| Family Tempo |


“Why do you need to wait for a comeback to look great? Who says you need to do what everyone’s doing? If side bangs work for you, go with it”


have no idea how my middle name made it onto my sheitelmacher’s ticket. Seriously. If there’s one secret I’ve been guarding for the past 45 years of my life, it’s the name Kreincha. And now, someone had scribbled “Rivka Kreincha Weinberg” on the ticket that rested on my sheitel box.

Actually, I had a pretty good idea whodunit. There was only one suspect: my friend Altee Baum, who’d sweetly offered to drop the box off for me.

The salon was a zoo. At least 25 women were crammed into Huvi’s tiny basement, trying on wigs. I sidled away from the incriminating sheitel box, and, out in the privacy of the hallway, I dialed.

“Altee,” I hissed. “Kreincha? What is up with you?”

She giggled. “It was an opportunity for you to walk in my shoes, just once,” she said happily. “Try going around as Altee your entire life, with no generic name for backup.”

“I’m going to….” I let my voice trail off menacingly.

“Hey, Rivky. You’re there now? At Huvi?”

“Yessss. And the entire world is here, too, which means I’m not going back in or getting anywhere near that box.”

“The entire world is there because of the sale,” Altee said, as though explaining the concept of money to a child. “Listen, Rivky. If you wait twenty minutes, I’m coming over. The sale is BOGO. Let’s do it together.”

I forgot my name for a minute, literally. A new sheitel, hmm. I still referred to my one decent sheitel, from my daughter Chavi’s wedding, as my “new sheitel.” Chavi had just celebrated her fourth wedding anniversary.

I really could use a new “new sheitel.” And BOGO — half price. Hmm, hmm, hmm.

“Hmm,” I responded to Altee. “Maybe. I mean, we could definitely look.”

“Amazing! Wait for me, I’m running over.”

“You bet I’m waiting. Right here in the hallway, until you go inside and rip up that ticket.”

I didn’t have a Tehillim on me to pass the time productively. One day I’d buy a microscopic Tehillim that fit into my bag.

My boredom was interrupted by my ringing phone.

Kayla Sapperstein.

Calling to follow up on the Applegrad shidduch.

Mordechai Applegrad.

Top Boy in Rav Yisroel Chaim Berger’s shiur.

Top Top Top boy in every single aspect. Havanah, hasmadah, middos, yiras Shamayim, bein adam l’chaveiro.

Top Top Top boy, who I was going to pass  on because of a dumb thing like money. “Well?” Kayla demanded.

“My husband and I discussed it.” I tried keeping my voice steady. “We could commit to $1,000 a month, for five years. But, Kayla! Listen! I told you my Shulamis is getting her degree in June, right? And she’s committed to supporting her husband’s learning. She’ll be self-sufficient. And super low maintenance. Isn’t that way more valuable?”

Kayla’s surrendered sigh was my answer. “I’ll get back to you,” she said tiredly.

She wouldn’t. We both knew that. But I didn’t have time to dwell on the fact that I’d just killed my daughter’s dream shidduch, because Altee burst in. “Hello, Rivka Kreincha, you look great!”


Back in the salon, Altee found her dream wig in under five minutes. I wasn’t so lucky. Altee made me try on one wig after another. I obeyed like a puppy, but we weren’t getting anywhere.

“Oooooh,” Altee exclaimed suddenly. “Look what I found!” She held up a wig and shook her hand to get the hairs dancing. “It’s gorgeous. Feel the hair. Heaven. And it has such beautiful highlights, you won’t have to spend a dime on coloring. Try it on, Rivky. I have a feeling this one is it.”

I tried it on. I looked at my reflection in the mirror.

Nope, this wig really wasn’t it. “It has a super wide cap. It makes my face look like a butternut squash. Don’t laugh, Altee! It’s not funny!”

Huvi walked over. “Hmm…” she said helpfully.

“I know, I know,” I grumbled. “I kind of give up.”

“Maybe…” my sheitelmacher started. “Wait, I think I have something. I hope it isn’t too dark. Let me find it, one minute.”

While Huvi opened and closed drawers, reading tags on wigs, I turned back to the mirror. Absently, I raked a comb down the left side of the wig to draw a new part. I swung the front hair over my forehead. Holding the front hairs at 90 degrees, I nudged the hair behind it up with my other hand, building height.

