The Time I Kicked My Principal’s Son: Part 3

This is part 3 of a new series by Ayala. For part 1, in which she is first introduced to the loveable Stein, click. For part 2, in which things heat up a little bit, click

“We have to wait for dark,” Suri glanced outside. We were in an ice cream store on Avenue Hangout.  School had ended for the year two days ago. I watched her eyes watching the sunset, admiring how effortlessly perfect her eye makeup was. “If we’re out there before dark, everyone will think we’re pathetic.”

I nodded, fiddling with my spoon, stirring my ice cream into soft ice cream. “Is this really the best way to deal with Rafi? You really can’t just talk about it?” Suri was in one of her numerous vicious fights with her boyfriend. She wanted to cheat on him. I was there to stop her from doing anything she might regret.

“Whatever,” Suri peered at her cup as if it was a fascinating piece of art. “If he wants to be with some skinny girl, I can also upgrade.”  The light outside faded from white to gray. I doubted that any of the guys emerging after dark would be upgrades compared to Rafi.

I tried another tactic. “I don’t know anybody. Maybe tonight we can just start small, talk to just a few people.” The rebel crowd wasn’t really my scene; I was a social floater. Even after an entire year in Bais Yaakov, I was still the weirdo who had come in from public school. I hadn’t exactly found my place yet. I was considered part of three groups of girls, but I didn’t exactly fit with any of them. Suri was my main connection to anything that was going to be happening tonight.

“Ayala, don’t worry so much. I know everybody! You’re my friend; that will be good enough for them!” She glanced outside again and flung her cup into the trash. “Ok, it’s dark enough. Let’s go!”

We went onto a side street so Suri could check her hair in a car window. “You saw how there were two guys hanging out there? We’re waiting here until there are about 10 guys. I will see who I know and we will take it from there.”

About 15 minutes later, Suri decided that there were just enough guys out that we would not look desperate, but there were few enough that we would not be too outnumbered.  “Ooh, Kohn is back from Israel! We should talk to him about your phone issues!”

“Yeah, that’s a good idea,” I plastered a lukewarm smile on. Anything to stall us from any cheating. Kohn was being mobbed by all of his friends who, like Suri, hadn’t seen him since Israel. We waited in the clump of people. I shifted my weight, feeling awkward.

To my relief, a car drove by, and I knew one of the guys in the car. While I didn’t know him well, he wasn’t horrible. Talking to him would be better than hanging around like a blob. Suri was already having five different conversations with people. Walking three short blocks to where they were parking wouldn’t be a big deal.

It was really crowded on the sidewalk now. I was stuck in another cluster of people on my way to the car, when I felt two hands clutching my butt. It wasn’t a grab-and-run kind of grab either, but the kind where the other person holds on and is savoring the feel of it.

I whirled around, trying unsuccessfully to shake the groper’s hands off, and came face to face with Stein! “You asshole!” I roared.

Stein just grinned his trademark grin at me. “How appropriate.”

I saw red.  Stein knew that he could do whatever he wanted because all he’d have to do was mention that he knew me to my principal and I’d be out of a school with nowhere to go. He was blackmailing me. The situation was so clearly tipped in his favor: he was a guy, the son of a principal, versus me, a weirdo girl who no school would want if she got expelled. The situation was bleak for girls who got expelled. The injustice of the situation was intolerable!

Well, I wasn’t going to take it! This was worth getting expelled over! My heart pounded. I took a deep breath and took a step towards Stein, clenching my fists. His smirk wavered. Then I charged, my deceptively skinny twig legs in their Converse high tops slapping the pavement. Stein’s ever-present smirk vanished. He started to run for his life.

At that point in my life, I ran three miles a day for exercise. Stein clearly didn’t. I caught up to him on the corner as he gasped for air. “I’m going to kill you!” I growled.

Just then, a guy stepped out of the shadows. Stein and I froze. Neither of us knew him. The guy stepped over to Stein, grabbed him by the shirt collar, and nodded placidly at me.

