Slapstick and Lipstick

On the weird confluence of two holidays: Purim and International Women’s Day.

On the morning of Purim I slipped on a banana peel. Really. And not a metaphorical banana peel, which used to serve our educators to warn us about throwing garbage on the sidewalk. It was a yellowish-blackish peel, the kind that covers bananas that are beginning to rot and are already soft and brown, which mothers and nannies who like to get kids to eat describe as “pure honey.”

For the record, the whole incident lasted for two seconds at most. Despite that, while I was still slipping on the faux-marble tiles at the entrance to the mall near my home − right next to the clarinet player who insisted on playing the amazingly depressing Purim song “A Sweet Little Clown” − I didn’t let go of the Smartphone I was holding to my right ear or my dog’s leash, which was in my left hand. Which explains how, after I found myself seated on my left knee ‏(I slipped very gracefully this time‏), I was able to ask the girlfriend with whom I was deep in conversation whether nowadays people really still slip on banana peels. And furthermore, how it was even possible that if I had just done it, there was no film crew around to commemorate the slapstick scene.

Neri Livneh - Avi Ofer - March 16, 2012

My faithful dog, if you’re wondering, didn’t even glance in my direction; she was concentrating on a cat that was standing, petrified, two meters away from her. That’s how 15,000 years of the “emotional arms race,” as Yuval Noah Harari calls it in his brilliant book “A Brief History of Mankind” − that is, the prolonged psychological adaptation of dogs to the human race − went down the drain. Although it was meant to lead to a situation where supposedly today there is “complex emotional communication” between human beings and dogs. Or, in the case of my above-mentioned dog, to judge by her indifference to my accident, communication based on ambivalence.

What’s next, I asked my friend via my smartphone. If people really slip on banana peels, it’s also possible that walking barefoot on the tiles can create flat feet. Drinking water after watermelon can upset your stomach. Swimming in the sea on the fast of the Ninth of Av will result in drowning. Swallowing a plum pit will cause a plum tree to grow in your stomach. Rubbing your eyes after eating grapes will cause inflammation. And anyone who rocks on his chair in class is liable to fall backward and become blind instantly, if he hasn’t already begun to stutter because he was left at home without a babysitter.

And maybe, I wanted to add, it’s also true that nowadays people no longer die of love, but I hadn’t managed to complete the sentence before a girl emerged from the entrance of the nearby drugstore, gave me a flower and wished me, in the name of the entire drugstore, a “Happy Woman’s Day.”

She was wearing a glittering purple wig and her short-short skirt exposed fishnet stockings, since unfortunately this year International Women’s Day fell exactly on Purim, which as we know is a joyful and entertaining holiday ‏(although personally I’m incapable of listening to the melody of “I am Purim, I am Purim,” without bursting into tears‏).

The fact that the two events fell on the same day should ostensibly have turned the day into the “holiday of holidays.” Or, in other words, added a synergetic effect to each of them. It could have turned International Women’s Day from right to happy, and added a dimension of feminist depth to Purim. But what happened was just the opposite.

If you thought Women’s Day would spur masses of Israeli women to dress up as a tractor driver, a banker, a surgeon, a Supreme Court justice or Shelly Yachimovich − you’re sadly mistaken. Although I did see a policewoman, a nurse, a scientist and a human ATM, I believe that most women preferred the Playboy version of these costumes. In other words, a short-short skirt, humongous high heels ‏(even on little girls‏), daring stockings and heavy makeup. So, even the costumes of career women suddenly turned into the costumes of a call girl, at best.

Although maybe all this simply signaled a return to the original sources, with a new and profound understanding of the true meaning of Purim and accurate portrayal of the two main heroines. One, Queen Vashti, a non-Jew, and an Iranian to boot − phooey on her! − refused to come and wiggle around King Ahasuerus as though she were a Playboy bunny and he were Hugh Hefner.

And the second − whom we are supposed to love and admire − is the Jewess, Esther, aka Hadassah, who apparently had none of that feminist nonsense in her head. I mean, what was Queen Esther, heroine of the holiday, if not poor? And how did she become a queen if not by using her wiles and selling her body?

Did this innocent young girl ever consider telling her uncle Mordechai such things as, “Excuse me, my body belongs to me alone and you have no permission to act as my pimp”? Or “Stop objectifying me at once, I’m not just a sexual object”? Of course not. And if I may paraphrase George Bernard Shaw, what aside from the price distinguishes a simple prostitute from someone who sells her hidden charms for a crown?

After all, that is the main message of the Book of Esther. Feminism shmenimisn. First of all do what your uncle tells you; afterward, if your king agrees, you can also be a feminist. The refusal to become the king’s sexual object may be good for all kinds of Vashtis, but we expect a good kosher Jewish girl to have a great body and to know how to use it to cause pleasure to men − to her glory and the glory of the Jewish people. Isn’t that so, Uncle Mordechai?

Fortunately, I was invited the next day to a brunch in honor of International Women’s Day on Shulamit Aloni’s lawn. “This is how a feminist looks,” declared the sign at the front of the circle of outstanding women who surrounded the mother of feminism in Israel. So you could say I was able, ultimately, to be joyful on this holiday.