The Chore of Mikvah
I used to enjoy going to the mikvah. I used to enjoy the whole spirituality of the evening, the whole build-up to a romantic evening with my husband after days and days of separation.
Then we moved. And my new mikvah just makes me cringe. Oh, don’t get me wrong – it’s gorgeous. Stunning. I have never in my life been to such a fancy mikvah. But it’s big – 80 preparation rooms – and impersonal. A mikvah factory, if you will.
In my old mikvah I knew the mikvah lady, I knew her name and how many grandchildren she had. I knew where to pick up supplies, where to leave my towels. It was comfortable. I knew that when I was ready to dunk the mikvah lady would knock on my door, check my back for any errant loose hairs, check my nails, and lead me, with a smile, to the mikvah. Every time it was the same.
I feel judged at my new mikvah. The first time I went there the mikvah lady – one of several – told me my nails weren’t trimmed properly, and that I hadn’t tweezed my eyebrows just right. The next time the mikvah lady – a different one – turned her nose up at my gel nails and said my immersion would be invalid. I gave her my rabbi’s number, said he paskened (ruled) that gel nails are not a barrier to immersion. She took out her nail clippers and demanded to see my toenails because she was sure she could see a hangnail. I said no. I said my toenails were hangnail-free. She grudgingly allowed me to dip.
Two visits, two negative experiences. Since then, I tell the mikvah ladies NOT to check for errant hairs, not to check my nails. I tell them that I am ready as I am; that I have checked myself and do not need their help. Most of the time this is met with suspicious looks, but I don’t care. I will not let anyone make me feel I am not good enough, or haven’t prepared to their standard. I have been doing this mikvah deal for almost 20 years (minus the years I was divorced). I prepare at home. I am at the mikvah only long enough to do my three dips, get dried and come home.
By preparing at home I am trying to make the mikvah trip into less of a chore. I am trying to negate that whole “necessary evil” aspect I feel is there. I don’t want mikvah to be a chore but I don’t know how to get back that spirituality that I used to have.