Altee was combing her fingers through her own lucky find. I teased the top hairs up a bit more. “Psst, Altee?”

She looked at me. Her hand flew over her mouth. “What— uh?”

“I miss side bangs,” I murmured. “And height. Look, it does wonders to my nose. The open forehead look is in for years. Don’t you think it’s time for a side bangs comeback?”

Altee stroked her wig. “The truth?”

“A friend is someone who tells you….”

“So I’ll tell you. You’re one hundred percent right. It suits you so well. Nobody can deny that.”

I dropped my mock hairdo and slouched my shoulders disconsolately.

But Altee wasn’t done. “And that’s why, Rivka Kreincha, you’re going to do it.”


My friend ignored my horrified gasp. “I know it’s totally out of style,” she said. “But. Why do you need to wait for a comeback to look great? Who says you need to do what everyone’s doing? If side bangs work for you, go with it.”

I stared at her in shock. I don’t know why, but at that moment, Kayla Sapperstein’s disappointed sigh trilled in my ear.

A wicked excitement gurgled in my chest. I turned to inspect my reflection in the mirror again, flicking would-be side bangs over my forehead. My eyes glinted in the mirror. “You know what, Altee? You’re so right.”

The minute I made up my mind to host this meeting, Altee — ironically — became my faithful sidekick.

“I’ve got thirteen signups for tomorrow night,” she reported on Wednesday.

“And you’re sure all of them check out? With our Three Cs?”


I spent the entire Thursday worrying that nobody would show up. While worrying, I put up a pot of cholent, made an extra 9×13 of potato kugel, and filled bowls with popcorn and chips. If salad and cut-up fruit were classier ladies’ fare, well, my choice of refreshments was in the spirit of the night’s mission. Because honestly, which woman didn’t secretly love kugel and cholent?

Altee came early to help me be nervous. “I love your new wig, Kreinch. I absolutely love it.”

That name sounded like crunch. Potato chip style. I flicked my side-bangs smartly.

Finally, at nine fifteen, the first woman showed up, knocking hesitantly on my basement door. I gave Altee a hard stare, prodded my sheitel to its fullest height, and pulled the door open.

It was Esther Friedman, our classmate, and while she gaped at my new/old sheitel style, I wracked my brain trying to remember if she had a middle name. Because Esther. Friedman. Really.

The rest of the women slunk in over the next 15 minutes, some familiar faces and some I’d never met. I invited them over to the hotplate. Only two women took plates, both of them demurely choosing small pieces of kugel. But that was okay. We were all new to this.

When I had all 13 sitting around on folding chairs, I took my own seat and launched into my speech. “Welcome. Welcome, everybody. For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Rivky Weinberg. Uh…” I winked at Altee. “Rivka Kreincha Weinberg.”

Altee applauded. I continued. “I’m so happy to have you here — and I’m only saying that because I actually mean it. Welcome to our brand-new Nonconformist Society. NCS for short.”

My words were greeted with awkward smiles and furious blushing. This was going to take some warming up.

“Well,” I said. “I know Altee briefly explained the Three Cs of our society on the phone. Let’s quickly review them. The Cs stand for Confident, Committed, and Clandestine. Oh, and one additional important F.” I gestured toward my hotplate. “Food.”

That was awarded with a round of grins. Yay, ice breaker.

I spoke about Confidence — doing what we felt like doing no matter what other people thought of us, no matter what the “whole world” considered “normal.” I spoke about being Committed. “To our society, and to ourselves,” I explained. “If you’re in, you’ve got to be all in. There’s no taking a day off to conveniently conform, just because, let’s say, it’s your nephew’s wedding and isn’t it weird to wear glasses even if your eyes burn when you wear contacts late at night.”

A few women nodded knowingly.

“And Clandestine.” I pointed to the door. “We meet in this basement, and whatever we discuss remains within these four walls. We have to keep this initiative contained if we don’t want it to lose its impact.”

I watched Altee walk over to the cholent and dish some into a plate. She handed it to one of the women I didn’t recognize.

