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Ask Shifra

Something Different... Answering questions and making curious observations (online) since 2005.

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Thursday, October 26, 2006

Choi ha'Moed at Six Flags Part two - Section two

As promised here is yet another snarky report from my trip to Six Flags.

Since I live outside of New York fast food is a rare treat for my family.
Even though it's bad for us and makes us feel ill, we find it very hard to resist the 6-8 times a year we are in sniffing distance of a kosher delight/burger nosh/whatever.

The trip to six flags was no exception. Knowing that there would be kosher food available I broke out of my usual sandwich and snack packing routine and decided that if I was already spending the money to go on this trip I might as well go all the way.

Apparently there is a kosher food booth at Six Flags all summer long, the very same business which provided the food for the NCSY event (both this year and last.)
Last year there was a huge sukka with pre-made burgers, fries, chicken, snacks etc... kept warm (or cool as needed) and ready to buy with very little confusion. Apparently that wasn't haimish enough so this year they made it as confusing, frustrating and complicated as possible.

To keep things "simple" there was a short list of available menu items for the chol hamoed event clearly posted (with their prices) on small posters in the area of the kosher booth/sukkot. Unfortunately, the management neglected to take down his standard menu and pricing so it was quite evident that he had drastically raised his already high prices for the occasion. I believe that's called price gouging but at least that was consistant with Six Flag's policy of shaking you down for more cash every time you turn around.

Instead of having one large sukkah like last year they opted for several mid-sized sukkot of various types. This gave the men the pleasure of walking around passeling every sukka except the one in which they were eating.

Unlike last year there was no clear direction as to where to actually order, pay for, buy or pick up the food. It was really hot and my kids were quite hungry. We went to check out the sukkot but there was no food for sale in any of them.
There was a medium sized line outside of the permanent kosher food stand and another shorter line in the back which was rumored to be "for snacks only."
I got into the main line behind a man with a red beard pushing an empty stroller who was proabably about 5 years older than me. In front of him were a group of teenaged girls (of the lipgloss and hoodie sweater variety) and in front of them a group of loud and boisterious teenaged boys. And there I stood for 30 minutes without moving. With only 5 menu items you wouldn't think that was possible which leads me to...

#4 @%&*#$ TEENAGERS!!

It seems that this band of teens were ordering for everyone under the sun. A teenager behind me in line kept yelling at the guys up front about how it wasn't right for them to keep letting other people place their orders through them and making everyone else wait. When their calls went unheeded for ten more minutes they finally gave in and asked them to place their order as well. I was pretty annoyed, especially with the people behind the counter! Couldn't they see what was going on or maybe they didn't care as long as the cash kept rolling in.

This line jumping was made worse by the fact that "red beard" would not stand anywhere near the teenaged girls in front of him nor would he stand back near me so there was a huge gap all around him allowing people of all sorts to adjust the lines begining or end according to their liking.

And what was this "mystery line" at the back of the booth? Sure it was shorter but no one knew what it was for. Much speculation was made from my linemates: Was it for drinks only? Pickups? Should we lose our places to find out?
Finally I sent Bas-Shifra to check it out and after waiting only 10 minutes to be served she discovered that yes! you could order food there but she had no money or directions so she left the line and we waited another ten minutes and got our lunch. Overpriced and delicious!


Monday, October 23, 2006

Did I even have to ask?!

Well looks like "Hot Chanie" is the winning topic.
No surprise there I guess - based on the comments both here and on
Orthomom's link to my Six Flags post (which seems to have degenerated into some kind of red shul bash-a-palooza) people seem to have some mighty strong feelings on the subject. My little paragraph even spawned a mini-blog of it's own- when you merely mention a concept and it comes to life without your knowledge it's a little disorienting to say the least.

People seem to have jumped to all kinds of conclusions regarding what I think about Hot Chanies based on my purely observational post. Now that I've had a chance to think about it and read the opinions of others I'm ready to discuss the topic in more depth.
Note the word discuss - not judge- OK Ready?

I certainly have absolutely no objection to Jewish women looking attractive and physically fit.
It drives me crazy when I read that Jewish men are posting things about how no Jewish women are attractive. That's just not true. There are beautiful, attractive women of all religions and nationalities and if none of your own people appeal to you I have a feeling it has nothing to do with looks at all. I appreciate a woman who is not afraid to be herself and doesn't feel a need to hide behind frumpy clothing or dress in the identical blue suit and pageboy sheitel that all her neighbors are wearing while pushing the identical stroller down the sidewalk. Being a frum woman doesn't mean becoming a Stepford Wife and the way a woman dresses allows her to express who she is and what she wants out of life.

