My Body, My Self

I’m ready to take the plunge.

Literally, Im going to the mikvah.

Before I go in, I need to relax.  By the time I go to the mikvah I will have reorganized my schedule, shampooed, conditioned, brushed, buffed, flossed, urinated, decalloused, untangled, scrubbed, bathed, showered, cleaned my ears, blown my nose, waxed (personal choice), searched for stray hairs, manicured  and unpedicured, checked cuticles…..and taken three drops of  Rescue Remedy for anxiety.  Here’s the reason for the stress…the mikvah lady.

Our mikvah lady is nice, she is doing her job.  Avodah Kodesh, people can say.

My question is whether her job training was 100%? Was she taught to “check in emotionally” and not just “check out physically” the women? I want to go to a mikvah without extra inquiries.  It’s an important time for me and I prepare myself.  This is not about the excitement after the mikvah. I’m talking about just being  at the mikvah. A spiritual spa moment, if you will, a time for me and whoever is in my thoughts,

For years I have been coming home after going to the mikvah feeling like a dog with it’s tail between it’s legs; feelings of personal defeat and disappointment. This is not just about the mikvah I presently go to. I have been to many and have finished with the same frustrated feeling.

The “after mikvah” disappointing feeling is not new to me.  However, it has taken me decades to ask myself,  is it just me? Perhaps other women feel nervous standing naked in front of the mikvah lady and feeling  “interrogation.”  When asked if I have prepared, and I say yes, why do I need to be further quizzed if I cleaned my ears?  There are lists hung up on the wall in the mikvah.  I wonder if she does not trust me—Chas V’Chalilah… that is how it feels.

Perhaps for sensitive women like me there could be a form handed in that confirms clearly the completion of  the ritual preparation and does not require further cross examination.

I know there are complicated situations, and I am by no measure a mikvah maven. Here is a personal  example of how rules have bended, but suspicious feelings have remained.  I have acrylic nails.  Acrylic nails have been approved by the Rav of our Mikvah (Baruch Hashem), as long as they cover the entire nail, which requires a manicure as close as possible to the date of going to the mikvah.  If the Mikvah lady needs to check my nails, why does she need to ask when I had a manicure? If my nails are covered, I should be fine, and there is no need for further questioning.

Recently there was, not a chip, but the slightest smudge on my newly manicured nails.  The acrylic was still covering my nail, but she insisted I take off all the polish. What she did not know, was that I left feeling  exposed.  My nails are always polished and after the mikvah I had a meeting.  Another example–maybe this happened to you, as this has happened several times to me.  The mikvah lady insisted that toe nail polish was under my nail, even after I told her I had recently stubbed my toe. Getting down on her hands and knees on the wet tiles, she scrubbed at my toe to attempt to remove a natural blemish while I was standing there helpless.  I felt horrible.

As a developing woman, “Our Bodies, Our Selves” was my bible. Thinking of  that big book brings back a strong wonderful memory of feeling connected to myself and confident I can be in charge and own the gift I have received, my body.  As I prepare myself monthly for the mikvah, that same confident, excited memory comes back to me until, ironically, I have to go to the mikvah.

Before I take the next plunge, I’m shouting out, “This is my body, and this is my preparation for bringing it to a spiritual place. Let me do it, as much as possible, on my own, without interference.”


About the Author
Karen Zivan is a mother of five boys. She is a practicing AEDP and School Psychologist who practices therapy with teens, adults, and parents. Karen is a Yoga Teacher who enjoys traveling around the world to donate yoga. In Israel she donates yoga to soldiers and to her community in Hashmonaim.