Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

28 Nisan 5766 - April 26, 2006 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Home and Family

Somebody Goofed

by Bayla Gimmel

As much as I hate to admit it, the materialism genie is out of the bottle. Many of the women in our heimishe community will have bought new designer suits and costly wigs for Pesach. I would like to offer some advice to them — things I learned in the "old country."

There used to be an expression, "You get what you pay for." It meant that bargain priced items were not good quality. The way to insure that you were getting something really good was to pay a lot of money for it. That expression is outdated. Today, you can pay a lot for something and it will not necessarily please you.

Unfortunately, the women today who succumb to the lures of the slick catalogs and the beautiful store displays — and therefore develop the "gotta-have-it" mentality — are too late.

Someone who lived through that period once told me about shopping circa 1950. Well-dressed women would not venture forth in public without white gloves. These fashionable ladies bought only French gloves which came in quarter sizes. No "small," "medium" and "large" for them. They wouldn't be caught dead wearing gloves that either appeared too tight or protruded even a sixteenth of an inch beyond their well manicured fingernails.

Similarly, if a woman bought a new dress or skirt, a dressmaker with a tape measure hanging from her neck would suddenly appear from the back of the store. The customer was asked to stand on a little round platform. The dressmaker would adjust the garment and add or subtract shoulder padding so it draped perfectly.

Then she went around the bottom of the skirt with a device that put a chalk mark exactly the height off the floor that was the style that year. As the customer slowly turned around, the chalk lines would be applied every two inches all the way around the skirt. The customer went home and the dress or suit was altered and hemmed. When the new garment was picked up a few days later, it looked as if it had been custom-made.

Today, even if you pay well over a thousand shekel for a ladies' suit, you are likely to get it hemmed as follows. One pin will be affixed to one spot and the length will be calculated from the waist down. If one of your legs is longer or one hip is higher (a very common situation), don't look too closely at the finished product.

To add insult to injury, the hem may not be the old- fashioned kind that has bias tape affixed to the edge of the fabric and invisible stitches all around. The tailor may just chop off the extra fabric and sew it all around. That may be why, when you put on your new Pesach suit, it doesn't necessarily look the way it did on the mannequin in the window.

When it came to your sheitel, you went to a salon you could trust. You looked at the picture of the model wearing the style you ordered. Bear in mind that the wig on the model was styled just so, sprayed just right, and then the photographer adjusted the model's chin and the lighting so that the wig looked gorgeous, frozen in time, in the picture.

When your new wig arrives and you put it on your head, it is not going to look exactly like the picture. Even after your expert wigmaker weaves her magic, you have to realize that you will see the wig from the bad angles as well as the good ones.

Also, there is a chance that although the model is eighteen years old, toothpick-thin and endowed with chiseled features, not all of the customers who buy the wig — maybe not even you — fit that description.

So before you fly off the handle and get upset with your dress store or your sheitel salon (and the people who waited on you there), please realize that if somebody goofed, it wasn't necessarily them. It could have been you for expecting too much from your purchase!

Let me tell you a story about a disgruntled customer. We lived in a middle-class housing tract in California. Our houses were comfortable but were quite close to each other and didn't look particularly impressive.

Shortly after we moved into our house, the economy improved and the builder decided to add a luxury model to the choices for the remaining lots. The new model was called "the Tower," probably because it was two stories high and therefore towered over our one-story house and its neighbors. The builder put the Tower model on the front of the new brochure.

The artist's rendition showed the Tower on a corner lot, so you could see both the front and side of the house. The front had some nice architectural details, but there was a problem in depicting the side of the house. Because it was meant to be seen only by the next door neighbors, the side of the house was designed as a blank window-less stucco expanse.

The artist came up with a great solution. He drew in a low flower bed. Behind it, he put a long row of clipped hedges. Rising behind the hedges, silhouetted against the side of the house were three majestic eucalyptus trees with their tops exactly reaching the roof line.

One of the executives of the housing company was so taken with the picture of the Tower that he bought the corner lot across from our house and arranged for that model to be built, exactly as shown, as a new home for his family. A few times a week, we saw him visit the building site and check every detail as the house went up.

It must have been frustrating for this man because there were several pauses in the construction due to shortages of materials, and more than the usual number of weather delays, but finally the house was almost finished and the family moved in. All that remained before their gala housewarming party was the landscaping.

The executive — we'll call him Mr. P. — must have given a copy of the brochure to the landscape architect. Suddenly, everything arrived — and was planted. When Mr. P. came home at the end of a tiring work day, this is what he saw. The flower beds looked just like those in the brochure, as did the hedges. So far, so good. But the piece- de-resistance, the trees, were several feet shorter and a good deal thinner than those in the artist's drawing. Majestic, they weren't!

After the frustration of all of the delays, this was the straw that broke the camel's back. Mr. P. suffered a heart attack. The ambulance came right away, the paramedics tried everything, and the hospital was close by. Nothing helped. Mr. P. was dead-on-arrival.

His family lived in their new house for a few years until the children left for college and Mrs. P. put the house up for sale. By then the trees had grown above the roof line and then some. As for their width, they needed to be thinned out to prevent the branches of adjacent trees from touching.

There is an epilogue. Right after the new owners moved into the "P's" house, we suffered the worst windstorm of all of our years in California. Those now-tall eucalyptus trees kept blowing over towards the street and then slamming against the house with a series of powerful thuds. After a sleepless night, the terrified new owners called a tree- removal company. Two days later, Mr. P.'s precious trees had been cut down and grounded into mulch.

Ladies, if your expensive new suit or your new sheitel does not look the way you envisioned it, stop, cool down, and think ahead. In a couple of years, it will go to the gemach, if not into the trash. If you got upset and ruined your whole Yom Tov, who is it who will have goofed?


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