Before I go on to discuss the possible motivations of a Hot Chanie let me try to define more carefully exactly who we are talking about here.
I noticed in Orthomom's comment section that one of her readers hit the nail on the head:
"First of all, the Hot Chanie (TM) comment was defined in an environment where such dress didn't seem called for -- as in an amusement park, or taken further, in other "mundane" activities. I don't think the definition applies to how people would dress on shabbos, yom tov, or to a simcha."

There were two things that struck me about the Hot Chanie's I saw at Six Flags, the first was that they were very overdressed for their environment and the second was that they were dressed in a very sexy style while still clearly affiliating themselves with the Yeshivish community/lifestyle.

I grant you that frum women who dress modestly pretty much stand out anywhere they go in the summer. I know *I* do. Skirts, sleeves, and headcoverings are a dead giveaway in 90 degree weather. Add the element of being overdressed and sexy and the Chanie is sure to attract plenty of attention. A woman who is dressed up would certainly not stand out as much at a wedding or a party (or even at shul) where that mode of dress is expected, but when that look is on in full force everywhere a woman goes she has to know that heads will be turning.

As I said in my introduction, the way you dress is a way of expressing yourself - the question is what message are the Chanies trying to convey?

Honestly it's not so surprising that even frum women want to look sexy - it's almost expected of women these days. Even 10 year old girls want to look "hot" - have you SEEN the clothes they are selling in the children's department these days? It's pretty scary.

Based on my experience and discussions with many frum women it would not surprise me to hear that some of these Chanies don't even realise how they appear to men. Despite their apperance they may be quite naive. I'm sure they know they look attractive, stylish, and that they are pushing (agressively) at the borders of their cultural dress code - but the fact that their whole look screams "Take me!" would probably come as quite a surprise to them. While some of these women may be looking for attention it is doubtful that they are looking for extramarital sex and if they knew how their look affected the men around them it would probably give them quite a shock.

What really gets to some people about these Chanies is that they get to live in two worlds - the world of the sleek and stylish (and sexy) and the Yeshiva world.
Women who dress in modest pants, or long skirts with short sleeved shirts, or who live "out of town" can't be in this club, they aren't "frum enough." Their husbands don't wear hats, and their boys don't have payos behind their ears etc, etc...
Yet somehow, because of their sleeve length, these women (who would be tossed out of ANY Bais Yaakov HS for the way they dress) still get to be part of the frummie crowd - what gives?

To those people I ask two questions:
What are you jealous of?
Do you really think anyone is being fooled?

Most people who feel this way would absolutely hate the yeshivish lifestyle - for all I know these Chanies may hate it too and this is there way of rebelling against it in which case it's a pretty brave statement! As for having your cake and eating it too what is the "cake" in questions - Living in Brooklyn? Being considered Frummer than your neighbor? Meh, who needs that?

The truly hard core charedim have no tolerance for this kind of envelope pushing and neither do the serious MO's so perhaps within their own niche their style is accepted and who am I or you to begrudge them the acceptance of their peer group.

I think we all know that the interesting part of this post will be the comments section- so get typing!

Choose your own Adventure (sorta)

This is going to be a busy week for me so I'm going to have to limit my posting even more than usual. I do have a lot of post ideas though (isn't that always the way - when you have time you have no ideas and when you have ideas you have no time!) so I'm going to let you, the readers, vote on my next post topic!

Here are your choices:
A) The second half of the Six Flags Chol Hamoed Post
B) Part seven of the long forgotten online soap opera "The Modern and the Orthodox"
C) More perspective on the "Hot Chanie" issue (which seems to have taken on a life of it's own)
D) An "Ask Shifra question" from the mail bag
E) More feminist/pop-psychology claptrap
F) More tales from my personal life
G) A Shifra & Amram cartoon
(sorry about the F,G mixup earlier - don't work and blog kids.)

List your first and second choices (in that order) in the comments and I will try to get to the top two if at all possible this week.


Friday, October 20, 2006

LOL Issues

I'm working on the second half of my Six Flags/Chol Ha'moed post but now I've got something else on my mind.

My laugh is not office appropriate.

Although the company I work is a bit stodgy my co-workers are a professional but fun (and funny) group. Part of this is because our boss is so moody and quirky that humor is the fastest and easiest was for us to keep each other motivated - but mostly it's just a smart and clever bunch of people who get along really well and have loads of material from right around the office.
I have a very easy laugh and when something strikes me funny I am likely to bust out laughing. As I find my self laughing loudly and often to the whispered jokes and wacky antics of our boss (everyone's favorite is his loud cry of "I'm SOOOO busy!" which is what he says right before he closes his door to make long personal calls which we can all hear through his door) I find myself realizing that I've never cultivated an office appropriate laugh.
Believe me, I've heard worse, my laugh isn't some kind of whinny or snort, just friendly and a bit louder than I'd like at times...

