Tuesday, August 19, 2014

365 days later

Who is that girl I see, staring straight back at me?

Exactly a year ago I was sitting at home, eyeing the 30 pills of Xanax that my doctor so graciously prescribed for my flight.  Today, I sit in a room full of papers and computers, wondering where my gracious doctor could be found.  They say a lot can happen in a year but no one told me what I was about to sign up for.

You know those Claritin commercials?  The ones that are all foggy and then magically become clear thanks to drugs?  That’s what life feels like these days…and yes, Torah is my drug.  My wardrobe no longer contains pants, my vocabulary includes words like mamesh, assur, dafka, and stam (all of which need to be suppressed regularly), my diet has way too many rules around it, my actions are always surrounded by appropriate brachot, and my dating life is nothing like it used to be.  Okay, that last one is half a lie...maybe.  Everything I do suddenly has a purpose.  Whether it’s because I believe I’m in service of Hashem or because I feel like I’m one step closer to reaching my full potential as a person, these actions have brought about a completely new consciousness of the world around me.  For the first time, the fog is start to lift.

During the last 2 months of my time in Israel, there was one topic that came into conversation on a daily basis.  In one form or another, it came down to people arguing all of the reasons as to why I needed to stay in Israel.  “You’re going to teach kids in bad areas?  We have those too!  You can stay here.”  “But how are you going to keep Shabbos and kashrut?  It’s much easier here.  You have to stay.”  “America?  No, no.  I must introduce you to [insert male name here].  Then you won’t need America.”  They all brought valid points to the table.  So why is it that I’m so happy here?

Let me share a mashal with you:  I met a guy on the Subway platform.  His name is Thelmo, he teaches baseball, and he likes jazz music.  He wanted to know when I’d have some free time and, with half a smile on, I said “in a couple of years.”  Thelmo then tried to take my wrong answer and turn it into a learning opportunity:  “You’re going to need to find some time to relax otherwise you’ll get worn out!  I go to lots of jazz festivals.  What’s your number?  I’ll let you know the next time I’m going to one!”

For many reasons, it was a pretty funny conversation.  Yet the thing that stuck out was how strongly I disagreed with the need to find relaxation time.  I don’t need to find this time…it’s already been built into my schedule.  Every week, we end Shabbos with a particular prayer:

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ, הַמַּבְדִיל בֵּין קֹֽדֶשׁ לְחוֹל
Blessed are you, G-d, who distinguishes between holy and mundane.

I found it so hard to connect with these words while in Israel because there never really was a separation.  Even on days when I wasn't studying Torah all day, the streets were alive with kedusha.  No one questioned what you wore, where you ate, or why you were walking around muttering to yourself all day.  People on the streets wouldn't necessarily agree with your choices, but there was always a mutual understanding of the root of these decisions.  America may require more explanations of my practices, but it creates a space where my Judaism can become so special.  When I hear havdalah (chas v'shalom a woman makes havdalah), I'm actually pained to see Shabbos end.  I have to leave the bubble of crowded meals, communal davening, Torah talk, niddah studies, and long Shabbos walks in the park.  And then I hear those familiar voices in my head "But you can have that all week if you stay!  Why go back to America?"

As I say goodbye to one type of kedusha, I reenter another type of kedusha- the one defined by the rich, vibrant Hispanic community that I'm blessed to live and work in.
I'm even working on my Spanish...Yo no estoy borracho, sólo intoxicado por ti ;)

I miss Israel with all my heart, but I've found that my Judaism thrives in a place where it's not the norm.  The constant battle and decisions that need to be made are significant to this journey.  I didn't fight the system of 3 men so I could sit back and passively watch things happen.  Take away the struggle and the fog will quickly fill the space.

They say a lot can change in a year.  Peace of mind was enough, but I'm in love with everything that came along with is. 

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Ragers, decrees, and life-long journeys

It's OK troops, the antigravity sickness will wear off momentarily.  Now, let's move!

Counting things is really great.  For example:  how many kids can fit in a minivan, how many eggs are required for kugel, and just how many bus rides do you need to recite all of Tehillim?  (jokes... I think...)

