Once or twice a year I travel to Johannesburg. With three daughters living there with their families—including twelve (soon to be 14; tfu, tfu, tfu!) grandchildren—it is a hop, skip and a jump from the Holy Land to the land of biltong and pedicures.
Something downright eerie happens to my psyche upon returning from these jaunts. I morph into full babe mode like nobody’s business; Immediately I renew my subscription to Groupon, scouting out affordable day spas, nail salons and lounge-wear. Mornings include leg-lifts and attention to belly-flab. Lip-pencils become the new go-to accessories and salt-and-pepper hair no longer seems quirky and whimsical. Returning from the land of self-care and full-time household help, it doesn’t seem noble to save shekels by eschewing the acts of vanity that Johannesburg women enjoy as rites of passage. Sporting sandals year round, and a commitment to veganism, is not as celebrated down there as it is in the land of our forefathers.
Perhaps the most revealing result of these bi-annual forays is a crazy devotion to housekeeping. After two weeks in homes that are dust-free and smell like lemon-wax, I attack my shabby abode with unrecognizable energy. Should I be ashamed to declare that I like walking on floors that are so clean that my calloused feet remain as pale on bottom as they do on top? Is it a moral weakness to enjoy the pink polish on my little piggies that can be re-lacquered for only a few rands every time they chip? May I confess that I rarely wash my own hair when visiting my daughters because, for pennies, a modern mall-salon will shampoo, condition and blow-out my curly locks for the same price as a container of milk in Jerusalem? Is it a crime to celebrate the stress of self-pampering with an obligatory latte and croissant while, at the same time, debating whether to braai a couple of steaks for dinner, or just bring in from the kosher bistro on the corner where the service is genteel and the customer is king?
What does seem criminal is the way I bring home these antithetical values for—at best—a fortnight and think that the high will last. It never does. Without warning I awaken to a life in which I cannot afford cleaning help, manicures/pedicures cost nearly as much as a small sports-car, and where take-out food is both expensive and accompanied with a hefty dose of aggression. While I chose to live in Israel for a myriad of lofty-reasons, the return from Johannesburg might improve with a stint in rehab.
The hubby always looks forward to my respective homecomings, because the gal he picks up at Ben Gurion changes the sheets more frequently than before, and decorates his salmon supper with sprigs of parsley. A little dose of narcissism results in shaved-gams and a renewed interest in scented body-butter.
Oh, the things we do for those we love…
New York-born Andrea Simantov is a mother of six who moved to Jerusalem in 1995. She frequently lectures on the complexity and magic of life in Jerusalem and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.