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Monday, 28 October 2013

THE MIKVA LADY


I've been a mikva lady for sixteen years. I like it. When my kids grew up and were no longer needing as much attention in the house, I found I had the time to do work outside the home and the work I ended up doing was supervising tevilos (immersions). The mikva.
The mikva is a mitzva that I really appreciate. It's very holy in there. The women say the most intense prayers of their lives and I am a witness to that. There is also a lot of crying, because many of the women have special things they ask for, in the merit of the mitzva. Maybe children. Maybe good shidduchim (matches) for their kids. Parnossah (income). Sholom bayis (marital harmony). Whatever. I think that intention changes the nature of things.
For me, when I used the mikva, the thing I wished for is not to be gay. Because I'm gay. it gave me a lot of worries, being the mikva lady, you better believe it! Imagine if the women found out! They would think I was a very bad person. Instead, I was obsessed with making sure that no one could ever say I had looked at them in that way. I am always very careful to hold up a robe or a towel when the woman is coming out of the mikva and to keep her covered and tznius otherwise. I think the only way they might be able to tell that I am gay is because of how respectful I am of women.
Sometimes there are arguments or discussions in the mikva (not that people talk in there very much, but sometimes) about what is right for women, and I always say that women should be treated well, that we deserve good things, that no one has the right to treat a woman badly. I tell women whose husbands aren't treating them right to go to the Rov. Maybe they could tell I am gay from that? I don't know, but it's always worried me. It makes me crazy! I just want to do a good job for the ladies and not ever have someone point the finger and say I was doing my job for a bad reason, because I am perverted, evil etc. I'm not! I love my work and I love the mitzva and that's all there is to it!
My special favorite is when new brides come in and they are very nervous, but usually excited too and their mother is there, often secretly crying, and I think about how this is the beginning of a new Jewish home, a beginning in holiness and tahara (purity). I don't think every bride feels like she is in love. That's ridiculous. I don't think that's as important as the feeling of commitment and excitement to be starting a Jewish home.
You asked me how I knew I am gay and that's a good question. I didn't know until I saw how some women feel about their husbands. They feel so connected! You can see how excited they are and happy and whatever when they come in to the mikva and I knew, absolutely knew, that that was not the case with me. I knew I liked spending time with my best friend, a woman, far more than I enjoyed spending time with my husband. It's not that he's not a good guy. He's nice. But, you know how it is when you are with a friend, someone you are really comfortable with, and the words just flow, and you feel so at ease and that's how it is with me and other women. But not with men. I'm just not interested in their company. So, when I figured that out, it was a hallelu-kah moment! And not in a good way, if you know what I mean.
But I figured I don't have to do anything about it. It's just information for me to hang onto and know about myself. It's not like I'm going to break my family up over it or anything. My husband is a decent man. Part of that is because then, all these women who have been coming to my mikva, are going to start rethinking themselves and me and wondering if all these years they've been kosher. And they have! They really have! I couldn't bear to think how much hurt there would be to all these people if I came out or somehow got found out. That would be the most terrible thing ever. And there's no point to it.
I don't want to find a female partner. I don't think I could be part of the chassidish world if I did that, and this is where I have work, friends, my whole family! I do sometimes imagine what it would be like. Uh...warm...friendly...more talking. But that's all. Just imagining.
I've recently been talking to a friend about this, someone who actually is frum and gay, or as much like that as someone can be. She keeps everything, but I wouldn't say she's an active part of the community. People stare at her and they for sure talk behind her back. But there's a lot of people who admire her too, for being who she is and not bowing to pressure. Still, I wouldn't want to be her. I think my job makes it that I can never come out.
It's a good question, if gay women should be able to use the mikva. I think they should. Because they are still building a Jewish home and if they want to do the mitzva of mikva and it's important to them, why shouldn't they be able to do it? It's a beautiful mitzva. Are the frum police going to come into their homes and tell them they can't light shabbos candles because it's only for straight couples? No! So we shouldn't do that with the mikva either. Mitzvos are for everyone.