In actuality, counting can be a very powerful thing.  Today marks the 49th day of the Omer- the time period between the second day of Pesach and Shavuot.  For people who look forward to a daily mitzvah that has to be performed consecutively, these 7 weeks are spiritually satisfying.  For all us normal kids, it can be pretty stressful.  You have to remember which day it is (49 times) and can only count as it becomes dark.  It's amazing that anyone can make it to the end, unless you daven ma'ariv every single day.  But for me, that's too many "b'li neders" to handle so I'm extremely happy for handy dandy omer-counting-apps.

Vayikra 23:15 is the source of this anxiety-filled time period:
וּסְפַרְתֶּם לָכֶם מִמָּחֳרַת הַשַּׁבָּת מִיּוֹם הֲבִיאֲכֶם אֶת עֹמֶר הַתְּנוּפָה שֶׁבַע שַׁבָּתוֹת תְּמִימֹת תִּהְיֶינָ
We could just leave it at "the Torah made me do it," but we live in a day where most of us need to find a personal, more meaningful reason for doing these absurd rituals that can take hours to explain to our non-religious/non-Jewish friends.

Shavuot is the holiday when the Jewish people received the Torah at Sinai, complete with thunder boomers, billows of smoke, and shofar blasts.  Sounds like the best rager of the century with the addition of a lengthy list of laws...probably my top 2 favorites in life.  If you were invited to go to the best party in all the lands you'd probably be counting down the days on your stone calendar.  So this makes sense- the Jewish people like counting down to their exciting life events.

But wait, this presents a problem.  We're not counting down during the omer count; we're counting up!  Don't be alarmed, we can find some spiritual satisfaction in this too.  The past 7 weeks have been considered a time to prepare and refine ourselves.  This journey began as we transitioned out of our state as slaves and ends as we receive the Torah.  We went from being empty, deflated matza-souls to being completed, dairy-induced bloated souls (the best kind out there).  As we continue to add to our lives, we increase the daily count to remind us of all that we've accomplished and obtained since that first day.

This year, Shavuot isn't just a culmination of the past 7 weeks for me but a time to reflect on everything that's happened this year.  A time to count my blessings for every single opportunity I've encountered, every person I've met, every text I've learned to call my own, every place I've fallen in love with, and every mark that's been made on my soul.  As I look back, I feel conflicted to think about the fact that I'm leaving the place that made all of this happen.  Like the Israelites, I'm hesitant to make that next step into "foreign territory."

There are plenty of other things I'd like to say but chag is quickly approaching and there's plenty left to do.  So I'll end by saying this:  What am I going to do next year when my mornings don't start with intense text study, when I can't say things like mamesh, assur, baruch HaShem, yotzei, kal v'chomer, davka, and mixed dancing, and, above all, when I realize that I need to eliminate the phrase "I'm about to pee my pants."

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Bittuling out the bittul?

The honey bee that fetch the nectar from the flowers to the comb never tire of ever buzzing to and fro because they take a little nip from every flower that they sip.

These past couple of weeks have been full of "reflection time."  Teachers want to meet to discuss how the year went, administration wants you filling out evaluation forms to express your feelings, and every single student seems to have stopped mid-sentence and screamed out, "In 2 weeks, I'll be in America."  It's a strange time around these neck of the woods.

I've done a lot of reflecting myself and I want to be frank with you.  Whenever someone asks me how Pardes is going, I immediately answer with a big ol' "AMAZING!"  And then I realize that that's not always how I feel about this place.  Should I mention to this person that the learning isn't as intense as it could be?  Should I make a comment that most people only have this one year to dedicate to Torah study, yet the Beit Midrash can be more of a social scene full of "gossiping" and bittul Torah?  Is it too petty to complain that we can't even think about advertising anything that happens during school hours, yet sound-checks in the Beit Midrash in the middle of chevruta time is encouraged?  And what about all those times that lengthy class discussions revolve around mundane topics?

As I sit here and think about the year, I'm content with the concept of it being over.  So where does this "AMAZING" come from?

With the year coming to an end, the faculty have been on a mission to figure out what's worked in the past and to identify problems that need to be worked on in the future.  They've turned to various students for help on various sensitive issues.  For me, it was conversion (surprise, surprise).  Meesh asked if I would be willing to come talk during lunch...and then she sent me the "official" email invite:

We invited only your most trusted companions:  Rahel, Meir, TLN, DLK, Michael H, Zvi H, and David Bernstein, so there is no need to be nervous.

No need to be nervous!?  I was just invited to walk into a room with 8 of the most brilliant, beautiful minds I had ever met...and you think I'm not going to be nervous?