“Okay, enough of the formalities. Let’s get started.” I raised my two index fingers. “I’m not going to mention the food again. If you want to eat, feel free. If you’re sitting here tuning me out and thinking about whether it does or doesn’t make sense to eat in this setting, not to be rude or anything, but you kind of don’t belong here tonight….”

The next part of our meeting was a roundtable. “Introduce yourself and share what brings you here tonight. Which societal trend do you wish to buck? And why. Altee, why don’t you go first?”

Altee waved excitedly. “Bags!” she cried. “I mean, seriously. Mr. Everyone declared that one may only walk around with a tiny purse, big enough to hold the logo of Furla, Chloé, Saint Laurent, or Jimmy Choo, and literally nothing more. I mean, my comb doesn’t fit into this bag.” She lifted the bag from her lap and said, “Exhibit A.” She swept incredulous eyes over the group. “What happens if I want to carry a water bottle? Or an umbrella? Is Everyone expected to go around both thirsty and wet? Or should they be drinking rainwater?”

A bag that could hold a Tehillim. Altee was on to something here.

I stood up and clapped my hands brusquely. “Big bags. No names,” I affirmed. “See if the world tilts off its axis.” Throwing a thumbs-up at Altee, I turned to the woman on her right. “Next.”

The woman fidgeted. She was wearing a short, stick-straight wig and light-pink lipstick. She gave a self-conscious shrug. “Heels?”

I nodded encouragingly.

“I’m five foot one.” If women who are five foot eight wear three-inch heels, do I even have a choice? But I really, really wish I had the guts to go to a wedding in flats. It takes a week for my feet to get over a twenty-five-minute quick-mazel-tov wedding.”

“Heels…” I said solemnly. “Be gone.”

The next woman wished she could give up sourdough. “It takes over my life, and honestly, I don’t even like it.”

We continued around the group. By the end of the evening, almost everyone had aired a grievance that made it on to the list of NCS rules. There was a unanimous vote against shidduch résumé photos, a nostalgic rebirth of corded phones that don’t get lost or die on you mid-conversation, and vehement bans on upsheren photo shoots, baby albums for kallahs, and Shabbos Gehinnom.

Esther Friedman raised her hand. “Can we also bring back costume jewelry? Those fun, colorful accessories, know what I mean? They were in for, like, five minutes. You should see my AliExpess order history from that era.”

By the time the women trooped out of my basement, my crockpot was empty.

Chavi came over the next Thursday afternoon to pick up Shabbos food — and her monthly envelope.

She looked at me — I was heading out to the grocery — and nearly fainted. “Ma?”

“What’s wrong?”

“MAAAA!!!! What are you wearing on your head?!”

I puffed the center top of my wig. “My new sheitel. Do you like it?”

“It’s… Maaaaa. You’re not going out this way. You can’t. No way.”

“Why not? I think it suits me quite well.”

Chavi walked around the Doona where baby Akiva slept. Baby Akiva was nestled in a Peluche cocoon swaddle, a Bibs pacifier hanging out, attached to a wooden clip. At barely two months old, he was the picture of Conformity.

“It doesn’t matter if it suits you,” Chavi said urgently. “Who wears side bangs? And height! Hashem yishmoreinu! Ma, this wig is, like, ten years out of date.”

I tried getting my daughter to hear the absurdity in her own words, but it was like telling a newborn to pose for a picture for his kallah’s album. Not only did it go over her head, she grew increasingly agitated at the thought that I was going to leave the house looking like… an NCS member, I guess.

Then her eyes fell on my bag.

“Is that… Bubby’s?” she asked suspiciously.

“Nope,” I said. “It’s mine. Isn’t it cool? My siddur, reading glasses, umbrella, and water bottle all fit in comfortably.”

“It’s—” I saw her scanning the faux leather for a logo. She covered her mouth when she discovered the little gold plate with the letters SXXQLTHUMX.

She was still spluttering as I told her to take her food from the fridge and went to fetch the envelope Shalom had left on my dresser.

As I handed the money over to her — a full month’s rent — a light bulb went off in my brain.

Support. Oooooh. Support.

The NCS was convening in my basement again that night, and I knew exactly what our new affirmation would be.

I pictured a faceless, Top Top Top Mordechai Applegrad. I couldn’t help the tingle of, “There!” in my heart.

