Jewish Weddings, a Humorous Approach


Jewish Weddings, a Humorous Approach


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Opinion & Society


By Burton R. Klein

Details, details, details. It's all in the details. For a wedding, the 'de-tails' can even come down to the 'de-nails.' No, not the kind that you whack with a hammer; I refer to the ones at the end of your fingers; yes, those oft-ignored little end-protectors you whack when you miss the nail you are really aiming for.

Let me tell you just how important some of those other 'nails' can be when push-comes-to-shove-comes-to-dinner-comes-to-cleaning-up occurs. Maybe you will see why I now see nails in a whole new light (When you stand with your hands straight up, what's the highest item of your body, the one closest to the sun and stars - and heaven?)

We all know about the expression: "The mother of all battles." For nails, the mother of all nail-biters (in this author's humble estimation) is a wedding, particularly for mothers, aunts, grandmothers, - just about any woman. Yes, this is definitely a gender issue, though by all means not meant in the negative sense of the word. [Women as a whole generally do a far better job than men in presenting themselves from head to toe (including fingernails, of course) at these and most public-type affairs.] When it comes to a wedding - hands down (resulting in fingernails up), I give women the gold medal for making sure that their nails are perfect: from the time they have them 'done' (i.e., decracked, sealed, rounded, pinched, sanded, smoothed, painted, heated - a car tune-up should be so lucky to be so pampered) to sometime around dessert (when letting down, even fingernails, can begin).

So that means women (because of their nails) basically become untouchable anywhere from 4 hours up to possibly 40 hours before a wedding. [The latter if (1) the wedding is on a Sunday, (2) it's December (Shabbas can start pretty early for late Friday afternoon), and (3) you are on the eastern portion of a time zone.] Like a stomach ache that can so disrupt one's desire for anything or to do anything, the simple act of repairing and beautifying one's nails has an interesting affect on what many women will or will not do. Again, this is not meant to be derogatory. They simply want their nails to remain intact, untouched and unmarred until dessert is served at the wedding.

Is that asking too much? I don't think so either, but you be the judge of the following little event this past year. (Time, location, and names have been masked to protect the innocent.)

Let me tell you about a beautiful June wedding to which we were honored to be invited. The kvellng started way before the wedding, around the time the word started to spread that "so and so was marrying so and so; isn't it terrific?" And the wedding was still a year-plus away. Indeed, it was one of those events that everyone was just plain happy was happening.

The wedding? The wedding was scheduled for a June Sunday, around noon-ish. So there was no time in 'the schedule on 'the' Sunday to deal with 'the nails.' Saturday? Shabbas? Be serious. The best that could be done - Friday noon. So we're talking almost 48 touchless hours. So what's the problem? Shabbas dinner. Well, not dinner itself - the after dinner. Specifically: the dishes.

All I said was, "What! You want me to do those dishes? I do a lot of things, including washing dishes, but that goes for regular dishes. Not Presidential dishes, not King and Queen dishes - sorry. I like living." My heart was already beginning to race a little thinking about doing more than just eating off of my sister's K & Q dishes. (And as for our Prez dishes by conveyance? - Don't even ask.) Thinking of holding them with wet fingers, and wetter fingernails, brought a fear I hadn't felt since I was a kid and forgot to wipe my shoes when we went over you-know who's house. My sister persisted; I was becoming light-headed. This was serious; she was serious. I thought I saw doomsday approaching.

This probably sounds a bit melodramatic, and irrational, and silly, and maybe even confusing. Fuss over some dishes? Even K & Q ones? A little explanation for context.

There are everyday milchic dishes, and everyday fleishic dishes. Then there are fleishic shabbas-dicka dishes. [There are also Pesadicka dishes, both milchic and fleishic, but generally, anything goes since it is only one week - Bradlee special have been known to hold up quite nicely for over 25 years and counting; they still look like new!] But there is now a new set of dishes in more than a few Jewish homes - the ones that are the 'special' ones. Maybe its an anniversary, maybe there was a trip, maybe the kids are grown up and aren't apt to break them, maybe just because they were such an incredible buy - it really doesn't matter. They are the 'The special set." For my sister, it was a trip to somewhere in Europe with her friend Chee-chee. "Oy, will those look terrific on Yon-tef." A done deal. Ship 'em, Gustof or whatever his name was. The King and Queen dishes of some castle or other were on their way from the Old World of Vilvishnof to the New World of New Heaven, USA!