I walked into that room with a list of things I wanted to say.  Concepts of things that had affected me negatively, words spoken by other people that had left a mark, and potential ideas for how to change things in the future.  To be honest, I'm not sure that I articulated any of that.  As I started talking, I looked around the room to see 8 pairs of eyes staring at me.  Behind those eyes were 8 incredible souls that had all helped me on this wild journey- some in very direct ways, some in more indirect ways, but all in some way.  I felt like I was betraying them by pointing out every thing that "went wrong" when these were the very people that helped make things right.

At some point I had the urge to scream out "please stop looking at me."  I decided to resist from doing so and therefore continued with my half-incoherent rambling.  It wasn't until after, however, that I realized just how powerful it was to sit in that room.

Once upon a time, I had 3 sets of eyes staring through me, burning holes into my soul.  Yet in those 20 minutes of lunch, 8 sets of eyes saw those holes and taught me how to heal.

Pardes isn't just a place for Torah- it's a place to build a supportive family for life.  And that right there bittuls out all of the bittul Torah.

Monday, May 12, 2014


They want a docile lamb, no one knows who I am.  Must there be a secret me, I'm forced to hide?

Warm. Calm. Secure.
Like the beginning of a journey;
sliding back into the womb.

The presence of a woman nearby
taking on the role of a proud mother.
She helped to pull away the layers
that once hid the interior.
And after?
She'll be the first to express her love
while the child is exposed and raw-
Still Dripping Wet

Yet in between

the natural waters encapsulated
in a man made vessel
start to Quiver.

The child watches
the imaginary sailors
on the imaginary ship
all get thrown

She too feels as though she's about to drown

Judges of "truth"
[as they see fit]
come to tower over her.
Like the morning sun about to melt the daily portion.
Their rays burning scars into her skin;
passing through the layer of cloth that
they made her wear.

A layer to wear to cover up her
true self
A layer that she can't manage to wear
As it slides up and continues to expose her
provocative self

This is truth.

49 different ways
all swimming around in these
choppy waters
yet The Sun can only see the cloth.

And for now,
that's all she can afford to see

Monday, March 31, 2014

Just a jump to the right?

Magic mirror on the wall, who is the fairest one of all?

It was 3:30 on a beautiful Friday afternoon when Judy and I started to embark on our big trip to Alon Shvut.  The plan was simple:  go tremping, make a left, find the green garbage cans, go down the stairs opposite said garbage cans, knock on the door.  This turned into tremping with Sam's hair stuck in the car door, making a left at the wrong gate, finding a map to navigate the community, walking past the garbage cans we wanted, and greeting Zvi's son as he was taking out the recycling.  But we made it.

I could talk about the amazing food we ate, how incredible Zvi's family is, our how the community is so beautiful...but you should go and experience that for yourself.  I could also recount all of the embarrassing stories his daughter shared or the even more embarrassing conversations that took place at the table...but I was told by his oldest son that those conversations were NOT to leave the table.  Instead, let me share my inner dialogues.

My davening experience this Shabbos was amazing.  Sure, we didn't sing any of Kabbalat Shabbat and the service went even faster than where I normally go.  Yes, things were a little out of order and the nusach suddenly changed on us.  However, my kavana was spot on; I was truly connected with my prayers.  This is a feeling that I've been lacking lately, so I started questioning what was so different.  Why did I feel so comfortable in my seat and completely undistracted from the rest of the world?

And then it hit me:  I wasn't on the other side of a see-through mechitza.  Nope, I was standing in the balcony, up and away from everything that was taking place in the men's section.  And I liked it.
(I was warned by one of my rabbis that if I were to say this in Pardes, the reaction would probably be to stone me...please don't.)

This thought scared me a little.  The last time I was davening in a balcony was when I spent Shabbos in Efrat.  I remember coming back to Jerusalem thinking I had at least figured out what I didn't want in a mechitza.  Yet now I liked it!?  This gap needed to be reconciled.

In typical Gemara fashion, let me make an analogy.  My year here is starting to sound much like the way the Gemara is formatted.  A question is asked, a conversation starts, the conversation gets wayyyyy off topic, and then somehow the original question is concluded and they move on to the next question (okay, not always but we're going to roll with it anyway).  I came to Israel with a lot of questions about my observance levels and various customs.  At a certain point, life happened and I put most of these questions on the back burner.  They were still semi there, but they couldn't be my main focus.  Countless conversations have been had these past couple of months- some related to the original thoughts, but most were completely off topic.  And then I had a "sh'ma mina" moment while standing on that balcony.  Do I have concrete answers?  No.  But I sure do feel at ease about this conversation.