I didn’t hesitate a moment. As my skirt was too tight and short for kicking Stein in the balls, I settled for kicking him in the shins, right on the tibia bone, until he cried.  “By the way, tell Principal Stein that I say “HI!” I spat at him. Stein sobbed and averted his face. The strange guy just held him in place, oddly at ease.

“You psycho!” A dark shape hurtled at my left shoulder. It was Bina. “You beat up my boyfriend!”

Fortunately, Bina was shorter and stouter than me, and in worse shape. Jumping me knocked the wind out of her. I quickly spun around, shaking her off so that we were face to face, grabbing her arms so that she couldn’t punch me and wouldn’t be able to stabilize herself enough to kick me. “Your boyfriend is a psycho who grabs people’s asses because he thinks they will just take it because he’s the principal’s kid!” I bellowed. “Who is the psycho here?”

Bina’s face blanched. She tore herself free and ran away as fast as her little legs could carry her. As I watched her go, I genuinely felt sorry for her, but I had more immediate concerns. “Would you mind holding this cretin for about five more minutes? I really appreciate everything you’ve done, and I just have to find my friend before I go. I don’t want this to escalate.” The stranger nodded.

Safe in the knowledge that this stranger would hold Stein, I finally turned my back on him to scan the crowd for Suri.

 

For Part 4, where you find out what happened after, and get some food for thought, click. 

The Time I Kicked My Principal’s Son: Part 3

The Time I Kicked My Principal’s Son: Part 1

Here’s another tale from Ayala. Her previous series described what it’s like to be a non-rebellious outsider in Bais Yaakov. Coming from a public school elementary school, Ayala never really felt at home in her bais yaakov high school. In this story, I suspect that’s also the reason she had the guts and awareness to do the only right thing. I mean the right thing in part 3, but part 1 isn’t bad either. 

The sun beat down. I was waiting for a bus and feeling very ugly. My parents were stalling on getting me contact lenses, I was wearing my Bais Yaakov uniform, my hair was frizzing, I wasn’t wearing makeup, and I was sweating a bit. I was thankful that only a little old lady at the bus stop was seeing me in this decrepit state.

A scrawny boy with a pizza face peered at me from a store window across the street. Even underneath his acne, his face was ugly. His gaze made me feel like squirming uncomfortably, but I restrained myself as a matter of pride. He crossed the street and walked up to the bus stop, peering closely at my uniform. “Hi. You go to That School?”

I disliked him immediately. “No, I go to another school and I wear this to fool people,” I snarled.

He smirked. “What do you think of Stein?”  Rabbi Stein was one of the principals.

“I don’t think anything of him. I avoid authority figures whenever possible. After all, they don’t understand that girls at bus stops might not want to be talking to the boys that bother them there.” The last thing I needed was to be hauled in to explain this situation.

His smirk broadened. He took out a cigarette and lit it. “I’m Stein’s son.”

My jaw dropped. I had heard that Stein had an asshole son, but I had assumed that it was like all other Bais Yaakov rumors — often overblown and, usually, at least partially untrue.

The old lady at the bus stop chose that moment to cut in.  “Do you mind moving over?” she said in a scratchy Russian accent. “ I have a lung condition.”

Stein’s smirk did not waver. He didn’t budge. My dislike turned to blinding rage. I took a step towards him and jutted my face into his so that our noses almost touched. “Move!” I bellowed.  Somehow, his smirk grew even bigger, but he took a few steps away so that the smoke didn’t blow in the old lady’s face.

 

For part 2, in which things heat up a little bit, click

For Part 3, where the actual kicking takes place, click. 

For Part 4, where you find out what happened after, and get some food for thought, click. 

The Time I Kicked My Principal’s Son: Part 1

Outside on the Inside: Part 3 – The Spying Overture

For part 1 of this series or part 2

One day I got called down to the principal’s office. My principal got straight to the point. “So. What exactly do you and Suri have in common?”

