Once, from a Brooklyn sidewalk, I was conversing with a just-met man, who was directly beside me and sitting in the passenger seat of his parked car. We were discussing his T-shirt that artfully depicted the face of Pablo Escobar, the late drug kingpin. Because I thought it inappropriate to glamorize such a notorious character, I remarked that I was against his wearing such a shirt. Despite of his verbal defense of his fashion statement, I did not give up on my crusade: I rejoined that there were a lot of lonely people in our world who needed attention. Hence, giving an infamous person unnecessary notice via a T-shirt could, via copycatting, promote to others the same kind of behavior as the late drug kingpin’s.
The man continued to rebuff my words with a defense of something like, “Who’s to say? One man’s food is another’s poison.” Suddenly, a woman, who was eventually revealed as this just-met man’s wife, approached the car. She got into the driver’s seat; and, then, they were ready to depart. However, the man—due to his last comment of “Who’s to say?” having been a real question—was open to the idea that there could be a legitimacy to my concern. Meaning, he wanted to continue our conversation, especially because, as I recall, he found something interesting in my remark that his future luck, which is only in God’s hands, could be negatively affected by his wearing of such a shirt that advertised a drug kingpin and murderer.
At that point, I was introduced to the man’s wife; and, she, from the driver’s seat, stuck out her hand across her husband’s chest to elicit, from me, a handshake. While I shook, I mentioned that Orthodox Jews generally do not shake hands with women; and, I explained one reason why they do not: for the protection of women and girls. After all, in any culture wherein exists the custom of women shaking the hands of men who are strangers, such male outsiders are granted a way-too-easy method of getting close to women. Moreover, a strange or even grotesque man, via the expectation of a handshake, can guilt a woman so that he can sidle up to her.
[Soon after this car-side conversation, pop star Taylor Swift made the news with her court case, in Denver, against a man for inappropriately touching her intimately. This incident—which, as reported by Ms. Swift, very deleteriously affected her psyche—came about because of her, due to professional custom, being, while skimpily dressed, in the immediate proximity of a little-known-to-her man. Moreover, such a man, via the same custom, already had permission to touch certain parts of Ms. Swift’s body, such as, for a photo opportunity, her shoulder or waist. (Actually, regarding this type of cultural closeness, America is somewhat puritan when compared to some other countries, which may have a custom that a woman is to kiss a previously-unknown-to-her man on one or both cheeks upon their meeting for the very first time!)]
When I concluded my explanation as to why Orthodox-Jewish men do not take women’s hands, both the wife and husband (who were, if still proper to use the term, enough from the “hood”) immediately nodded agreement to such a custom’s sagacity. Clearly, they both knew to where such supposedly innocent handshakes could lead.
Relatedly, I said that I, when a woman offers me her hand, personally consider such to be a sign that the woman needs some help. To that comment, the wife instinctually agreed as well. Continuing, I said to the wife, as the LORD is all things, I was interpreting the interaction of her having offered me her hand as a sign that she did need help, at the least, at a level subconscious. Therefore, I told her, while I had been, moments earlier, thinking of the words that I was then speaking (that is, wondering what help she may need), I noticed, around the wife’s neck, one of those tightly skin-fitting, stretch, choker, “tattoo” necklaces that have unfortunately become, as of late, fashionable in the West. While I have never put one on, surely, such necklaces, I have thought, cannot be comfortable. Moreover, the necklaces must be, to some degree, dangerous due to the potential to irritate the skin, inhibit proper breathing, etc.
After remarking on this suffering-for-style necklace of hers, which had caught my eye after my having thought that this woman must require help in some way, I speculated that this needed assistance was a type of counsel. Specifically, I was to try to get her to realize that it would be better for her were she to stop suffering for style. (Also, she had a bevy of tattoos and giant hoop earrings that, surely, regularly got snagged.)
[Actually, a woman’s willingness to suffer for beauty goes all the way back to Eve’s first sin. This sin, which Eve caused to herself via her influenced-by-the-snake-but-nevertheless-freewill behavior, was due to Eve wanting to partake of something that, while knowingly damaging to her body, was “pleasant to [her] eyes” (Gen. 3:6, emphasis added).]
Turning back to the husband, I told him that his wife should take off the necklace because it is a danger. Further, if she did not willingly take it off herself, she needs him to be strong enough so that he gently removes it from her. In fact, he must insist that either she or he remove it.
While I was saying these words, both of them were staring at on-the-sidewalk me (I was slightly bent over so that I could see the wife’s face, who, again, was in the driver’s seat at my far side). So, when I declared that the husband must insist, he could not see his wife immediately nodding yes. Because he could not see, I, while she was still nodding, told him to turn quickly to his left so that he could know with his own eyes that what I was saying was true. Then, after his looking, he relayed that he had not before understood this about his wife’s (and a woman’s) mind. To that I said, “That’s what you need a rabbi for!” We all laughed.
Further, I said, a woman, as a rule, needs to know that she can get crazy and still be protected by her man. When I said this, the wife, again, nodded yes. Therefore, a man, for the best interests of a woman, is meant, when necessary, to dominate properly (with “properly” being for the wife’s true best interests that she herself, deep down at the least, recognizes as such).
Finally, I returned to talk of the husband’s Pablo Escobar T-shirt. I related that it could cause bad luck to its wearer. It could do so, I said, because God, omniscient, sees everything and calculates all consequences: God knows exactly how much inappropriate glamorization such advertising is causing to the minds of others, who, thereafter, under the shirt’s snake-like influence, may be led to copycat or otherwise normalize such nefarious behavior. With that considered, I said to the wife, a woman’s power over her husband is to get him to recognize that he does not really love her if he needlessly endangers himself (in this case, by his potentially causing himself bad luck). Then, turning to the man, I said that when a woman realizes that she is not genuinely loved, well, things go downhill in the bedroom and elsewhere. To that, they, also, both agreed; and, at last, they thanked me, smiled, and drove off.