Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Get it straight, Sharon

Sharon Mill is a dark curly haired Jew who works in South Center Mall.

Mushky Notik is a dark curly haired Jew who shops at South Center Mall.

It is in the busied kiosk-laden, people packed center of this mall where they collided.

He saw her from afar and made his ever so smooth approach.

"Yew hov natrally cerlee hair, yes?"

He drew closer with speed, armed with a straightener and trained sales skills.

My sister tried rushing on, not remotely interested. And anyways, her hair was in perfect curls that day - she wasn't about to give that up for his attempt to sell a product she surely wouldn't buy.

I, however, fell victim.

My hair wasn't even curly that day. More wavy. But still, before I know it, Sharon is straightening my hair. I'm talking silky smooth. Like no straightener I have ever experienced (if you can say that about a hair straightener).

He is peppy, friendly, and adorable. There was nothing sleazy, insincere, or scary about him.

After he proves the unequivocal virtues of the product, I try to make conversation. I learn that back in Israel he lives on a Kibbutz, where he has plenty of family. He came to America because, like all the other Israeli kiosk maestros, he has an adventurous spirit and the will to do whatever it takes to make some money. He has no idea how he ended up in Seattle. He just knows he hates New York. And California for that matter. We both share Tzfas as our favorite Israeli city.What was I doing in Tzfat? Learning in a Chabad school.

If he hadn't been warm up until now, he definitely perked up.

"Ahhh, Chabad!"

When I told him that I now live in New York, he said, "Oh, in Queens?" I smiled, and reminded him that, although, yes, the Lubavitcher Rebbe's resting place is in Queens, the Lubavitch community is in Crown Heights.

"Sharon," I say, "you gotta come to my house tomorrow night for Shabbat."

As soon as I mention Shabbos, he rolls his eyes and mumbles, "No, no, I don' no." The quick wave of his hand and one eye half closed sends the signal I've received from many Israeli's before: I don't do Shabbos.

I try to respond lightly by saying, "Who cares? Come! We have good food, my parents are so cool, and Friday night at my house is always fun."


Once Sharon realized that coming for Shabbos came with no strings attached, he seemed genuinely interested. He even mentioned four friends who he would "have to" bring with him. With my sister - who by this time had some strands straightened herself - also encouraging him, he had no choice. After inquiring into what time we eat and where we live, he scrambled for a paper and enthusiastically gave us his e-mail address and number.

I had done the unthinkable.

I swapped numbers with an Israeli.


But Sharon broke my heart.

That night, I sent him an e-mail. I called him. I left a message. I called him again. Before Shabbos, I called him again. And again.
Never a return e-mail. Never a return call, if it was indeed his real number (strange voice mail).

Sharon officially ditched us.

It was hard to accept, you know? I mean, I was so genuine. I was so excited to have him (and his posse) over. I thought he was excited, too.

I just don't understand why he never responded.

By know, who knows? He's probably already left the kiosk-world and added Seattle to his list of cities he hates.

Which never would have happened had he come to my house for Shabbos.

Maybe someday I'll run into him. I'd notice that curly fro from anywhere. But until then, all I have is a number to nowhere, an e-mail address to a full inbox, and a pretty good straightener that - even post discount - I paid way too much for.


joshua said...

I have Israeli friends that turn a different colour at the mention of Shabbos... it's a shame. Now I have stopped trying to convince them our friendship stays in tact. I know one day they will come by...

Purim on the other hand? They have no problem with Purim...!

Nice post

ML said...

I guess you were able to end your writers block . . .
I've had similar experiences with such Israelis -I'm sure most of us have. This past chanukah I went around handing out sufganiot and menorahs to them. I suggested making a get together Friday night by the shliach we were helping. I sent out e-mails to them. I called. I set up the table after the seudah, I put out fresh food . . .
By 12 I saw they were a no show and went to sleep.

I did everything that I could do. The rest was up to them.
There's something about the transient nature of the backpackers and kioskers -they live on the fly, and thus do not always keep to their plans.

We like to believe that down the road we will cause some great change in the person's observance . . . I've received e-mails in the past from other Israelis who blew me off at the time but are no looking for a place to spend Rosh Hashanah.

But in truth, we do not need these stories -if anything we hear them (and tell them over to others) to give ourselves some level of solace and inspiration. You did your all, and thus connected with that Jew at that moment. Which is beautiful . . . and eternal.
Besides -who knows . . .

Itzhak Schier said...

Awwww..but keep in mind that Sharon is probably working in the US illegally and he could have been forced to move on literally overnight.

Itzhak Schier said...

Oh, and is that straightener a chemical (cream or gel) or an electrical appliance? I am sure Der Shygetz could come on and post 101 or more uses for the overpriced straightener! :) "big evil grin"

chanie said...

Mimi, I'm kind of disappointed. Lo matim for you to be trying to make conversation with some guy- even Israeli- who, although he was trying to sell you something- obviously hit on you in addition. Lo matim, lo matim, lo matim. Do your stuff with girls; leave the guys to your other half. You can work with him when you find him...after you're married. K?

Mimi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mimi said...

I appreciate your self righteousness (wait, no I don't), but in all seriousness: "Lo matim" for you to share your negative thoughts.