I put on my thinking face, palms sweating, panicking inside. Suri had been a frequent flier to the principal’s office in her first 2 years of high school because of her constant dozing in class and boy issues.  It would not be good to have a lot in common with her. “I would say that it’s not so much what we have in common that keeps us bonded. It’s more that we balance each other out and have the same feelings on the subject of loyalty,” I said thoughtfully.

The principal wrinkled her nose at the smell of this bullshit. “So what do you actually do when you spend time together?”

I put on the thinking face again. “Nothing really. We mostly eat and talk.” This wasn’t too far off, but the subjects of our conversations were not appropriate for principal ears.

The principal’s eyebrows crept together. “Who else hangs out with you?”

“No one,” I blurted out. This was the truth. I mostly heard about people she knew but hardly ever got to meet them.

The principal let out her breath slowly. “Ok. Get back to class.”

It took all of my self-control not to bolt out of there. That would make me look guilty.

“SHIT!” I had just finished telling Suri about my trip to the principal’s office. “We have to lie low.”

“Yeah,” I agreed. “Let’s think of some normal people things to talk about in school. They can’t hear us when we’re walking outside or at your house.”

This was how it went for the next year and a bit, until Suri graduated.

During that time I met her boyfriend. When they had an epic fight and she didn’t leave her room for 3 days, I went to her house with coffee and a bar of chocolate and forced her into the shower like in the movies. When I made out with a guy for the first time, she was the one I called that motzai Shabbos. She was the one who helped me find him again when I felt like making out again.  She was the one who cheered me on as I kicked my principal’s son (a different story). I was the one who got into a shouting match with her about how she should take the SATs. I was the one who paced around my block, full of nerves for her, when she told her parents about her boyfriend.

In later years, I was the one who delicately asked her how she and her boyfriend-turned-fiance intended to live off his meager salary. She was the one who listened to my crying about my first boyfriend when I was 18. She was the one who picked me up again after my second boyfriend.

Still later, she told me that I was right about the SAT. That she felt useless because only her husband made money. That she envied that I was single and childfree. When I called her even later, upset at how fucked up I had become, she reminded me of those blessings.  When her mom died and I worked the night shift and was in school fulltime, I phoned her to apologize for not making the shiva, and she managed a small chuckle when I pointed out that this was a literal shiva call.

I’m not saying that high school was perfect. I’m just saying that sometimes my school had the right idea. She definitely helped me and acted like a big sister.

 

 

Outside on the Inside: Part 3 – The Spying Overture

The Speech About Leggings

I didn’t know leggings were bad until after I graduated, so I never had to choose between freezing legs and the excoriation of the teaching staff. If there are two things Bais Yaakov maidels endure that is going to ensure them a spot in heaven, it’s cold legs in the winter and the discomfort of tights. I wore tights the first year I worked, and after that I switched to leggings and boots and I have never looked back. I still own a couple of pairs of nylon hell, but it’s just for old times sake. 

This is another story from lyl about the reason she was given for the frown on leggings. 

Whenever a teacher was out and there was no sub, the principal would hold a Q&A class, where we could pass up questions about halacha or hashkafa or school policy and she would answer.

One day, the question was, “What’s wrong with leggings?” They are more opaque than tights, and far more comfortable, not to mention more warm, but there was definitely an institutional frown directed at them.

Turns out our principal was very passionate about this subject. She informed us, in a fiery, brimstone-laden speech, that tights are evil for the following reasons:

  • When you wear leggings, you feel more covered up, so you start buying shorter skirts because you feel like the leggings compensate.
  • They just aren’t tznius.
  • Tznius people don’t wear them.

She continued:

“If I collected the top ten most tznius girls in this school, and marched them all up on stage, I could ask them ‘Do you own a pair of leggings?’ and I guarantee you every single one will say ‘No.’ Because real tznius girls don’t own leggings.”

In case you think this is crazy, the circular logic of tznius is a very common argument, since ‘not standing out’ is apparently one of the imperatives of tznius.

