This post is by RT, who really liked her high school and doesn’t see why people feel a need to dislike theirs.
At some point in high school one of my teachers found out that I wanted to become a surgeon and therefore wasn’t planning on getting married right away — or even shortly after that.
I assumed, as did most of my friends, that once a Jewish woman gets married she must get busy with babies and housework, and all her ambitions become a thing of the past.
Our assumptions weren’t based on rumor, either. I could reel off the women whose college education had to take a backseat to their husband’s preferred yeshiva and the demands of childbearing and rearing.
Anyway, I was determined to become a surgeon, and I wasn’t all that impressed by marriage anyway, based on what I’d seen, so I was putting myself first.
This teacher cornered me one lunchtime to discuss other options. Not options besides surgery — she knew better than that. But options besides becoming an overworked wife. She made the point that some men these days are willing to do the egalitarian thing and help out with the housework and even babysit to enable my ambitions to actualize. There was no reason I couldn’t get married straight out of high school and also become a surgeon.
Which is why I was a little surprised by her lesson two weeks later. She was describing the ideal Jewish marriage the way it gets taught in bais yaakov (and maybe also yeshiva, for all I know): the wife serves the husband as her master, and in return, the husband treats his wife like a queen.
Well, in my shock I had a little coughing fit, during which some of my coughs may have sounded like “abusive relationship”. I got a glare, and was then ignored. But after about ten minutes of rhetoric on how nice it was to be a queen in return for serving one’s master, I got up and walked out.
The week RT told me this story, I had the following, related conversation with a kollel wife:
Me: …according to the Rambam, non-Jews exist to serve Jews, and Jews exist to serve the few scholars in each generation.
Kollel Wife: He is saying that someone who studies Torah is at the pinnacle of creation. He is doing what he was meant to be doing. That doesn’t mean the rest of us should be paranoid that our life has no meaning except that we’re just servants for someone else.
Me: I’m paranoid. After all, I was raised in a society that actively prevented me from becoming a Torah scholar. How can I be anything but a servant?
Kollel Wife: Ah, that’s the job of women.
Me: To be servants?
Kollel Wife: Right. But as part of her better half she can be scholarly.