I’ve always wanted to get my nose pierced.
It’s a small thing.
A nose stud.
Literally, a tiny thing.
A minute sparkle located between the brilliance of a smile and the deep light of someone’s eyes.
I’ve always been convinced that a small stud would fit my face. Would fit my spirit.
But I held off.
Because… I had this voice in my head that questioned:
What if it would keep someone from having the opportunity to get to know me? To love me? Because in my chosen community, nose studs are…
Well, they’re rare.
For years, I told myself, ‘you don’t need to do this now. Wait.’
Wait for A Husband.
Wait until you find someone who wants you.
I’ve spent a significant portion of my life waiting for a man to tell me how he’d feel about my preferences. I’ve told myself to wait for a husband to travel, to decide upon a specific lifestyle. To wait for a husband before writing publicly and engaging in public speaking. To wait for a husband before choosing to ride a scooter instead of commuting in a car.
Because What If… What If a potential partner saw me and thought it was weird?
…Thought I was weird?
Even worse, what if a potential partner’s mother saw me and thought I was weird?
It still makes sense to me, in retrospect. I didn’t want to scare anyone off. I feared being given rejection before being given opportunity.
I was terrified:
What if me being Me…
Meant Me being alone?
I didn’t want to be too anything for anyone.
Unlike Goldilocks, I wasn’t trying to find the perfect porridge, bed, and chair.
I was trying to be the porridge, the bed, and the chair.
And because it’s damn near impossible to be the perfect fit for an unknown person with unknown preferences, I just tried to be middle of the road.
One size fits all.
But it never worked.
Even with me endeavoring to be moderate, I found it impossible.
Because I am not that size.
I can not be the middle of everyone’s scale.
None of us can, really.
Even with me trying desperately to fit in, some guys thought I needed too much solitude, some felt that I was too outgoing. Some men hinted I dressed too ‘out there’, some expressly stated I should wear higher heels.
And I’ve finally, finally realized…
The ‘What If’s never stop.
If I give them power, they will never stop.
Because these ‘What If’s apply to more than just my future partner (and his family).
These ‘What If’s extend to my status in my chosen Community.
They just grow and expand.
My choice of nose ring or non nose ring had massive implications for my What Ifs: What If others in the Ultra Orthodox community at large label me as modern?
What If those that I respect view my nose ring and assume things about my standards, level of observance, my belief system?
What If my writing, my being, were to lose potency because my audience would no longer be able to hear my words over the noise of perceived notions of Who I Am?
I watched time pass.
I watched my ‘What If’s grow in size and malignancy.
I watched them age.
And then, I watched them die.
Because while we must all, at times, make uncomfortable choices in order to highlight other values, and while the way we dress, the way we behave, will impact the way we’re perceived and have social ramifications, there comes a point when you must start exploring different ‘What If’s.
I started asking myself What If…
What if I allowed myself to ‘live’ with myself?
What If I learned to appreciate my silence. And my noise?
What If I made a home in my mind?
What if I formed such a strong bond with who I am that being Alone meant being in Good Company?
What if I was confident enough in my beliefs and standards and relationship with G-d and goodness to other humans, that I knew my qualities could shine together with the addition of a ring on my nose?
What If I could be perceived as worthy, while living my personal flavor?
What If I allowed myself to breathe?
I finally adorned my nose with that nose ring.
I proposed to myself with a gem for my face.
I gazed into my eyes in the mirror and solemnly promised to take myself to have and to hold
For the rest of my days.
I swore: ‘I choose you.’
‘I will continue choosing you every single day.’
‘I commit myself to loving you, to being true to you.’
‘I accept you in both your religious values and your Divinely given personality.’
‘You are safe here.’
These statements still fill me with terror.
Because What If…
But they also fill me with immense energy.
Because, this is it.
This, right here, right now, is life.
This is me.
And I am not Just Right.
I am the bed that’s too large,
The porridge that’s too hot,
The chair that’s too soft.
And I am not One Size Fits All.
I am a full size 10.
And I won’t fit everyone.
And that’s okay.
Because we will never know how many flavors and colors and shapes of beauty exist.
We will never understand how many Just Right’s are possible.
A few days after obtaining my nose ring someone told me, “So, I guess you’re not going to marry a Rabbi…”
And you know what? I (perhaps naively) still feel like I could potentially qualify to marry a rabbi. I still maintain my standards of modesty, see the Divine in every moment. I still abide by my religious values, still focus on being a force of good in the world.
But I might not.
I might have just closed myself off to an entire section of humanity.
I don’t know.
What I am sure of is that I’m done waiting.
What I am certain of is that I am fully alive.
What I know with surety is that every single one of us has things that we are terrified to live, not because of what we believe in, but because of the way people will perceive us.
I haven’t given up on any of my values. I’ve just given up on living unauthentically.
I’ve just given up a few ‘What If’s.
I’ve given up on waiting for marriage.