote, to bring to more to home:

My mother's gap-toothed smile is endearing. My small mouth in endearing. My friend's large nose with the small bump makes her look soulful, exotic. Beauty marks and moles are interesting. Large hips can be sexy. A rounded belly. Dark brown eyes. Short legs. A loud sense of humor. A laugh that comes from somewhere deep inside. The ability to cry.

Our so-called shortcomings, physical and emotional, mental and spiritual, make us who we are, and make us memorable.

And if that all seems like a pretty dramatic justification for having a cleaning lady three hours a week, that's okay. I am dramatic. That's part of who I am. And that's okay.


Sherry said...

Everything you say is absolutely true, and you express it all so well. You deserve the cleaning help and if no one else will understand that, at least you know it.

Your neighborhood of perfect people sounds scary, actually. Good for you for breaking out of the mold. You sound like a wonderful person and I so enjoy reading your thoughts.

JerusalemStoned said...

thank you, Sherry!

sporadicintelligence said...

Better late than never when it comes to comments, right?

Anywho, I totally get the secrecy and embarrassment.

I don't have a cleaning lady, am very proud of the fact that I don't, and I will snare at anyone in my demographic if she employed one...but, really, truly, I want one!

JerusalemStoned said...

I had one for two months--when I was nine months pregnant with Turtle, and until he was a month old. Then I told her that her services will no longer be required. They not be cheap!

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