When I was in Junior High, a trend hit suburban New Jersey: Coed Naked.
Coed Naked Lacrosse. Coed Naked Basketball. Coed Naked Cheerleading. Coed Naked Madrigals.
All the kids I knew who were lumped together in some team or club were sporting Coed Naked T-shirts. They were cute, they were kitsch, and I wanted one of my very own that would match with my new red Umbros. But I wanted to be authentic, and the truth was I didn’t fit comfortably into any one group.
Nevertheless, I was determined. I scanned the shelves of the high-end shop on the Philadelphia Main Line – the one whose slogan was “Everything you need for camp and more…” – and was just about to give up when I spotted it.
Coed Naked Twister.
Was I a star Twister player? No, but the shirt was funny. It seemed to be making a mockery of all the jocks, cheerleaders, and polished tennis players (a hybrid of the jock and the cheerleader) who felt the need to make a “lifestyle statement.” And this shirt seemed to exemplify my lifestyle statement: if it makes you giggle and think twice, I want to be a part of it.
Think about it twice, my friends: Coed Naked Twister.
That Coed Naked Twister tee was my favorite clothing item for many years. Right up until I bought the tye-dyed Absolut Israel shirt from Mr. Ts. Sadly, both are now packed away in a box in a warehouse in Northern New Jersey because I didn’t think I would have room for giggling and thinking twice once I moved to Israel. I assumed I would be too busy learning Hebrew, trying to keep my kids away from the makolet, and figuring out which men I could give friendly hugs to and which I couldn’t.
And I was too busy for a while. But now I’ve lived here long enough to stop worrying about blending in and to start expressing with confidence who I am.
I’m just not sure they make a T-shirt for me.
In this land where it seems you often need to be on one team or another, I often feel like the 13-year-old girl scanning the shelves. Am I right or left? Dati or secular? Kosher or pork-eating heathen?
I can’t comfortably or authentically choose any of the above — because I’ve lived with myself long enough to know I’m consistently undecided. Just when I think I have formed a strong opinion, I change my mind. And when it comes to religion and politics in Israel, in particular, some days I agree with my right-wing imaginary friends and some days I stand by the lefties. Some days I’m a gung ho practicing Jew and some days I want to hide my theoretical Star of David inside my T-shirt.
Truly, all I really want from anything is what I got from Coed Naked Twister — a moment in which I feel like I belong and a means to get there by giggling and thinking twice. (Some days, I’d give up the thinking twice, and settle for laughing so hard I cry.)
When you find me a religion or a political party that rallies around that, I’ll make us all a T-shirt.
In the meantime, I’ll proudly wear this one.