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BETTER LATE -3

While the funeral rituals droned on, Shaynah thought of handsome young men she’d seen on the streets. Their tight pants and T-shirts showed the smooth definition of their muscles and Shaynah wondered what it would be like to be held in those strong arms. She thought of the young women who would know that feeling, and wondered what it must feel like to reveal so much of one’s body. When she was young and on the streets among secular society, she stared at the bold girls’ bare midriffs that sometimes had jewelled rings glinting in the navels and the cleavages that almost showed bare nipples. Even though the nipples weren’t quite exposed, they were nonetheless prominent, poking stiffly at the filmy fabric that clung to them. Many of the girls wore cut off shorts so brief that the cheeks of their behinds were exposed. Shaynah wondered that it wasn’t against the law and that these young women were not arrested.

Shaynah longed to know that feeling of pride in one’s physical appearance. She had been taught all her life that aesthetics don’t matter, lust was forbidden, and only strict adherence to the religious law would be her life. Even in her forties, Shaynah inspected her body whenever bathed, and compared it with those of women she saw on the street. She felt that she could be as good to look at as any of the women she saw there. Her breasts were full if not totally erect, her waist not tiny but still attractive. Her hips, stomach and behind were nicely rounded, and her legs were long and well shaped even if the thighs were a touch heavy. She hated the demure garments she was required to wear to avoid any possibility that she might be attractive. The stiff fabrics, jackets, long, full skirts and heavy stockings were all meant to hide any possible aesthetic beauty.

While Itzhak was alive Shaynah lived with him according to Hassidic law even though she had always been drawn to the secular society around her. Ever since she was a little girl, she wished she could enjoy the pleasures of life that she imagined were available to the girls and women she saw on the streets. Although reading popular magazines was forbidden, Shaynah stared at the cover photos, amazed at the beautiful women, handsome men, and exciting places she saw there.

Within the marriage, Shaynah found herself feeling grateful that sex for pleasure was forbidden, and was permitted only to procreate. The heavy fabric barrier that was required to separate husband and wife during sex created relief in Shaynah that she didn’t have to endure Itzhak’s pale, scrawny body on her flesh. Now that she was a widow, Shaynah had the temerity to imagine herself in some of the light, colourful fabrics and revealing garments. She was intimidated by the thought of entering one of the tempting lingerie shops she often looked at when no one could see her curiosity. Some day, she thought, she might be ready to take the step toward a secular – or at least less restrictive – life.

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