I may have missed the boat with Chavi, but Shulamis was turning 19….

Thursday night quickly turned into the highlight of my week.

After a month of meetings, I no longer needed to coax members to eat. They walked in and attacked the food.

By the sixth Thursday, our group had expanded to 20, which, I told Altee as we jogged our two miles in our new Reeboks sneakers, was a milestone. “A scary milestone,” I specified. “And that’s why I had this idea…. Listen up.”

Altee loved the idea, and that Thursday, I introduced it.

“If you ever did Greysheet, you know how it works,” I told the NCS. “Every night, each member texts her sponsor a trend she will buck the next day. It could be one of the things we discussed at a meeting, or something else. The next night, you report the results and commit again for the next day.”

I fielded questions. Then we moved on to serious work.

“A shadchan called last night,” Leah Schwartz shared. “Before she even mentioned the boy’s name, she asked if we were ready to do ten years.” Leah smirked. “You know what I answered? I said, ‘Ten years’ time? That’s a very severe sentence. What was my crime anyway? Giving birth to a girl?’ ”

The group roared with laughter. I clapped my hands gustily. “Greeeeeat, Leah. Absolutely great. Did she put you on her blacklist?”

“I hope so. I’m not having my daughter marry into a family who thinks shidduchim is a money game.”

This was a personal victory for me. Wow.

“I got a call from a shadchan, too,” Miri Goldberg announced. “We didn’t even get to talking about support. She first wanted to determine my daughter’s exact size.”

I drew totally-and-completely-nuts circles near my temples. “I hope you told her we abolished the Size 4?”

More laughter. I loved this group.

As members shared victories, a warm feeling rested in my stomach. Who would have imagined? What had started as a crazy dare at my sheitelmacher had turned into something real. Something powerful. We were bringing an end to Conformism. It felt good being the founder and leader of this movement.

I was about to wrap up the meeting when Esther Friedman caught my attention. She sat in a secluded corner, almost invisible, and in a dystopian way, I realized she hadn’t eaten a thing or uttered a word throughout the meeting. “Esther?” I asked cautiously.

A flash of panic crossed her face. “Yes. Yes, hi.”

“You’re very quiet. Everything okay?”

Her eyes flew a frantic orbit around the room.

“Sure, everything’s okay, definitely.” She hesitated, tugging at the tuft of height on her wig. “Uh, more than okay, actually. I guess I was a little spaced out. I… have some good news.”

“Let’s hear!”

Her cheeks turned red and she looked down. “My daughter is getting engaged tonight.”

“Esther!” I shrieked.

In a flash, she was surrounded. “Mazel tov! Wow! So, so exciting!”

The NCS members crowded around her, squealing and pumping her hand. Esther was smiling, but at the same time, she seemed to be shrinking into herself.

“Nu, so tell us,” Altee exclaimed. “Who’s the lucky boy?”

Everyone waited, the curiosity a palpable thing in the room.

Esther opened and closed her mouth, as though fishing for the name. I saw her eyes dart desperately, landing on the basement door, like she was trying to escape. Butterflies? What was her issue?

“Nuuuu?” Batsheva Jakubowitz begged.

Finally, Esther inhaled deeply and muttered, “Mordechai Applegrad.”

A sharp, collective gasp followed.

Mordechai Applegrad.

The Top Boy in Rav Yisroel Chaim Berger’s shiur.

Top in havanah, hasmadah, middos, yiras Shamayim, bein adam l’chaveiro.

The Top Top Top boy, whose parents demanded full, lifetime support and wouldn’t look at a girl’s résumé before her parents notarized that pledge.

Everyone — those who had daughters in shidduchim as well as everyone else — was aware of this fact.

After a moment of stunned silence, there was a subdued mumble of, “Nice. Very nice. Beautiful.”

Esther nodded weakly. Then she picked up her oversized bag and headed for the door.

So. The NCS was down to 19 members.

What a snake.

I was heading home after my power walk with Altee when I bumped into Chanie Glatzer, my former coworker.

Immediately, my eyes dropped to my sneakers, but I restrained the sudden urge to excuse them away. I didn’t owe Chanie any explanation for my footwear. This was the ABCs of the NCS.

Instead, I smiled confidently, patting the chunky brass and green trinket that hung from a black cord around my neck.