The more I thought about this, the more I realized just how scared I am of going home and having my community see just how far to the "dark side" I've gone.  This surely isn't the first time I've thought about this fear, but now I can finally put it into words.  Most people are only going to see the "end product" without having knowledge of the conversations and thought process that I took to get there.  To make another analogy, it's like reading the Shulchan Aruch without analyzing the discussions that took place between previous halachic authorities.  The absurd halachos that we may or may not follow today may actually have logical reasoning behind them.

A friend asked me the other day when I was going to stop doing things that the Beit Din wanted me to do.  I found this question incredibly intriguing considering there's nothing I'm doing today (except for unnecessary, weekly lady learning classes) that I'm not doing because I want to be doing them.  It seems like so many people here are making the wrong assumptions about my reasoning behind various practices.  If this is what it's like in such an open environment, what's going to happen when I head back to America?

It's amazing what would happen if we stopped assuming and starting diving into the deeper conversations.  It was mentioned in class the other day that we often put up our defenses because we're afraid of reality.  But how scary can reality be...it's the only solid thing that we have to go on.  I dare you to start asking about the hidden dialogue behind peoples' actions.  You'll probably come to discover that you're wrong about almost everything.

And on that note, feel free to confront me about my skirt length, lack of being shomer negiah, (anti)interest in making aliyah, shabbos observances, davening affinity, and new-found love of balcony mechitzos...you're assumptions are definitely wrong.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Tribal gowns and knit kippot

She believed in dreams, all right, but she also believed in doing something about them.  When Prince Charming didn't come along, she went over to the palace and got him.

For anyone who hasn't already heard the play-by-play (or can't wait to hear it again) of the Beit Din/mikva experience, click HERE and enjoy.

They say it takes a village to raise a child.  Who's in my village?  There's the mikva attendant who bear hugged me while dripping wet and naked to give me a proper welcome to the tribe.  The bus driver who insisted on a proper "good morning" before taking my money to get back to Jerusalem.  The rabbi who essentially lied to the beit din because he recognizes my commitment and passion for Judaism.  The woman I met at Yedidya who made sure that there was a cake in my honor during Shabbos kiddush at shul.  The gabbai who intends to look up a proper mishaberach to be included during next week's service and his wife who insists that they could have done more when, in reality, they were the perfect support system.

And then there's the Pardes community.  The rabbi who sat with me Christmas morning while I cried about not being home.  The friend who felt such nachas when I said motzi that first time.  The roommates who threw an almost surprise pool party.  The teachers that held my hand, gave me hugs, helped give me a sense of direction, insisted on going for manicures, and always had time to listen.  The peers who let me learn with them, let me learn next to them, let me into their spiritual journeys, and let me make all the (anti)frum jokes I needed to.  The rabbi who helped me fight from the beginning, saw the pain, heard me curse, pushed me to my limits, and will never understand the need for "happy tears."

And then there's chutz l'aretz.  The guy who made me aware in the first place and (indirectly) pushed me to do this.  His mom who showed me that I could find a place in Judaism that encompassed all of my needs.  The friends that had connections with the Rabbanute, let me complain for days on end, and gave me the support I needed regardless of the distance between us.  The Hillel eboard members that were willing to take over during Shabbos dinner because I was too angry to be in such a Jewish room.  The director and rabbi that sent out countless emails to their networks and continue to be so invested in my life.  The Chabad staff that were willing to go above and beyond because they recognized my passion.  The shul community from home that, regardless of me going to the "dark side," will forever be a part of my family.  And, above all, the parents that support me even in such foreign territory.

Words will never begin to explain just how blessed I feel to have such a large village standing with me.

This past week, everyone has been asking a set of questions:  How are you going to celebrate?  Do you feel any different now?  How did it feel in the mikva?  Do you really think you weren't Jewish until now?  Everyone received the same answer:  I don't know, I'm still processing.  Ask me in a week.  It's been a week and no one has asked me again.  But I suppose I should share anyway...