Any advice on how I can it down when jokes catch me off guard?

Monday, October 16, 2006

Chol Ha'moad at Six Flags - part two - section one

Some of my readers may recall that I had a pretty good time last year at the Six Flags Chol Ha'moad. This year was a lot less fun for a whole lot of reasons. Some of them were merely logistical and not related to Jew-y part of the outing for example:
It was a lot warmer and the sun was unexpectedly strong, it wasn't on a Sunday so there were fewer attractions to see, there were more regular customers there so the lines were longer, and it was late in the year so all the water rides were closed etc...

As expected there were Jews of many stripes there and the Chiluli Hashem managed to cross all sectarian boundaries. I'm pressed for time (and frankly Henry did so well with his Hersey Park post that I don't want to be redundant) so I will dedicate my posts this week to two specific areas - Jewish Fashion and Kosher Food.

This, is the (incredibly shallow) Fashion post.

MEN- I didn't really notice what most of the men were wearing - the yeshivishe look doesn't do much for me and besides, they all look pretty much the same. I did notice many men had a veritable utility belt of communication devices, or hockerwear(TM) as I like to call it. Many of them spent a large portion of their trip on the phone ignoring their children as they climbed all over the railings and mauled the Halloween decorations clearly marked "Do Not Touch." I noticed that most men left their hats in the car (presumably) with the exception of the Chabadniks who were seen running about the park accosting their fellow Jews with the Arbah Minim.

TEENS- The gang of teenagers who showed up for this event were largely a motley crew. Many boys wore no kippa (but plenty of hair gel) or the silky crinkled "from the bar mitzva of" variety. Also popular were T-shirts with rude expressions, flip flops or well worn sneakers and jeans. The girls wore short denim skirts and tight tops, hooded sweatshirts and an abundance of lipgloss and eye glitter. As was the case last year the guys seemed to hang with the guys and the girls with the girls, although they groups kept a close watch on one another.
The more yeshivish girls (who came with their families) wore the traditional black shoes, black tights, black skirt and neat sweater. Yeshivish looking teenaged boys were notably absent.

Kids- The families that brought children were mostly yeshivish. I guess it's only worth the trip from Brooklyn if you are taking more than six kids along for the ride. They were the best dressed kids in the park (or course) and lines for the tot-rides looked like a high end stroller showroom.

Women - Oh... My... God! Why oh why would a woman go to six flags in a sheitle and high heels?! I understand it's chol ha'moed and you don't want to look shlumpy but I saw some women there with more jewelry on than I will own in my lifetime. Do the words ostentatious and inappropriate mean nothing to these people? NO? OK how about mugging?

At the other extreme there were a few older Chasidish women dressed in shapeless velvety bathrobes and slipping snoods revealing what I'll generously refer to as "high foreheads." They shuffled around the place as if it were an extention of their bedrooms occasionally yelling a few words in Yiddish to one of their many children as they zipped to and fro.

There were also a few women who I'll call "Hot Chanies" (also TM.) These women, mothers in their mid-twenties or early thirties who came to the park with boys with payos tucked behind their ears, and little girls in tights and matching jumpers. These women were dressed to kill (think Boro Park meets Bond girl) in full makeup with long, sleek, sexy sheitles, tight sweaters and skirts slit high up the side, and high heeled boots! Bending over to put their kids into the rides they certainly attracted plenty of attention if not wolf whistles. This is a style I've not seen much of before but it didn't seems to phase their husbands who seemed to gaze about blankly while talking on their cell phones (as mentioned above.)

OK this was a shallow post I admit, but fun.
I spent my whole adolescence being "deep." Clearly the ditzy girls were onto something, but I promise not to make it a habit.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Chol Ha Moed Chilluli Hashem

One of my neighbors - a nice guy/computer geek/sometimes comedy writer- sent me this guest post on his impressions of his trip to Hersey Park over Chol Hamoed.

For reasons unknown to me some people think that being part of the "am ha'nivchar" gives them the right to act like total jerks in public. When too many of those people get together this is what results.
Look for my post next week with remarkably similar impressions from my Chol Ha'Moed trip to Six Flags Great Adventure.


PS My neighbor asked me to assign him a secret identity - please note this post was not written by the REAL Henry Kissinger.

