Posted by Tiferet Peterseil
VENAHAFOCHU. Upside down, inside out, wrong side up. A picture perfect description of my last year and a half. And a perfect excuse to write again, after a resounding silence from Hollywood East.
My last blog ended with an article about Israeli’s getting naked for the camera. A perfect build up to the Purim Megillah story, where Ahashverosh, clearly looking to demean Vashti, commands her to dance in the nude, and she, refusing, is beheaded. I wouldn’t call that exactly being a doting husband, but here’s the nahafoch in the Megillah: The Megillah starts by showing how a chauvinistic King drunkenly kills his Queen and ends with the same King respecting and obeying his Queen (Esther) and during a party, at which he’s no doubt drunk again, the King kills his (male) advisor, the very same advisor who, according to the rabbis first suggested to the King that Vashti had to go.
My question is: What caused this change in the story?
Maybe my story can help explain it.
When I first started dating, my parents prepared me for what they were sure was an average courting scenario. They dressed me up like a bridesmaid, reminded me not to be surprised if my date brought me flowers, and had me practice walking through a door already opened by my future date.
But when my first Israeli date showed up in jeans and a T-shirt, honking at the curb, my parents were forced to realize that not only were they stuck in the wrong dating country, but they were also about 40 years behind the times. And me, being an independent liberated woman, was only too happy to prove that indeed, we’re all created equal, and I can hold open my own car door, thank you very much.
So when I approached my date, now leaning on the hood of the car, I wasn’t at all upset that he didn’t open my door and gesture me in the way my parents assured me he would. I didn’t want a dandy. I wanted a modern man. So, with my bare-hands, I let myself into the passenger seat, and waited for him to get back inside the drivers seat. But he just stood there, in the cold, outside the car. Finally, after about a minute, he opened the door, plopped himself into the drivers seat and sighed. “You failed,” he shook his head sadly at me.
“I failed?” I echoed. “I failed what?”
“You failed Mivchan Hadelet - The door test,” he replied matter-of-factly. “Every guy knows, if the girl doesn’t open the door for you from the inside she won’t be a thoughtful girlfriend, and a true balabusta.”
The question, Was I behind the times? suddenly loomed in front of me. But this was only the beginning. The next guy, I dated for 3 months, and for my birthday, suggested he do something romantic like bring me flowers. Come my Birthday, and Hulio (yes there are Jewish Hulios in Israel) knocks at the door, lets himself in, sinks into the couch and turns on the TV, but not before shouting: “By the way, happy birthday! Don’t worry, I got you flowers, they’re on the counter. Put them in some water or they’ll die.”
What more could a girl ask for?
The more I dated, the more I began to yearn for the “gentleman” my parents had always told me fairytales about. As much as I enjoyed my adventures, I was starting to yearn for my “happily ever after”. After all, if Snow White, Cinderella and Esther could get it, what’s to stop me?
And indeed, with my current boyfriend, whom I shall refer to only as ‘superhero’, it’s a whole new story.
Superhero and I happened to have been friends as children. He was one of the neighborhood children my father used to scare on Purim when he dressed up to the “child catcher” from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. It so happens, we reconnected, 20 years later, and when I visited my parents for the weekend, he insisted on coming in to say Hello. The guy even brought flowers.
“For me?” my youngest sister, Blooper, gushed in delight.
“What a gentleman!” my mother kvelled.
“Certainly brightens up the room,” my father added.
The following Friday, I was visiting my parents again, and Superhero came to pick me up for a cup of coffee. Blooper was waiting eagerly with an empty vase at the doorway when he came knocking.
“Where’re the flowers?” She asks, holding out her vase to him. Prepared for any scenario, my guy smiles and pulls out a beautiful pink flower, one he had clearly picked from the neighbor’s yard.
“What?” she says sternly “That can’t fill up a vase!”
“Isn’t it the thought that counts?” he smiles at her.
“The thought counts, but not as much as the flowers.”
Just then my father walks in with his usual Shabbat bouquet for my Mother.
“Aw, that’s so nice,” Superhero says as my Mothers does a little tap dance, “so romantic of him. Is it her birthday?”
“No!” #8 chimes in before I can respond. “He does that EVERY Friday” and she grabs the single pink flower and plops it into one of those super thin vases we keep around for fake flowers. The bar has just been raised.
On Sunday, sister #6, closer to my age, invites us both to a party. During the ride she grills Superhero without letting up. “What do you do? What do you WANT to do? Where do you live? Show me the Facebook profile of your ex-girlfriend”. Unflustered, he takes it in stride. Even offers to put her picture on his Facebook page.
Yes, my boyfriend is one in a million. Exactly the kind I was supposed to bring home to start with. So is it because I started choosing different kind of guys? Or is perhaps “Divine Intervention”? Or maybe it’s simply the right man at the right time?
Actually, I’m not sure if I really have much to do with the fact that my boyfriend always picks me up at the door, or if it’s more the menacing glare of my sister edging him up the stairs. I don’t know if he actually enjoys sitting around with me and my family listening to us talk for hours, or if it’s more my Father’s strong arm pinning him to the chair. And although I like to think he’s showing me how much he cares by bringing a bouquet of flowers every Friday, he does hand them directly to #9 eagerly awaiting them with her vase, whether I’m there that weekend or not.
All’s fair in love and war, but I’m thankful my family sometimes goes to battle for me. When I think about it, Esther had Mordechai there. Guiding her, watching over her, reminding her where she came from and what she should be looking for.
So was it Esther who changed Ahashverosh? Or did he evolve with time?
The Megillah, to me, represents the battle of women for their independence and rights over the last 60 years. From Vashti, somewhere in the back room, expected to obey her husbands command, to Esther trying to balance her many tasks of saving a nation, pleasing her cousin, ruling a castle, and all the while providing a warm nurturing home for her husband.
And Ahashverosh? He changed too. A lot. For starters, he finally learns to stop taking advice from triangle-eared idiots. And comes a long road from beheading Vashti, to treating Esther as the queen she should be.
Venahafochu. We’ve all come a long way. Although if you ask me, somewhere is the sequel to this “happily ever after” Megillah, and Esther’s yelling at the king to put down that toilet seat already!
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