The Speech About Leggings

The Time My Principal Put the KGB To Shame – and Destroyed a Billboard

Chayala swears to me that, as crazy as this story is, it is 100% true. To be honest, I’ve seen enough defaced bus stops in Boro Park to believe it. 

Dark whispers circulated around my school in tenth grade; there was a complex spy system going on, tracking us after hours.

Five seniors were summoned to the principal’s office; somehow she had found out they had gone to visit their friends in the BY sem dorm after midnight. She confiscated their cameras to look for disturbing evidence and told them they had violated a school rule no one knew existed — that 4 or more girls need to call the principal for permission to get together after school hours and on vacation.

One classmate had gone to Victoria’s Secret to buy some undergarments. She was spotted holding the Victoria’s Secret bag in the train station, and was chastised by my prudish principal for shopping in a store of pritzus.

Until my turn came, I refused to believe the rumors that there was a system in place to tip off my principal of any behavior that might tarnish the school’s image. But then one day, shortly after Chanukah vacation, I was called to the principal’s office.

“Chayala”, my principal started, her cold blue eyes sending icy fire out of her pinched cosmetics-free face, “What were you doing in the Brooklyn Public Library last week?”
I nearly fell out of my chair. What? How did she know?
Officially, our school rule book prohibited us from going to the BPL. Who knew what shmutz we might read there! Unofficially, many of us went, with the blessing of our parents who had spent many an afternoon there themselves as children and teenagers.
I had gone with my friend — and we both didn’t even have library cards. I had used my grandmother’s; my grandmother used to take me and my cousins to the library to pick out a movie to watch on motzai Shabbos or Sunday.

“What did you do there?” she probed.

“I took out a video,” I whispered, careful not to say the word movie.

“They have frum videos in a goyish library?” the Rebbetzin asked in a tone of contrived surprise.

Luckily, I had taken out Fiddler on the Roof.

“It was a video about the shtetl, and how a man named Tevye fought intermarriage,” I said, confident that my holy principal had never watched Fiddler on the Roof.

She looked thwarted for a moment, then her eyes glinted in triumph again.
“Do you ever watch goyish videos?”
Now, at this point most of my classmates would look at my principal  with a practiced facial expression of horror, innocence, guilelessness, and utter hurt that she would even suggest the very idea. They would then be let off the hook to skip unscathed back to class.
To my detriment, I was a straight shooter; I had always maintained that as long as I wasn’t doing anything wrong, I had no reason to lie or evade the truth. If others took issue with it, that was their problem, not mine. My classmates would sigh in exasperation as I got called to the principal’s office, time and time again. “You just have to work the system,” they would say, but I couldn’t accept that.

“Yes,” I said. “And they’re all clean, usually classics, and I watch them with my family.”

“How could a goyish video be clean?” the Rebbetzin asked in genuine wonderment. “It’s an oxymoron! Why would you voluntarily want to look at goyim? It hurts my heart to think of your pure neshama seeing all that”

I saw red.

“What’s wrong with seeing non Jews? In the films I watch they’re always dressed tznius,” I protested.

My principal looked at me and wondered how her very own student could be so oblivious.

“Because they’re not Yidden! They have tumah. They’re goyim! Do you know, when I walk down the street with my children and we see goyim, I lower my eyes so I shouldn’t have to see them, and I tell my children, ‘Look down, shefelach, don’t look at the goyim!”

I stared at her in horror. I should mention that I had several non Jewish neighbors who my brothers always played with, my mom worked with wonderful non Jewish people, and while I knew my principal was racist, I had never heard this level of bigotry coming out of her mouth. I must have sat there with my mouth hanging slightly open, because she leaned over and said confidentially:

“I’m going to tell you something I never told any student before. But you have to promise not to tell anyone; I’m only telling this to you so you should see how important it is to protect your eyes and your neshama.”

I mutely nodded.