Random Observations from my Chol Hamoed Sukkot trip to Hershey Park

On Tuesday, my family and I went to Hershey Park. We've been there before, most recently this summer, but have never been to one of these special Chol Hamoed trips. (At least not since High school, but things were different then)

Here are some random observations:

1) Stroller etiquette
We got there early (Maybe the 40th car in the lot with about that number of people piling out of each car) and went first to Chocolate World which had a stroller parking lot that was only about 5-10% full. However, these strollers still managed to block the entrance. My wife, who is a stroller expert, noted that they were all fancy European strollers. I guess they come
with the same parking rules as fancy european sports cars.

Later on we had a hard time getting our stroller through the single aisle in the sukkah as it was blocked by other strollers.
Here's a rule of thumb I came up with: If parking your stroller in the middle of the aisle would block someone with an equivalent stroller from getting through, something is wrong.

Some of the strollers were used to carry bags of Brooklyn take out. That's an OK idea, but not as good as...

2) The rolling suitcases

People in the park actually had large suitcases that they were rolling around, presumably filled with food. Strange, but not a bad idea.

3) Theme music

Instead of the usual instrumental music which is not kosher for some reason, the park was playing jewish music (I don't know which performer) Apparently, with 28-30 dollars a pop from thousands of people (not to mention the 3.50 hot dogs, etc..), they were only able to afford one tape played in a loop which got real annoying real fast. Even the Music Express that usually plays pop music, played the same tape. It just wasn't the same.

4) General rudeness and line cutting.

On Monday, the day before our trip, I was driving to work and noticed a minivan behind me full of kids that could have been a family going on a Chol Hamoed trip. "How nice", I thought. A minute later I slowed down a bit to let someone pull in front of me and I got honked. That sort of set the tone of how things went at hershey park.

On all of my outings to amusement parks, I have never seen security called until now. We were towards the front of a somewhat long line for the monorail and there was a family trying to get in through the exit with some story about how they were in line at some point and only some of them left and then this one ran after that one and the other one followed this one and the park is closing soon so it isn't fair that they should have to wait in line again. The poor atttendant kept politely telling them that they can't cut the line but the family refused to budge so she had to call a manager. A few minutes later a security guard showed up. I don't know what happened next because I was distracted by the man with a large tray of food pushing through the line. (He was asked to leave as well).

I also saw a lot of kids on lines who were obviously shorter than the ride allowed. On one particular kiddie ride, the operator kept being inundated by people wanting their under height kid to go on the ride. (The ride was a mini merry go round with no straps. I guess they don't mind if little chezky goes flying) A woman in front of us was complaining to her husband and the operator that there are no rides that her kid can go on. I politely pointed out to her the adjancent ride which allowed kids of that size. She made a face at me. I think she cared more about arguing then her kid.
There are 36 rides in the park that these size kids can go on. How do I know?
a) I looked at the map. I don't think anyone else there bothered.
b) I have a daughter that age. Did she cry when she couldn't go on some of the rides? Yes. Do I want her to be a flying Chezkie? No.

The general level of line cutting was higher than on our summer trip. You get on a presumably short line but then all of a sudden the kid in front of you turns into 12 kids wearing the same exact clothing.

The sad part, besides the obvious chillul hashem, is that none of this suprised me.

5) Mincha
They offered 2 mincha minyans. I showed up 3 minutes early to one and was pulled into a breakaway minyan. I'm not from Brooklyn so I find that slightly amusing.

6) Mix of people
By the kiddie rides, it was predominintly yeshivish people. The roller coaster lines were full of teenagers. Suprisingly few orthodox looking ones though. I wonder why?

All in all though, the rides were the same rides, the chocolate the same chocolate, so we had a great time.

Was anybody else there? Did anybody go to Sesame Place where they had separate fully clothed swimming in the middle of October? (It is in Pennsylvania) I'm sure AskShifra would love to hear about it.


Henry Kissinger

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Six Flags over Sukkot Part 2

I've noticed that my Six Flags posts from last year have been getting a lot of hits lately.
As you'll see from my post, it's a good deal and a good time especially if you like rollercoasters, hamburgers and ummm... Jews!

I'm lucky enough to have tomorrow off - so there was no weasling out of taking my girls again this year.

If you are planning to be there drop me a line.


Friday, October 06, 2006

Chag Sameach!

I love Sukkos - it's a great, fun holiday, not to mention my birthday! Unfortunately after Rosh Hashana, two fast days, building the sukkah, cooking, and cleaning (not to mention working full time) I usually find myself completely zonked when it arrives.

At this point my mind is so sponge like (and not in the good way) that I don't know whether to fax someone a roast, or iron the quarterly reports- so I'll just lie low here at the office today working slowly and quietly until I can speed the forty miles home and begin the pre-chag rush.

I can't believe I'll have to do this all again next week too... OK OK I can't think about that right now... sufficed to say that blogging will be light at best until after Simchas Torah.

Wishing you all a good Yom Tov.