Friday, July 24, 2009

Minhag HaMakom Baby!

I was recently at a bat mitzvah for one of my cousin's on the very frum side of the family and it was a lovely weekend. And though most of my clothing, excepting the winter stuff, no longer met Orthodox Jewish modesty requirements (covering elbows, knees and collarbones), I managed to put together a few outfits that were simple and classy (well, for me at least) and didn't at all look like they could be worn late at night in the East Village.

The reason I was on my best sartorial behavior- Minhag HaMakom. It literally translates to the "custom of the place." I learned about the concept when I was in school. It is frequently invoked when discussing differing dress norms in various Jewish communities and the expectation that when visiting a place where the code is more stringent than your own, you should rise to meet the local standards. Kinda like a Jewish version of "When in Rome.."

Back when I was in school, I believed in this idea wholeheartedly. I thought that if I went to Meah Shearim (an ultra-Orthodox enclave in Jerusalem) in short sleeves, I would deserve to have diapers and rocks thrown out me for violating local standards and exposing their impressionable sons to my elbows. Okay- I didn't actually condone violence for sartorial transgression, but I understood where they were coming from. Really, I did.

Back then, I viewed Jews who were not Orthodox benevolently but I considered their practice lazy. I couldn't possibly fathom that they had good reasons for doing what they did- whether it was wearing pants (I'm referring to the women folk) or praying in mixed gender settings. So naturally I assumed that when the denominational paths crossed, the Orthodox norms should be upheld- whether it was kashrut or single gender prayer. After all, we were the ones that actually had standards.

But since veering from strict Orthodoxy into a more fluid practice and speaking with those I had once thought of as "lax, " I've come to realize that principle guides their practice just as it does for Orthodox Jews, which means only some of the time for both groups. (The rest is just habit and lifestyle). For most non-Orthodox parties, mix gender prayer is a matter of egalitarian principle. A woman reading from the Torah has to do with equality. And when Orthodox push to have only their practice maintained in pluralistic settings, they don't consider that having fewer thou shalt nots doesn't mean you can't be offended or feel that your beliefs are being compromised.

Now perhaps there is no important principle informing my newfound "sluttiness" other than liking how I feel in those clothes, which is why I didn't object about conforming when visiting much more Orthodox family. After all, I was a guest in their home.

But shouldn't Minhag HaMakom work the other way? Shouldn't I be able to insist that when visiting my home, my family show some leg, or elbow? I could just see it now- My cousins in my apartment on the Upper West Side. I walk over to one and politely ask, "Chani, can you undo your top button?"

"Why?" she'd respond.

"I just don't feel comfortable with you all covered up. After all, I am wearing a tank top and I tend to view the modesty guidelines, with their focus on joints and bones, as demeaning. It seems to me that the rabbis are objectifying and fetishisizing women's bodies by reducing them to parts that then must be hidden lest the men folk get an erection. I'm sorry, but it's a matter of principle."

The principle being- Minhag HaMakom, baby!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Donate to My Demise

So as someone of you may know, I have recently gotten into biking. It had been awhile for me- until two weeks ago, the last time I had been on a bike, it had a banana seat, basket and bell. It was also pink and fabulous.

The reason for my newfound pedaling mania- I've been training for the Hazon New York Bike Ride, which will take place over Labor Day Weekend. Over two days, I will ride 100 miles and for the week afterwards, I will be unable to sit. The purpose of the ride (and my pain)- to raise money for Hazon and the programs it supports. Hazon is a great organization that raises money for environmental initiatives and education in the Jewish community in the U.S. and Israel. It also gets typically sedentary Jews to move around.

In honor of the event and my foray into the world of wheels, I've parodied a song. The lyrics are below:

I'm On A Bike
(inspired by I'm On A Boat, by Andy Samberg and Co. )

I’m on a bike, I’m on a bike

Everybody look at me

Cause I’m pedaling on a bike.

I’m on a bike, I’m on a bike

Everybody take a good hard look

At the motherfucking bike.

I’m on a bike motherfucker, take a good look at me,

Pushing uphill, other riders weaving right round me.

Busting 5 M.P.H, think I’m gonna fall but psych-

You can’t stop me motherfucker cause I’m on a bike!

Take a picture trick, I’m on a bike son,

Drinking water from my camel back under the blazing sun.

I got my spandex shorts with extra padding under my tushy,

You just sitting on the grass, backside getting mushy.

I’m on a hybrid, flipping over my handlebars,

But don’t worry cause that scrape shouldn’t leave a big scar.

There ain’t no training wheels, this is as ill as it gets,

I’m on a bike motherfucker, don’t you ever forget.

I’m on a bike and it’s going fast down,

Bloomberg’s green lanes all ‘round town.

Like Ed Begley Jr, my carbon footprint's tiny,

If you in a car, then you makin' Earth grimey.

Get the fuck up, this bike is real!

Hey ma, if you can see me now

One hand off so I can scratch my nose, wow!

Gonna ride this bike to the moon somehow.

With the help of steroids, anything is possible!

Never though I'd be on a bike,

Not something I thought I'd like,

Lance Armstrong, look at me!

Never thought I'd see the day,

That I'd be two wheeling away,

Believe me when I say- I biked 100 miles!

To make a donation, please go to my personal page:

If you prefer to donate offline, please make your check out to Hazon and mail it to Hazon 45 West 36th Street, 8th floor, NYC, NY 10018. Please be sure to write my name, Dvora Meyers, in the memo section of the check and let me know when you send it so I can keep an eye out! You will get an acknowledgment letter from Hazon for tax purposes.

Also, there will be a contest to see who has the most original/humorous "Donation in honor/memory of" line . Right now, Avi M. has a clear lead over the field with his hilarious (if morbid) "In memory of Dvora's collarbone." Let's see if anyone can top that. Prize is still TBD.

Thank you so much for your support!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

B-boy Overalls

I awoke this morning to find this video in my Facebook feed- the lovely Shay R. posted it.

It looks as though he's doing what we modern breakers call a swipe. While that's dope and all, I'm really much more concerned with the overalls he's rocking. Fresh!

I'm going to buy a pair and wear them to the next jam. I will be Overall-Tastic!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Transformers done right

If this is how most little boys and adult little boys played with their Transformers then perhaps I could get into them too.

From yours truly, Bumblebee Girl, here's Bumblebee Boy (vid first spotted on More Than A Stance Blog):

Still, I refuse to see either of the Transformer movies, even if the machines can do dope 90s.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

With Benefits

A few weeks ago, I wrote about a man who tried to pick me up by talking about his excellent medical insurance. In that post I wondered if this was a new trend, that in the age of skyrocketing health care costs and shrinking coverage, men would now try to impress women with their Aetna cards instead of their tricked out cars.

Well here is the musical video version of that post- Boyfriend with Health Care Benefits. (Thanks to Jason S. for sending this my way.)