I have to admit that it was I who gave them the name 'the King and Queen dishes.' They were spectacular: gold rim, a bluish band, and some monarchical design in the middle (well, it looked monarchical). Subconsciously, I may have been elevating them to this grand level to make sure I wouldn't ever be allowed to touch them very much, if at all. I even tried hard not to let my knife and fork touch the plate to show my respect.

This elevation worked for about a year - until 'the wedding.' But not just any wedding; a really, big one - Chee-chee's boychick. Who-ha: the dresses, the shoes, the jewelry, the hair, and yes - the nails. Normally that wouldn't sound bad or sinister. The women in fact looked terrific. Everything matched: the dresses, the shoes, the jewelry, the hair and yes - the nails.

But then Shabbas dinner struck. Hair and nails were all far-pitzed. Dinner using the K and Q dishes was over, and now clean-up time. And somebody had to do them - 'the dishes.' But nobody's moving. At prior K and Q events, I just relaxed, and watched sister and others clean the table of dishes. But tonight, nobody's moving. Hmm. Many eyes began to look around the room. Why did I begin to have a sinking feeling in my stomach?

I casually offered, "So, just put some Rubbermaid gloves on, huh?" Ever get stares that says very loud and very clear that that was just about - no - it was THE dumbest suggestion of the year? Well, how was I to know that the chemical compound of nail polish and the interior lining of rubber gloves are completely incompatible - particularly before a wedding. The 'Didn't I know anything' was the other non-verbal look that shot around the table from a dozen raised eyebrows and circum-revolution of the eyes. I had a very sinking feeling now.

Thoughts raced through my mind. Was this like it was on the Titanic? Into the Valley of Dishes rode the 600. Yea, though I walk through the valley of dishes, I will fear no evil. I'll just drop a dish and then commit hara-kiri to save them from messing up their fingernails. It will be neat and clean and -

The most beautiful woman at the table brought me back to reality with a firm, but loving nudge. "Well, it looks like you'll have to do the dishes sweetheart," smiled my wife rather innocently. The faces of the other women at the table confirmed it - each set of eyes moving like the last brush stroke of the coiffure. (Did someone actually say 'stroke'? 'coffin'?)

"Excuse me," I kind of bravely said, pulling out all the stops, "You seem to be forgetting something. My track record with dishes isn't exactly stellar." The staring just continued. Do I pursue things, or just pack it in? It wasn't even a close call. With a soft 'G-d Save the King and Queen and me,' I slowly got up from my chair, and walked slowly into the kitchen - which by that time seemed unusually hot - particularly since dinner was over. Was something else being cooked for dessert?

Fast forward two months. Yes, Yes, I survived. So did all the dishes. Not so much as a scratch. The only losses were some more hair on my head. Probably from excess perspiration.

Oh, and those other set of special dishes? The ones that were trans-juxtapositioned to us by my best mother-in-law? The 7-piece place setting for 12 or is it 14 or 16? The ones with the gold band and sort-of-Presidential doo-dad in the middle? The ones used for special occasions like millennium-Shabbas dinners? Those dishes? Me? Never touch 'em. And if anyone, ANYONE, even dares thinking about inviting President and Mrs.You-know-who (and that includes President and Mr.You-know-who of you-know-what women's organization), I'm busy. I'm out. Try calling Unee-farpitz Unlimited - I just might be there having MY nails done, thank you very much. Now how 'bout DEM-dishes, Matt Damon?!


The author allows that this true story has been slightly emotionalized to reflect the gravity of the situation. Names and some mishpaka relations have been altered to protect the family lineage. The author also wishes to acknowledge his support for Hadassah, and dedicates this story, in part, to his late Aunt Sylvia who not only was a life member of Hadassah and would have had a good chuckle at this situation, but also made his wife a life member of Hadassah as well. As a wise and budding sage once said, 'This one's for you, Syl.'


from the August 2000 Edition of the Jewish Magazine

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