How am I going to celebrate?  This question was one of the more difficult.  Was this really a celebratory moment?  I was raised Jewish.  I've been doing kiruv since forever.  All I really did was go to a couple of lady learning classes, fight the Israeli government, fight the rabbis (or the shin-dalets), answer some difficult questions, and cannonball into a tiny pool of water.  I did all of that in less than six months.  It takes most people at least a year (usually much longer) to go through this.  How could I look at all of that and feel comfortable celebrating my shortcuts?  But that's the thing- it's not about celebrating what happened.  That final dunk brought about the realization that I have a ginormous, ever-growing village on my side.  There's no need to do anything (right now) to rejoice.  The rest of my life will be one huge celebration.  What more could a girl ask for?

Do I feel any different? Nope, I'm still me.  The only difference is that I don't have that inner machloket going on anymore.  I feel 100% at peace and I can honestly say that I haven't felt that way in years.

How did the mikva feel?  Well, it was a little uncomfortable wearing the tribal gown with 5 people standing there staring at me.  It was super warm, but I HATE putting my face underwater.  So that was kind of sucky.  But you know what was really fascinating?  The timing of everything.  There's a mishna that discusses a situation of a man in the mikva at the exact time to say the morning Shema.  When learning that in class, we all wanted to know when this situation could possibly occur.  It didn't make any sense to us.  However, let it be known that I was in the mikva at the last possible time that one could fulfill their obligation of saying their morning Shema.  THEN there was the walk to the bus.  First thing I heard upon walking outside?  There was a rooster crowing.  Every morning we recite a bracha thanking Hashem for giving the rooster wisdom to distinguish between night and day.  It was a really powerful thing to hear that sound and think about the meaning behind this bracha.

Did I really think I wasn't Jewish?  This is a loaded question.  There's a good argument to be made as to why I wasn't a member of the tribe.  Torah came from Sinai, our Sages were able to pass down the lessons, we need to take them as truth, and therefore this is the only true way to become a Jewish.  Just kidding, that was my brain washed answer.  But in reality, why would anyone have to go through all of this if they were always considered Jewish?  How could I really believe that my status was 100% yet an Orthodox rabbi wouldn't marry me and my kids' status would be questionable.  It's not possible (in my humble opinion) to be "half-Jewish" so it was a yes or no question.

But then there's the other side of things.  Judaism isn't only bound by halacha.  It's composed of a rich culture and sense of community.  I've had both of those since I was old enough to figure out how to sit on the floor during minyan and put money into the pushka.  I may not have been a "halachic Jew," but I sure was an integral part of the Jewish community.  So what was the need to go through this "extra" conversion?  *Dvar Torah Alert*  Last week's parsha was Parshat Tetzaveh.  It's really an exciting parsha full of lots of adventure.  If you haven't read it already, stop what you're doing and go check it out.  If you have read it, then you'll know that it discusses the preistly garments worn by the kohanim while serving in the Temple.  Maimonides writes that a kohein wearing fewer garments than he is required to wear will invalidate the service performed and he will be subject to punishment by death as if he were an alien who served in the Mikdash.  When they wear their priestly clothing their priestly status is upon them.  When the garments are not being worn, their priestly status is removed (severely paraphrased from Hilchot Klei HaMikdash 10:4).  Going off of this, it seems like I was wearing most of my "Jewish garments" but there were still a couple missing.  In order to be fully dressed, I needed to get the Rabbanute to sign a document and then go for that swim.  Now that I've completed these tasks, I'm "properly dressed" and can perform my "Jewish service."

So which opinion do I agree with?
I'm done.


Tuesday (Jan 28/27 Shevat):
It was a normal Tuesday evening.  Finish Pardes classes at 5, frantically run to the bus stop, ride around Jerusalem for about an hour, sit through my lady learning class, talk to Rav D, go home angry.  But on this particular night, I left thinking "ma nishtana ha'lila ha'zeh?"  Why was this night different all of a sudden?  Simple.  It included a great quote from RavD:  "I can tell this process is causing you a lot of pain.  Okay, we'll get to the Beit Din within the next month.  Actually, there's a girl who's supposed to go on Thursday but she doesn't have all of her papers yet.  Are you ready to go on Thursday?"


Thursday (Jan 30/29 Shevat):
I think it's safe to say that I spent the entire morning pooping.  "Being nervous" doesn't even begin to explain it.  RavD called me several times beforehand to go over some of the questions that I needed to know and then spent about 20 minutes convincing me of all the reasons why people should be shomer negiah.  Then I convinced him that of course I can't wait to make aliyah and live here forever.  It was a really heartfelt conversation.

