Who Is the Perfect Woman and Why Is She Haunting Me?

Have you ever had the misfortune to meet the “perfect” woman? I mean the one who is at the gym at six in the morning, has her kids at school in the dent-free minivan by eight, and is at the office by nine, where she leads her department in sales, not only for last fiscal quarter, but for the entire year? Worse, she also has the audacity to be slender and well-dressed. She doesn’t look a day older now than she did fifteen years ago.

I began reading: “30 days before Pesach: Dust light bulbs in every fixture. Vacuum ceiling air vents.” OMG, as my kids would text. Was this her idea of a Purim joke?

The part of me that would rather sit back and watch a chick flick than face the reality that Pesach was coming wants to hate Tamara, because to rub kosher salt in the wound, she is also a gourmet cook. Last time we spoke, she casually mentioned plans to finally write that cookbook just so she doesn’t have to keep giving out the same recipes over and over to all everyone who asks for them. Naturally, any proceeds from book sales will go to cancer research. It will be hard to find the time for this, since she is also training for a half-marathon.

But how can I hate Tamara? “Hate” is so un-Jewish, and anyway, it’s impossible to hate someone who showed up on my doorstep with hot lasagna for my family when I was in bed with flu. (Thankfully, one of the kids greeted her at the door, sparing me the sight of her in a chic silk dress with high-heeled slingbacks.) Now that I think of it, Tamara was also the one who volunteered to take the kids for a weekend some years back so my husband and I could get away, and then — when my kids were discovered to be lice-infested — didn’t even call me.  She just de-loused them herself. It would take a real blackguard to loathe a woman this selfless, this accomplished, and so very, very nice. I tried to comfort myself for being infinitely less organized, less productive, less glamorous and less filled with the milk of human kindness than Tamara by imagining that she is hiding something dark and terrible, such as kleptomania. But oy, that wasn’t even giving her benefit of the doubt, another Jewish virtue where I am deficient.

How can we protect ourselves from feeling like slackers as we serve pre-Pesach dinners whose recurring theme is “freezer burn” just to get rid of chametz, while she stays up half the night baking a birthday cake for her kid that looks like a pirate ship?

For years I was a slave to these extremely unhelpful comparisons.  No more! Dayenu! Pesach is about freedom, which is something we women need to remind ourselves when we are going mano-a-mano with the business side of a sponge. (But think about how strong our arms will be!) Now I give myself pre-Pesach affirmations, including: I am more than just chopped liver! And: If I get through Pesach without driving my family crazy, keep a smile on my face and feel grateful for all that God has given me, I’m going shopping at Nordstrom after the holiday. I find these are very helpful.

This year, I refuse to try to copy Tamara or anyone else. This year, I have finally figured out that sisterhood may be powerful, but comparisons are poison. My kitchen will never, ever be turned over for Pesach until three days before the holiday, max. (Except for this year, because Shabbat comes so close to Yom Tov and I don’t have a choice.) I will never make those Pesach cakes that require beating a dozen egg whites stiff, because to me, life’s just too short for that sort of activity. Jewish women are really amazing, and we each have our own way of shining, of giving, and of coping with Pesach.

Yes, Pesach is just a heartbeat away, and Tamara has already exhausted her DustBuster and suctioned the basement couches to within an inch of their lives. That’s her choice. Me, I listen to the rabbi who once gave a class saying that outside of the kitchen, cleaning for Pesach should take one hour, tops. (I don’t care that this rabbi was then run out of town, never seen or heard from again; I like his policy and I’m sticking to it.)

Groucho Marx famously said, “I wouldn’t want to belong to any club that would accept me as a member.” Hey, I’m blessed to belong to a group of tremendously accomplished – if occasionally irritating — women who do accept me as a member, and will even de-louse my kids when I’m on vacation. I should complain? I’m a part of the great sisterhood, and we are here for each other. That’s a good place to be.

(Originally published in slightly different form on


About the Author
Judy Gruen writes about culture, family, Jewish growth, and why bad contractors happen to good people. The author of four books, her work has also appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, and 10 book anthologies. She is a regular columnist on, and her most recent book "Till We Eat Again: A Second Helping." She is an active member of Aish HaTorah Los Angeles.