“Hey, Rivky. Hiiiii,” Chanie said. She didn’t even attempt to hide her surprise. “Do you suffer from varicose veins or something?”

“Baruch Hashem, no. I have no problems with my feet.”

“Uh, okay. What else is doing?”

She was diplomatically giving me a chance to cover my awkwardness, but I passed on the opportunity. “A shoe needs to carry a person and not the other way around,” I stated.

“Definitely. One hundred percent.”

I shrugged. “I like to be practical.”

She stared at my necklace, as though inquiring about its practicality.

“And colorful,” I added.

“Practical and colorful. Anything else?”

“Yup. I mean, nope. It’s all the same thing. I like being an individual. I don’t really care what everyone else does.”

Chanie lifted her #6 envelope-sized clutch and ran her fingers over the perforated circle of letters STELLA MCCARTNEY. “I’m intrigued,” she said. “Practicality, color, individuality. I’m liking this. Tell me the truth. Is there anything behind these, you know, unique choices?”

Her question came across as genuine. Still, I knew well enough to honor the third principle C of the NCS — Clandestine — so I didn’t rush to tell her about our movement. Instead, I shared some of the little changes I’d made, such as shopping in a snood when I felt like it and identifying with my middle name.

It was only when I detected a mix of admiration and envy in Chanie that I judged it was safe to tell her the whole story. She listened raptly.

“We meet every Thursday night in my basement. Every member has her designated sponsor to help her stay on course.”

She asked a few questions. Then came the defining moment.

“Let’s say I’d want to join.” She tried to make her question sound completely theoretical, but I knew that was her way of protecting herself. Fair enough. She wasn’t a member. Not yet, at least.

Our approach with newcomers was similar, l’havdil, to potential converts reaching out to beis din.

“It’s not so simple,” I answered. “You need to give this serious thought. Be honest with yourself if you’re really committed, because once you’re in, you’re in. There’s no backing out.”


“If you’re ready, I’ll give you a list of rules. You’ll study it and let me know what you decide.”

Chanie hugged her Stella McCartney bag with alarm. “Oh! No, no, no! I don’t need the rules, I’m not signing up. I was just, you know, curious.”

There was a hint of scorn on her face.

Had I misjudged her?

Had I breached the integrity of our society?

For the first time since the establishment of NCS, I looked down at my Reeboks with a sickening sense of discomfort.

I’M not sure if it was my run-in with Chanie Glatzer or if it was simply the sense that our establishment had hit a certain stage, a plateau of sorts.

“It’s time to up the game,” I told the ladies after they settled down in their folding chairs with steaming plates of kugel and cholent. “I had this idea. You know how annoying anonymous letter writers are, right? Like, if you feel so strongly on this matter, why can’t you stand behind your words? These writers are obviously terrified that people will think their opinions are unpopular. And that’s the antithesis of what the NCS stands for. So! Why don’t we start writing in our true thoughts and feelings to magazines, and sign them with our real names?”

“Oooooh,” Zehava Meyer exclaimed. “I’d like to write in about that feature that proposed putting your entire family on a plant-based diet. How ridiculous. These kids are going to go to school and barter their right hands for tuna sandwiches.”

The letter ideas rolled in fast and furious. Mindy Steuer griped about the glorification of therapy. Fraidy Simon cried out against meat boards. Ahuva Gutter begged us all to write in to request they stop the event planner diary serial.

“How about the profile of that storeowner, did you see that?” Batsheva Jakubowitz added. “A whole guide on how to accomplish the “in” look without breaking the bank. I mean, seriously. Do we all really have to look like clones when we go to a wedding?”

“Yesss!” I cried. “What if I don’t even like the “in” look? I mean, everyone goes to weddings in sweaters these days. Sweaters are casual. What happened to elegant? I like to dress up in my fanciest clothes when I go to a wedding, don’t you?”

Everyone gustily agreed. We spent the next few minutes mocking the ridiculousness of styles, how one person shows up to a wedding in a sweater, and the next night, everyone’s in sweaters, and if you’re wearing, let’s say, a gorgeous organza dress, and it isn’t even black, you’re so last week.