Anyway, the time came to leave for my appointment.  RavD and Zvi (or Rav Zvi as I was instructed to call him that day) met me at the office...and then it was go time.  There was a whole lot of Hebrew and giggling going on between the 5 rabbis sitting in that room.  It gave me some time to breath, but then the questioning started.  One of the Beit Din (BD) rabbis (with their knit kippot and short beards) would ask a question in Hebrew, Zvi or RavD would translate, I would answer in English, Zvi or RavD would translate back, and then I'd get a funny look from the BD.  I was asked about which brachot a person would say over certain foods, why women are obligated in Hanukkah but not in Hallel during Hanukkah, what things are added into davening and birkat hamazon during Rosh Chodesh (which started Thursday night), how to properly shect a cow (including how long to salt the meat for), and difficult questions about the Gemara that we had spent all of 2 days learning in class.  Zvi only had to jump in 2 times to inform the BD about their unfair questions.

I think my favorite part was seeing their reaction to the fact that not everyone in the Conservative Movement keeps kosher.  Their heads nearly exploded.  It was amazing.

They told the 3 of us to go back to the waiting room as they discussed the verdict.  After a significant amount of time, RavD decided he was going in to find out why they were taking so long.  After a couple of minutes, he came back out to inform us that they were debating about me learning in a mixed gender environment.  Obviously a person's Jewish status should be based upon whether or not they learn with cootie-infested boys...

Finally, we were called back in.  They explained their concerns to me and I convinced them that I'm truly against mixed learning, avoid chevrutahing with guys, and from here on out plan to only engage in Torah study in all female institutions.  So maybe it was immoral to lie to the BD.  I can't say I really care.

I made a declaration that I accept all of the mitzvot, said Shema, and received a piece of paper with three signatures on it.  Zvi and I walked outside.  He davened mincha while I bawled my eyes out.  And that was that.

Wednesday (Feb 5/5 Adar1):
My mikva appointment was at 9:15AM in Hod HaSharon.  That meant waking up at 5:30, getting to the central bus station around 6:30, jumping on another bus for an hour, and taking a mini stroll to find this building.  Everything was going smoothly until I sat down on the bus and realized that one of the BD rabbis was sitting right behind me.  This was by far the most terrifying thing.  I decided against eating any of the bus snacks I had for fear that he might ask me brachot questions and made sure to say tefilat haderech as we (I think) left Jerusalem.  Then I decided to be a rebel and listened to a podcast from a mixed learning environment (chas v'shalom!).

As soon as I got to the building, they had me go into a lovely room with a toilet, shower, sink, and chair.  The first woman to come by (we'll call her A) started giving me instructions in Hebrew.  When she realized that wasn't working, she told me to shampoo and put on towel.  Naturally, I didn't bring a towel (who doesn't bring a towel to the mikva!?) so she went to get one.  That's when the second woman (we'll call her B) came in.  She looks at my watch and tells me to take it off.  Then she motions towards my scarf and proceeds to help remove it.  I didn't think I needed to tell her this, but I have experience in undressing myself.  I really didn't need her.  Finally, A comes back with a towel and the two of them leave me.  When I was all shampooed and fully undressed (no thanks to B) they came to retrieve me.  We walked across the hall with nothing more than a towel on and they told me to walk into the mikva.  Let me tell you, there's nothing weirder than being butt naked in front of two super frum women.  But the water was SO warm so nothing else really mattered.

The initial (official?) dunking was quite simple:  Hold on to the underwater bar, fully immerse, resurface, get out of the water.  Then it was time to put on my tribal gown:

Now that I was properly dressed for the occasion, it was time to jump back into the water and wait for the BD to arrive.  I'm not sure if you've ever worn a dress in a pool before but, thanks to the laws of nature, they generally have a problem staying all the way down.  A and B kept telling me to pull it down.  That didn't work so well...the BD got a little leg action.  Whatever.

I dunked again, said a bracha, they said mazal tov, the BD left, and I got out.  We walked back across the hallway and then B bear hugged me while dripping wet in my gown.  She kissed me on both cheeks, said another mazal tov, and then left me.  Not entirely sure why she thought I'd be able to manage getting redressed by myself, but I succeeded nonetheless.

I walked back to the bus stop and that was that.
I'm officially a part of the cool kid club.