They say men are from Mars and women are from Venus. How true it is. I’m talking about the day-to-day experience of being a woman as opposed to a man. I believe that in some ways, we women may enjoy the world around us more than men do because of our sensitivity to our environment. We perceive and appreciate the beauty that surrounds us. We take in the details, the colors, the sounds, and the smells. In separate seating affairs, one can often notice that much more effort is put into decorating the women’s side than the men’s. The colorful napkins will be folded into interesting shapes and patterns. You don’t always see this on the men’s side because most of them won’t even notice. Kiddushim in our shul are totally different events based on which side of the mechitzah one is on. The setup in the women’s section begins during davening, as it takes time to properly place all of the mouthwatering petit fours and scrumptious salads which will be eaten on beautiful plates, perfectly coordinated with vibrant tablecloths and napkins. As the latecomers walk through the door, wide-eyed smiles can be seen on their faces, and softly whispered “wows,” which they’re unable to suppress, can be heard. They are awestruck by the display of sheer beauty in front of their eyes. Men just don’t care about these things. After davening, they spread out a few plastic tablecloths and haphazardly throw some kugel, cholent, and herring on the tables. They’re thrilled. For men, it’s all about gustation. For women, it’s all about presentation.
Baruch Hashem, our son is getting married. We are all on the hunt for wedding attire. We went to a suit store to buy our sons new suits for the occasion. The store was very well stocked. I looked to the right and saw long racks of dark suits. I looked to the left and noticed more racks of dark suits. In the middle, there was more of the same. And then there was the back room, which reminded me of the higher-end merchandise in the back room of Loehmann’s. There we could find a whole new selection of …dark suits. The store was reminiscent of a box of Crayola crayons containing 164 versions of black and blue. The walls were lined with black and navy suits, and, for the daring and adventurous who like to go out on a limb and wear something a bit “different,” there was gray. Wow! Such variety! Amazing! So many choices! How can one decide? I have no idea how one chooses one dark suit from another. They all look pretty much the same to me. Okay, there may be some variations in the cut - some tight fitting, others loose fitting. Some longer, some shorter. But the basic idea is pretty much the same. Dark jacket and dark pants. The boys tried on their suits. I sat on the side, just as my father did at Loehmann’s while my mother and I would shop. The boys modeled their suits for me and asked my opinion (yes, me, the authority on men’s suits). “Um. It looks like a suit. There’s a jacket. Pants. It fits. Looks okay to me. What could be bad?” In less than an hour we were done. We all walked out, wedding suits in hand.
But wedding shopping is another world for us women. I’m convinced that the reason why engagements need to be at least a few months long is obviously so that we can visit every store and gemach in the country in order to find the perfect gowns for the wedding. The moment the girl says “yes,” the bell rings and the search begins. It’s a true labor of love that takes not a small amount of time, effort, and energy. My married son, who has been asked to do an unusual amount of babysitting for his (adorable bli ayin hara) baby, is scratching his head and trying to understand what’s going on, as his wife joins us in the hunt for the perfect wedding gown. I was lucky enough to find something the first night we looked - but not everyone in my family was as fortunate. So, we forge ahead with our mission until it’s accomplished. There’s an endless array of choices, colors, and styles. Anything you can possibly imagine, and more. We want everything to be just gorgeous so we take so many things into account. Is the color pretty? Does it fit with the season? Is the gown heavy or light? Is it too dressy? Not dressy enough? While our kallah chose no color scheme and is happy for everyone to wear whatever they choose, we are trying to coordinate with each other to match, blend, or at least not clash with each other. We try to include the men in this coordination effort by matching their ties to our dresses. Being the good sports they are, they go along with this narishkeit, but they can’t help but wonder what this is really all about. When we made our first wedding, my husband actually thought I was making up the tie thing until our neighbor (male), who had made a wedding just a few months before, confirmed that this was indeed an ironclad rule. This time around, our men understand the situation. While their tailored suits are hanging in the closet, they are patiently and eagerly awaiting the verdict as to what color our gowns will be so they can go out and buy their matching ties.
Suzie (nee Schapiro) Steinberg grew up in Kew Gardens Hills. She works as a social worker and lives with her husband and children in Ramat Beit Shemesh.