They laughed and they shouted and argued their points until their faces flamed. Oh, I’d gotten the NCS cooking again. These kinds of movements needed an occasional boost.

When I felt like the momentum was right, I cleared my throat. There was another topic I wanted to discuss, and I needed everyone to listen closely.

“I want to remind everyone how super careful we need to be about keeping our little club under the radar.” I told them about my conversation with Chanie Glatzer. “My mistake,” I admitted. “I was too quick to trust. But this incident taught me something. People are starting to recognize us. We have to be careful. We can’t have just anyone join, because people who aren’t really serious about nonconforming are going to look for all kinds of loopholes so they can continue conforming and stay in their safe zone. Not everyone has the courage it takes.”

I didn’t mention names, of course, but I could see everyone silently thinking Esther Friedman.

“We need to keep a low profile,” I said. “Does everyone understand that?”

Some women nodded in agreement. Some looked a little puzzled. I watched Shiffy Stern, another classmate, get up and put her nearly full plate of cholent in the garbage.

Shiffy had been with us from the beginning. It hadn’t taken more than two meetings before she’d made her sheitelmacher appointment. Everyone complimented her how good she looked in side bangs.

She’d also taken to introducing herself as Shifra Rus whenever the opportunity arose.

Now she raised a quivering hand.

“I want to say goodbye,” she said in a low, shaky voice. “It was nice getting to know everyone, but this… society…. I can’t be part of it anymore.”

She stood up. As she headed to the door, her Savta Simcha bag resting on her back, I watched her run her fingers over her wig to tamp down all the height, and with a firm yank, she split her side bangs down the center.

Shiffy’s defection was like the flick of the first domino.

That night, Ahuva Gutter texted me. Thanks for the cholent. I won’t be coming to the meetings anymore.

I stared at the words in horror. Ahuva? Hadn’t she just advocated against over-the-top event planning? How could she?

Tzila Glaubman — Genendel Tzila — called the next day, with Fraidy Simon on the line. “We can’t do it anymore,” they confessed. Tzila explained that she couldn’t attend her brother’s upcoming wedding in glasses and flats. “I’ll take along rewetting drops and get a pedicure. I’m sorry, Rivka Kreincha. I guess I’m not cut out for nonconformity.”

She had some nerve to call me by my full name.

When Zehava Meyer called on Sunday, I didn’t answer the phone.

Monday morning, when I met Altee at our regular corner for our power walk, my stomach bottomed out. “Altee?”

She was wearing cute leather ankle boots, dainty and narrow in the front, with kitten heels. If I wasn’t mistaken, this was the Veronica Beard pair of my sister Dassi’s dreams. The kind of shoes that made a certain statement.

The kind of shoes that gave people blisters and corns.

The kind of shoes that went against the fundamental rules of the NCS.

I stared down at my own practical Reeboks. The shoes that carried me and not the other way around.


“Let’s walk,” she said.

We started strolling. It wasn’t a power walk. It wouldn’t be a power walk in those stylish toe pinchers.

After a short stretch of silence — a most uncomfortable, uncharacteristic feels-like-forever stretch of silence, because this was Altee, the Altee who Shalom believed had acquired eight-and-a-half out of the tishah kavin sichah — she finally spoke.

“I woke up this morning, and it hit me. Here we are, making every effort not to conform. And you know where that got us? We have a whole society of women conforming to our nonconformity. Doesn’t that, like, defeat the whole purpose?”

I stared at my toes. Then at hers. The contrast — my rounded mesh with the sensible rubber sole rising up, to her fine leather narrow-cut with soles that required taps, seriously — glared.

“To be fair,” Altee said, “I bought these booties before our association was formed.”

Peace offering. Touché.

My toes curled in the comfortable environs of my sneakers.


“Rivka Kreincha,” I corrected her with a glower.

“Whatever. Look. I know this is coming from a good place. But good intentions don’t always make for the best outcomes.”

She clacked her leather kitten heels.

My own footfalls were muted in a bed of rubber.

“Maybe—” Altee faltered. “Maybe it’s time to, you know, reevaluate.”

This time I was the one who allowed the silence to stretch. Then, clutching my large, practical tote that housed my Tehillim and water bottle, I whispered, “Et tu, Altee?”

Shiffy Stern was making a chasunah.