I'm clearly not operating in your box. I think I know quite well that these things are not as black and white as perhaps YOU see them. I don't think I would have invited someone to my Shabbos table had I felt like he was "hitting on" me. I made that quite clear in the article (maybe you didn't get past the first few lines?)that I did not get that vibe.

I refuse to accept the notion that post-encounter, I should not invite a yid to my Shabbos table because we don't share the same sex. Should I have waited till one of my five brothers showed up to the mall? Come on, don't be ridiculous.

Your attitude, and eyes that only saw something negative to point out from a sweet and rather simple encounter, is pretty disappointing. So I guess that makes two of us.

(Now, who was I just telling that I let down people all the time?)

salad mix said...

I'm afraid to comment lest I too get Mussar-ed.

Chana said...

I'll back Mimi up here. I think that if situations land in your lap - you make the best out of them and utilize the opportunity to do something good! It would probably NOT be a good idea for girls to stand on street corners asking guys to put on tefilin... though it may help the shidduch crisis, but that's another story. Mimi didn't seek this guy out, HP brought it all together. I'm sure his neshama was touched even though he didn't show up.

ML said...

While optimally one should stick one's own -why should the Israel loose out? If Mimi truly feels his intentions were good, then bringing him over to her parents home for a meal doesn't seem so horrendous.
What other choice was there?

Itzhak Schier said...

I was waiting for someone to comment on the gender issue (but also hoping no one would).

Of course, in a perfect world, Sharon would be selling tools. I would have been the one in the mall carrying tefillin because I know the mall is filled with Israelis, and he would have sold me an overpriced wrench and then I would have put on tefillin with him and invited him over for Shabbos. (No, better yet, after getting him to put on tefillin, I would have run to the nearest liquor store and returned with a bottle of arak for each of us, and then we'd be dancing and singing Yechi all over the mall :) :) :) :)).

But in the real world, Sharon was selling hair straighteners for women, and he happened to pitch his product to Mushky and Mimi. So, they seized the opportunity to invite him to their parents' home for Shabbos, where in the end their father and/or brothers would have been there and been the ones talking to him and farbrenging with him for the most part. It is not as if Mimi invited him to a girls' dorm or something! And he made the initial contact - not them!

It is almost the spiritual equivalent of a man passing by a scantily clad woman who is drowning. Does he save her? Yes - if he doesn't, he's a chossid shoiteh.

Mimi was presented with a rare opportunity to bring a fellow Jew closer and she and her sister took that opportunity. Yasher koiach - and too bad it did not work out for now!

rb said...

lo matim, lo matim...

"dark curly haired Jew THAT" isn't WHO better?

and twice?

...lo matim

Mimi said...

rb (hmmm, rb...),

(Wow, the horror!)
Thanks for the editing.

Itzhak Schier said...

;) I immediately noticed the same thing as RB did but I don't suggest edits for your writing - it comes from the heart and I prefer that it stays that way!

But I get "idiot of the month" for wondering why you picked what sounded like an overly abrasive or aggressive title - "GET IT STRAIGHT" - took me until now to realize what you were referring to and how clever it is!!!!!

dassi.w said...

Nicely titled, and nicely written. Like any of the mivtzoim missions, we never know what kind of positive impact we leave; even if we get a roll of the eyes, or a full emiail box. The fact that it was a personal interaction, and you're a normal person might change his mind... y'never know. =)

Cousin Mendy said...

Dasi.W said: might change his mind... y'never know. =)

I say: you changed his mind AND heart already just by the invite!! itself by a "Datiya" (Frumster:))- to help dispel the notion by the Israeli Media; that all the Dosi is good for is trow rocks on Shabbos while - ironically - screaming SHABBBBBBBBBBBBBBES!!!!

If he came or not; is not what he will be most impacted by and remember...(I agree he missed a great meal and company by the Notick family - I am sure.)

I am sure as time goes on he will feel that he missed out on an (maybe) unknown opportunity; and will try to make it up next time around, as the Hayom-Yom says: one action is better than a thousand sighs....

Great post AND great job Mim!

men... said...

men... men...

mimi get used to it - thats just the way men are!

cm said...

Mimi, you're a good story teller. I felt my heart going out to you though I'm not sure if its because the Israeli didn't come or because you paid too much for the straightener...

Anonymous said...

Nice article but I have to agree with Chanie. Maybe speaking to a boy about yiddishkiet isn't so bad but having a man straighten your hair doesn't seem so kosher to me, at least I can't seem to think the Rebbe would approve, no matter what type of shlichus you're trying to accomplish.

Itzhak Schier said...

Any hope for a post before Shavuos? In any case gut yom tov and we should be zoiche to be mekabel the Torah besimcha ubepnimius!

Mushky said...


I love this, especially the last 3 "paragraphs". "A number to nowhere..." brilliant writing.

I had a similar experience recently at the mall, I think I told you about it. I was with some friends and I was unsure about inviting the "straightening duo" for Shabbat because my friends might think it was strange. I decided that it did not matter what my friends thought, or what they were used to, these Jews needed to come for Shabbat.

We will see if they decide to lose my number or not, but I only hope that they do not break my heart as Sharon did yours.