Friday, October 26, 2007

The Saturday Wife

I just read Naomi Ragen's latest book, "The Saturday Wife". I enjoyed reading it. I found several grammatical and spelling errors in the book -- I think she needs a new proofreader. But that is minor...

The story purports to be a satirical account of a young religious Jewish woman who wants more than she has, no matter how much she already has, and no matter what it is that she has or does not have. She wants and she wants and she wants. I am going to discuss the story here but am not going to disclose the actual story. No spoilers here. If my discussion piques your interest you can get the book here.

Seeds of discontent in her soul were planted by the culture and community in which she grows up. "Keeping up with the Steins" is the downfall here. I read this story and was very pained by it.

While the main character, Delilah, IS a caricature -- after all -- no one could be THAT clueless, And Delilah is clueless. But Delilah is slightly cunning, slightly devious, slightly stupid, even somewhat aware of herself and of others. Selfish, yes. Evil, no. Although, I do think Naomi does try to make her seem evil. Only, she is not – but the evil perpetrated is done so by the expectations she feels from the community around her.

In her attempts to fit in, to climb the social ladder, to have all that her little heart desires, Delilah spins many webs. Unfortunately, she is not smart enough to not get caught in her own webs. And that is because she is not truly evil. She is basically good, but shallow and selfish.

This is a Cinderella girl, a fairy tale believer, an old wives tale spun awkwardly out of control. A girl who believes in marrying the successful Jewish boy next door -- the successful Rabbi, lawyer, doctor, Indian chief…

We are taught at a young age that the ultimate goal in our lives is to get married – and have a big wedding, a big diamond, a big house, nannies, housekeepers, nice cars, a trip to Israel every year for Pesach (actually now it is two trips a year to Israel – for both Pesach and Sukkot), lots of children – and of course they are all angels and always wear nice clean clothing, and we get to stay home – only our husbands go out to work – and support this amazing lifestyle. We get to smile condescendingly at the women who are not so lucky to snag such a successful husband. How often I remember hearing – it is just as easy to fall in love with a rich boy as with a poor one, perhaps easier.

Within the frum community, there is a marked difference between the haves and the have nots, not only defined by what one has or does not have, but also in the way in which they and their children behave – the haves with the have nots – their interactions are painful to watch.

I have watched many a time, the adulation given by a young woman who is a “have not” to a woman who is a “have”. And have witness the snobbery as the returned affection – and the tittering – the laughter, the poking fun at – behind the poor woman’s back. I have been to affairs at which a less well off woman is seated amongst women who were quite well off – and watch the poor woman be talked over – disincluded as it were – from the surrounding conversation. After all, it is kind of difficult to include oneself in a conversation about the difficulties of hiring or keeping a good nanny, or housekeeper, or a discussion of the latest renovations underway in one’s home – if you have no nanny, housekeeper, and no prayer of a chance at renovating your very old, and in need of repairs home!

Yes folks, contrary to popular thought – Delilah is not evil. She only wants what everyone else appears to have and what we are TAUGHT to want. The evil, I say, is perpetrated by the culture and community in which we live.