It’s funny how easily people adapt to new stages in life. I’d been the first in our class to make a chasunah. I’d married young, had a baby right away, and Chavi got engaged right out of seminary.

These days, our class had weddings twice a month, easy. And we kind of figured out our role in these simchahs. Basically, get dressed, get out, dance.

As though we were 19 years old all over again.

As though we didn’t have families at home who needed us.

We all loved these weddings. Our class had always been a phenomenal group, and when we got together, we could sit and yack and laugh and argue for hours, like teenagers. These weddings were like having multiple class reunions a year. Why would anyone complain?

This would be Shiffy Stern’s first child’s wedding. Her son had been redt to my Shulamis, but a simple name overlap — his name was Shalom — conveniently made the prospect irrelevant.

Not that Shalom Stern wasn’t a great boy. He was one of Those. Mir. BMG. Charles Tyrwhitt shirts and a perfect six foot one.

All he cost was an apartment in Yerushalayim.

Altee called to ask when I’d be ready.

“Five minutes.”

“Great. Should I pick you up?”

She acted as though nothing had ever happened. As though I hadn’t devoted all those pots of cholent to our cause. As though I didn’t even have a middle name.

Regular arrangements, regular people.

Regular clones.

I was almost ready. I was wearing my blue/purple organza dress with the jewel-toned crocheted flowers, the dress I’d made for my Yonah’s bar mitzvah nine years earlier. It still fit, miraculously. When I’d made it, I’d justified the cost by saying I’d wear to many weddings.

I never did. Always with another excuse, but my most recent excuses had nothing to do with seasons or maternity clothes, and everything to do with the fact that nobody dressed so fancy to weddings anymore.

I snapped my sheitel to my wig grip with an angry click.

Next, jewelry.

I had my regular set. Diamond earrings, diamond necklace — a milestone reached in honor of Chavi’s wedding — diamond bracelet, diamond ring, and eternity band.

Next to my regular jewelry box sat another box. It contained an assortment of trinkets I’d collected over the past few months.

I’d found a fun cluster of amethyst crystals in Primark that worked so well with the coloring. I planted it on my chest and debated.

Yes, definitely. It was pretty! It added personality! I liked it, for goodness’ sake.

I removed the Velcro roller from the top of my wig and neatly combed the height into place. I looked so… young. Alive.


Now shoes.

I owned a lot of shoes. Call it an obsession, but really, there was only one specific shoe that worked with each outfit, and I couldn’t help caring.

The right shoe for this outfit coordinated with my amethyst necklace. It wasn’t really purple. It was almost black, with just a hint of violet.

And of course, they were flat. I could dance with abandon.

Altee texted me, I’m outside. I grabbed my evening bag — a classy, black Valentino, remnant of a previous lifetime. There was no need to upgrade to a large- sized bag. All I needed at a wedding was my phone, a comb, and a tube of lipstick. So that would be that.

Coming, I replied.

I opened the coat closet to get my coat. As my gaze landed on my reflection in the full-length mirror behind the closet door, I felt sick.

I looked downright weird.

Everyone in the hall would be wearing a nice sweater, or at most, a simple taffeta shirt and skirt. Nobody would be wearing side bangs. Nobody’s wig would have height. Everyone would be studded with diamonds and teetering on stilts.

Walking into the hall looking the way I looked would be like wearing a huge sign: I’m different.

My dear NCS had treacherously disbanded, leaving me alone. A proper, honest-to-goodness, nutty nonconformist.

And the idea — frankly — frightened me.

I couldn’t do it.

How had Altee put it?

We have a whole society of women conforming to our nonconformity.

In other words, we had turned into the epitome of conformity.

And when that had happened, everyone rushed to escape.

Nuuuu? Altee texted.

I moved my side bangs away from my eyes. Then I replied, I need another few minutes, sorry, can you wait?

Seven minutes later, I pulled open her car door. Altee couldn’t see, but I was wearing a nice, elegant sweater under my coat, over my black midi skirt.She could see my shoes, though — my Manolo Blahnik stilettos — and my wig.

My old/new wig.

Parted down the center, flat on the top.

Altee didn’t seem shocked. She flashed me a dazzling grin.

“Welcome,” she said warmly. “Welcome to society.”


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 886)

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