“Years ago, when I lived in a different neighborhood, there was a billboard hanging next to my block. There were teyere frum families living there, many kollel yungeleit and choshuve men — and one day, a new sign went up on the billboard that threatened to be nichshal all of them. It had a picture, in big, of a goyishe woman there, a prutzah. Every time I saw that sign, a shiver went through me. Who knew how many men were nichshal because of this! It was on for a week, then two, and then I knew I had to do something. I couldn’t come up to shomayim and say I had done nothing to prevent this.

“In middle of the night, when no one was around to see, I crept to the billboard with a bottle of black spray paint. I looked around to make sure no one was there — and then I spray painted the entire woman black.

“I could have gotten into trouble in the law, but I was moser nefesh; this was mamish pikuach nefesh for the men in my neighborhood’s ruchniyus!”

I looked at my principal, who had just told me she was a criminal — my mind had just about exploded.

“Do you understand now how saddened and upset I am when I hear that my student is voluntarily looking at goyish videos, looking at goyim just for entertainment?”

I nodded my head, and must have looked suitably solemn and grim as I thought about the bigotry that existed in my world, because she let me go. Her words definitely had an effect on me; instead of going to the library a few blocks away from me the next Sunday to get a movie, I went online and streamed one instead.
The Time My Principal Put the KGB To Shame – and Destroyed a Billboard

The Time My Principal and I Had a Good Cry Together

In fourth grade, my brother with special needs was born. I didn’t know anyone else who had a sibling with special needs, and was very self-conscious about it. I didn’t know who I could talk to about it.

Somehow, I got the idea to speak to my assistant principal.

She welcomed me into her office. I told her about my brother’s diagnosis, and tears began to well up in my eyes. She began to cry and told me that one of her parents had just passed away. She said some mornings she calls her sister and asks, “Why did this have to happen to us?”

I don’t remember if she gave me advice, or anything else she said. But I walked away from her office feeling very relieved. That memory has stayed with me for years. I will never forget that she treated me, a fourth grader, like an equal.

 

Story submitted by Kaylie

The Time My Principal and I Had a Good Cry Together

The Time Our Principal was Really Awesome

This is a fond memory from Esther. 

Every year before Purim, the school hosts a Purim chagigah. It’s supposed to last the whole morning, meaning we miss all our “Hebrew” (limudei kodesh) classes, and get back to class in time for “English” (secular studies). In practice, we usually got back to class for the third period of afternoon classes.

When I was in twelfth grade, the chagigah ended a bit earlier than usual. It was just past lunchtime, which meant we were barely halfway through the afternoon’s first period. The twelfth grade that year was housed in classrooms on the Mezzanine, where there were no principal’s offices, no eyes from the watchtower. They did have cameras whose feed went to the secretary’s office on the second and third floors, but no actual person of authority was on our floor.

When we got to the Mezzanine after the chagigah ended, no one wanted to go back to class. We wound up sitting on the floor in the corridor, backs against the lockers, forming two long lines. And we started a kumzitz. (I shouldn’t say “we” – I don’t think I actually joined, I just watched from the classroom.)

Teachers were of course not very pleased with this. They wanted us to come to class. But what could they do in the face (looking down at the heads) of a hundred or so girls, sitting with their arms around each other and singing soulful songs?

They tried a few times, but their voices were not really heard, and definitely not listened to.

The singing went on, and faltered only a moment when Rebetzin Kalmanowitz, the principal who everyone loved and no one wanted to disappoint, appeared in the doorway. Determined to sit their ground, the girls kept singing.

Rebetzin Kalmanowitz pulled over a chair from the side of the corridor and set it down at the head of the two lines of girls. They kept singing, but warily, keeping an eye on Rebetzin Kalmanowitz.

She joined in the singing.

Everyone was surprised, and the singing faltered again for a moment, but then went on, stronger and full of joy. She sang one song, two songs, and then in the lull between songs, she said, “Nu, girls, I think it’s time for class?”

And they all went to class.

The Time Our Principal was Really Awesome