Sports day next week. Followed by the end of year concert. Hot on the heels of graduation day. And they expect me to go to each event. Couldn’t I just send a tired, badly dressed, breasts sagging, blow up life-sized doll that I could remotely contol to wave and cheer when one of my kids appear? It has to be a more effective use of my time than actually being there. Fathers have it easy: they are not allowed to attend the concerts at my daugter’s school due to the religious code of the school (to which we freely signed up, so I shan’t moan). They cannot watch the mothers’ race on sports day for fear of seeing real sagging breasts bobbing up and down across the 100 metre finishing line. However, in a fairly new initiative, they are actively invited to attend a Sunday business skills workshop specifically for Fathers and Daughters. The message is very clear: it is much easier to deal with fathers if schools reinforce their hierarchical relationship with their daughters. They are the bearers of business knowledge, and their daughters are the passive recipients of this superior wisdom.
To be fair, the school means well and it is a nice idea to give fathers the opportunity to spend quality time with their daughters. However, increasingly, women are actively engaged in the business world and it would encourage our daughters to think more widely about their future employment possibilities if women role models were able to offer practical guidance. Further, in a community where some women will take on the burden of supporting a family while her husband learns in a kollel (yeshiva for married men) , it is vital that young women are given exposure to a wider range of opportunities than kindergarten assistant or beauty therapist. I was once asked what I would like for my daughters in the future. Would you choose happiness? What about a wonderful husband? Clearly, you want them to have beautiful children? Who asks these sort of questions?, I wondered to myself.
‘To be able to earn a fortune,’ I replied without hesitation. To borrow a Freudian concept, it was a clear case of projection. In another clear case of projection, I was struck by news that a man in Australia put his entire life up for sale on EBay. He sold it for £192,000 which included his house, car and a few friends. I couldn’t give my life away. What sort of person can sell their life? Only someone who doesn’t have to fill several lunchboxes with cheese sandwiches, breadsticks and an apple every single day of the week. Only someone who has no concept of communal obligation could even contemplate walking away. Orthodox women are not programmed to be so selfless: after all, who would supervise the mikvah, who would prepare women for their burials at the chevra kadisha and who would wash and style my shaytel? Orthodox women cannot imagine life without a community and fulfilling their responsibilities towards the community are the drivers that offer self-esteem and a chance to clock up lots of mitzvoth (good deeds).
However, it’s easy to understand that when the Community, with a capital C, just gets too overwhelming, you might want to sell your life and run away. But there is an easier solution: stick a tired, badly dressed, breasts sagging, blow up life-sized doll in your front window, and take a slow boat to China.