“I don’t know where he gets it from,” She said half laughing. “It’s not me, and it’s definitely not my husband.” We were talking in the teacher’s room about our children, and where they pick up their fashion sense. “My son shakes in front of the mirror watching the creases in his pants and how they sway. If they move too much, get thee to the cleaners!”
We laughed, and laughed again when the next teacher told of her 18-month-old, with no hair to speak of gazing adoringly in the mirror smoothing out her “tresses” with a brush. But the swaying pants, it struck me, and reminded me of someone else – my little brother in law.
At 19, he’s super put together, and polished. I always wondered what it was that made his lines so crisp; it couldn’t just be his Brooks Brother’s collar-stays, because my husband has those too. Then one Shabbos meal, while waiting for my husband to finish washing and return to the table, I observed my brother in law, in those few idle moments, what did he do (I’m a people watcher, sorry).His shirt cuffs were preoccupying him. He tugged at them a little, one edge of the cuff, was a millimeter off, not completely aligned with the opposite side. He adjusted it, then readjusted his cufflinks, which had moved a “ma – she –hu” in the tweaking. It took seconds, but I knew in that moment that I would never be it. I would never be super polished, and sophisticated, with my sheitel perfectly coiffed.
And then there’s my sister-in-law, who of course I love dearly, that really solidified my despair of ever being the enviable “How does she do it” Superwoman. A little before her wedding, she gave me a tour of her soon to be inhabited apartment. It was brand new, and really pretty, even without her little touches. I really liked her kitchen; there was a lot counter space, and two sinks, none of which my own apartment possesses. I absentmindedly reached to turn the water on.
“Don’t” she said quickly.
“What? Why?” I asked, “Worried about waterbills already?” She laughed,
“No, it’s just that I dried the sink before you came and I don’t want to do it again.”
My eyes squinted.
“Dried the sink?” I wasn’t familiar with the concept, wiping yes, drying, no. And I’d been running my own kitchen for a very long time by then: six months.
“Ye, I don’t like water droplet in the sink, so I dry it.”
And I knew then that my kitchen could never look like hers.
Yes, I can dry my sinks too with an extra strength Bounty paper towel if I choose to (and I do on occasion, it makes such a difference, it’s crazy). And if I were a man, I can sway in front of the mirror, and realign my cufflinks. But it’s all expo facto. I saw them do it, saw the results, and I’m just imitating. I’d have never thought of it on my own. And the thing is—they didn’t think of it either; it came naturally. These small idiosyncrasies, they weren’t planned, developed and executed. They evolved out of the person’s need: a need for presentation, for cleanliness, for structure and symmetry. There’s a kind of neuroticism they possess for the areas they excel in, an attention to detail that the average person would never even think to address.
And I’m not that. Or maybe I am I realized after I received quite a few phone calls that sounded like this:
“Esther, I’m looking to buy a buy a double stroller; I know you just bought one, tell me all the makes, models, reviews, features and which one I should buy.:
“Esther, I’m looking to buy a drill.”
“Drill? I’m not Bob the Builder, I don’t know Adam about drills.”
“Ye, but hypothetically, it you were buying a drill, which one would you buy.”
“Hmmmm…Challenge accepted. Call me tomorrow.”
People call me up to help them research products and decide which one to purchase. I’m not trying hard when I read all reviews, comparisons, the maintenance, the warranties, understand the components, the everything. I just do it. I enjoy it. I don’t know any other way. Nor do I particularly want to.
So is that what other people experience when we gaze at them in astonishment and thinly veiled green eyes, just the wonder of them being themselves?