Becoming a Lady

By C. G. Medina

 

I’m 6 years-old. I am a girl, but I am dressed like a boy because my clothes have to be passed to my younger brother afterwards. When I have lice my father decides that he will cut my hair very short. The next day I go to school looking entirely as/like a boy. My classmates laugh. They say I just put my head under a grass cutter. Somehow I have come to terms with it telling myself that short hair is easy to maintain and boy’s clothes are all-terrain.

More than 20 years have passed. I am still wearing comfortable unladylike clothing. I still have the idea that clothing has to be replaced only if it’s broken.

I am the latest addition to a department in which we are all ladies except for one man. They call him by a female nickname, Jasonella. One day they make braids of his pony tale. Another, they paint his nails red. After that they put a tampon soaked in fake Halloween blood in his drawer. If they are looking for some unfashionable person to reform I will be the next. I’m terrified.

I overhear a colleague saying she is feeling depressed and she needs a new handbag. Some of them propose to go shopping after work. I decline saying “I don’t need that” as if they are offering me an addictive and dangerous drug. Some weeks later, when they invite me to the sales, I am about to say yes but that would mean to give up my pride. So I say I’m broke.

I can’t help noticing my 22-year-old colleague Wendy knows how to make basics and all-terrain shoes look feminine. Although I maintain the ‘I don’t care about looks’ attitude, I am secretly checking her outfit when I see her entering the office every day.

One day, as I am finishing my working shift I see Wendy preparing herself to go on a date. She has changed into a red dress. She is doing her make-up and hair using the window glass as a mirror. She bends down, shakes her head and applies some hair spray in a duck-like move. When she stands up again she is a glamorous lady. I’m impressed. As I start making how-to questions she looks at me in surprise. She says

– I am your guru!

I sigh, surrendering

– You are – I say.

I feel as if I am in some karate kid film and I have just found my kung-fu master. She is Asian, so I do an Asian nod to close the deal. She smiles.

I am officially ready to be converted into a lady.

A dog called Shabbat

By C. G. Medina

 

I am in Golders Green. It is Saturday. I see all shops closed and I ask my Jewish friend David, who is with me, why.

“It is the day of rest,” he says.

He explains that on Saturday or Shabbat you shouldn’t touch money. He also explains people here are not using electricity today. They light candles, they pray, they read the Torah. They want to spend a day free of distractions.

It is getting dark. A Jewish orthodox man just got out of his house living the door open. He is coming to talk to us.

“Are you Jewish?” he asks.

This man is asking this because David is wearing jeans and he is not wearing a kippa.

“Yes,” says David.

“In that case” says the man with a smile, signaling his home “I will ask someone else. Shabbat Shalom!”

I don’t understand what just happened. David sees my confusion.

“It is not usual, but I think this man probably wanted someone to turn on the lights for him,” he says.

I remember a day when we went to a Jewish centre and people were standing in front of the lift but they wouldn’t push the lift call button.

“They program everything in advance so the lift will open in all floors. The day before they put a timer switch so the lights in the building turn on when it gets dark”, explained David that day.

“Isn’t that like cheating?” I asked.

“Well,” he said. “We are in the 21th century.”

This man we just saw, I decide, doesn’t have a timer switch.

“What if all people passing by are Jewish?” I ask.

He laughs.

“He could train a dog to push the button for him,” he says.

“How would he call the dog?”

“Shabbat?”

I laugh.

“Would the dog be Jewish?” I ask.

“I don’t know, but I would like to have a dog like that. If somebody asks me if I observe Shabbat, I could watch the dog and say I do”