Thursday, April 12, 2007

Ugly on Kingston

Marching down Kingston Ave

About a week and a half before Pesach, I was walking down Kingston Avenue when I saw the most dreadful sight.

I mean, you don't always see girls this ugly.

Her hair was frizzy and tied back in a messy bun. Hey eyes were crusty and lifeless. She had red cheeks, chapped lips, and a disgruntled look on her face to match her dull and almost limped walk.

It's a wonder how a girl like this gets married.

Trust me, I have a right to say this.

Besides, if you saw her, you would have thought the same.


What I saw that day walking down Kingston was my reflection in the window of Apple Drugs.

Only a short ten days before my ticket back to Seattle, I was hit with a brutal flu. You know, the kind where you call your mother crying because you think you're dying a slow death. All my muscles ached and my throat burned (there were some points where I could barely talk). There was a persistent sharp pain in my sinus, and all the nose-blowing in the world wasn't making it any easier to breathe, let alone sleep. To top it off, the fever was dragging me to delirium.

My horrendous symptoms (and a wonderful mother) left me no choice. It was time to go to the Doctor.

Although my own look in the mirror practically had me passed out on the cold tiles of my bathroom, the time had come to leave my germ infested apartment and hit the jam packed streets of Crown Heights in search of the office where my mother had scheduled an appointment.

Kingston Avenue. Center of the Heights. The Ave of eyes. Everyone and no one you know, coming right at you with a fierce speed.

I'm never one to shy away from people. But suddenly, with the present - and very hideous- situation, Kingston Avenue went from being my favorite stroll option to a dangerous jungle I had to run through quickly - or else.

No one was around to walk me to the Doctor, which I had presumed would lessen the trauma of being so ugly in public. I struggled in front of the mirror to assemble some sort of order to my appearance. In this process, I discovered that Chapstick on your nose does wonders after you discover that even the softest tissues can wreak havoc. Suffice to say, I did the little I could to look semi-normal and started my journey to the Doctor, located only a short block away from my apartment.

But I couldn't find the Doctor's office. The delirium I thought I was only approaching had decided to meet me halfway. I called my mother for the exact address. Now, I wasn't only an ugly girl on Kingston. I was lost, on the phone with my mother and walking up and down Kingston way more many times than desired. And my hoarse voice struggling to communicate with my mother was probably scaring children.

Finally, I made it to the Doctors office.

Never has a waiting room been such safe haven.


Mimi said...

[ It’s an interesting phenomenon – how Kingston Avenue is deemed “public.” While my awful cold would have made me feel ugly almost anywhere, being on Kingston brought my despair to a new intensity. Looking tip-top has always been an unspoken rule on this avenue – an expectation I, for the most part, find fun to embrace. But, sometimes you have no choice. Sometimes you just look ugly. And when this time comes, a busy street teeming with Jews is the last place that feels safe.

But why? Why is it that, in a community I experience to be quite homey, the normal expectation of looking presentable goes above and beyond, resembling a pressure much more than a social norm? Why do I have a pair of pink Uggs that, by the suggestion of many (including myself of course), are meant only to be worn in Seattle, and never Crown Heights? Why is it that a busy street in an overpopulated religious community carries such dominion?

Why can’t I - even just once - be ugly on Kingston?]

~ The post is much less a complaint than a curiosity about other peoples’ perceptions. While the pressure was obviously dramatized here, it still exists in my psyche, on some level. And, for the most part, I love it. Sometimes I wish Seattle was more like that, actually. As to what produces (or explains) this, I have an answer in my head. But what do you think? ~

the sabra said...

first of all, i always love the advance(/immediate) notice. so thanks for that.
secondly, i sense that ur gonna get a gallon of annoying comments. be aware.
thirdlllllllllllly, i love to look ugly on kingston. its my revenge :)
but seriously, like everything it entails...
fourthly, can u switch one of the 'dull's to somethin else? bland, lifeless, ich vais...
and lastly, 'ave of the eyes' was sweet.

Mimi said...

Sabra, thank you.

A gallon of annoying comments?
Never! :)

So when you say it's your "revenge." Revenge on what? Talk about that.

And last but not least, I switched one of the dulls to its synonym.

nahama said...

we begin...ok. she's slightly self conscious-is she paranoid? not really. yeah, we'd all agree she looks pretty bad.

continuing on... the street's becoming antagonistic. a bit out of control. is she paranoid? maybe, possibly not. ok. wait... she's losing her grip. the self consciousness is overwhelming. the storm is getting stronger... shoot, a hurricane.

approaching the end... the maelstrom is let loose. scaring children? she lost it.

i lost it too.

couldn't have been better written

cookie said...

that was refreshing mim...
permission to be human granted.
next time call me and i'll do the ugly walk with you.
t'would be my pleasure.

Pimplesoflife said...

hun u aint ungly!!!! i hope ur feeling better now... but ye that once happend to me when i lived in ch... anyway mim feel better lu ya!

Rochel said...

I Find that its a very well known and accepted fact that in crown Heights you dress differently.
A casual skirt that might be ok in the city you live, will be a definit "no,no" in Ch.
Once, speaking to my aunt about this, she said that even as a youngster, she had a separarte wardrobe just for Ch (her family is on Shlichus in MA). How much more so a young shidduchim aged girl has to look even better.
Is this a good habit? It depends who you ask. Some people like to dress for the others while others might prefer to be themsleves.
But there is something about CH, with SOOOOOO many people seeing & watching you that makes you want to look your best.
I hgope Im not repeating myself too much. Keep up the great writing!

Der Shygetz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tiferes said...

Hmmm, the CH sitch?! Sounds familiar! It's funny how we kinda feel more comfortable walking with other ppl to take away the tinge of "walking the Ave.... alone"!!

I always hated the dress up thing that everyone mentions as you're packing your suitcase and you count 3, 4, 5... jean skirts and just the wrong things to wear in CH.

Truth is,.... I do what I want in regards to clothes- tznius, just whatever I'm in the mood of. Though, I must admit that as the days of my trip go on, being in CH has an effect, I guess- because when I get back home I notice that specific outits need dry cleaning and some were left untouched!

It's also hard to walk into 770 with two and a half thousand pairs of eyes (yup- those ladies in the front row have eyes bigger than them all) then step out onto kingston and have each person who walks by analyze your outfit/do they know you/did they go out with you/do they wanna you... know the sitch! Good luck y'all!

Anonymous said...

Mimi, You are beautiful inside and out. May all your days on Kingston Avenue be full of beautiful SHADOWS
looking back at you!

Your private Nurse.