Tag : covid-19

The Lilith Blog

November 24, 2020 by

Life Without Lipstick

This has been the year of devastation. Just to start, there’s the staggering death toll from COVID, the collapse of the economy, the millions out of work, threatened by homelessness—and that’s not even saying a word about the savage animosity surrounding the election or the reckoning with American racism that has resurfaced in recent months. 

In such a year, we might want to cling to our small comforts and rituals even more tightly—that latte with your BFF after a walk in the park, dinner at your favorite Italian place where every meal feels like a celebration, an afternoon at a museum or a Saturday night at the movies–but we are deprived of those too. And although none of these compare even remotely to the loss of life and living, they inflict a particular kind of pain because they are set against the backdrop of such monumental tragedy. One of those small sorrows is the loss of lipstick—and by this I mean red lipstick because for me, that’s the only kind there is.

Pre-COVID, I was never without my red lipstick. I owned more than a dozen tubes, and I always made sure there was one in my pocket or purse. On the damnably rare occasion I forgot one, I ducked into the nearest drug or department store to quickly remedy the lack. Like any addict, I couldn’t be without the stuff. At home, I’d keep tubes tucked everywhere: bathroom, bedroom, front hall, and desk drawer. There was even one in the fridge, for those blisteringly hot New York days when I needed to have my red on ice.

I wasn’t always so exclusive in my devotion. In my youth, I dabbled with coral and plum, berry and rose.  No more. Now that I’ve achieved a certain, shall we say, patina, it’s red and only red, even when I’m walking the dog or sweating at the gym.  Red lipstick is both ammunition and armor, a good luck charm, a valentine, a talisman and a fetish. Red wards off the blues, brightens the skies, lifts the spirits and stirs the soul–every single time. When you wear red lipstick, you can’t hide; it won’t let you.  Red commands attention, instills confidence, projects power.  Red is bold, red is brilliant. Red finishes off the perfect Little Black Dress, punches up a classic white T and jeans, turns a bathing suit and flip-flops into a I’m-ready-for-my-close-up moment. Red lipstick adds gumption and guts to everything you put on. The incandescently lovely Marilyn Monroe was a fan of the red lip. And so is the fierce—and fiercely awesome–Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Her go-to shade is Stila’s Stay All Day Liquid in Beso, and whenever she expects a day to be more stressful than usual, she makes sure she’s rocking it. 

Yes, red leaves its mark: on the rims of glasses, napkins, and too many of your fresh-from-the cleaners clothes.  But embrace it as your own personal trademark, your brand.  Even after years of wedded bliss, I still embellish birthday and Valentine’s Day cards to my husband with a big, fat red-lipsticked smooch under my name.      

But now that we live in pandemic-land and masks are a part of daily life for who knows how long, all my ravishing reds (Chanel, YSL, L’Oreal, and Revlon among my current favorites) have been rendered useless—null and void.  There’s no point to wearing red (or any other color) under the mask.  No one sees it and it makes a mess of the inside, as well as your face.

I know that in the scheme of things, this hardly warrants mentioning, much less whining about. Yet I almost don’t know myself without my red lipstick; it’s a loss that feels so essential, so personal as to almost be disorienting. Helena Rubinstein—a woman who knew the value of a good red—built an empire on the belief that wearing make-up was a self-assertive, empowering act, one that allowed a woman to literally create the face that she showed to the world.  Well, the pandemic face is a new face in what may be a new world.  That it robs us lipstick-loving lasses of a little bit of our identity is a loss that compounds the bigger losses.  Yes, I’ll learn to cope, as I’ve learned to cope with so much else these last terrible months.  But I’m still longing for the day when I can doff the mask and paint my mouth a dazzling, bright-as-a-beacon red once again.

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October 23, 2020 by

Can Good Things Possibly Emerge from 2020?

In real life, I’m not a Pollyanna personality. My eye goes to what needs to be fixed rather than seeing first what’s already shiny and bright. A misplaced modifier or coffee mug calls me quickly into critique mode.

But these past eight months, soon rounding into a year, have not felt like real life. And so, out of character, I find myself meta-phorically squinting to discern what few good things seem to be emerging from behind the dark clouds of this pandemic, with its grim losses and its miseries.

A few potentially positive developments are surfacing from our generally unwelcome experiences, and I note them while also recognizing my privileged perspective as a woman with health insurance, an adequate pantry, and fairly reliable internet with which to do my work and connect, gratefully, with family and friends.

The first change that struck me was that The New York Times, that daily arbiter of our reality, is reviewing unprecedented numbers of books and art by people of color, especially women of color. Perhaps the impetus is to right a wrong, correct an oversight. With so little to review in the performing arts––no live concerts, no Broadway––there’s room to open the arts coverage lens wider than usual.

Of course there’s more. Horrific hunger is becoming more widespread, even in lands of plenty. And everywhere, an acknowledgement of scarcity—both of funds and of access––from fridge- foraging posts on social media to shortages of canned goods. One consequence is that during the pandemic the upscale restaurants likely to have warranted publicity are now off-limits, and even the august New Yorker magazine has had to pivot its spotlight from indoor fancy dining to small-scale take-out joints, frozen foods you can make at home and local places feeding their neighbors that might have escaped notice in a more conventional time.

These may seem like small shifts relative to the vast problem of global hunger, but they suggest that a certain democratization is at work. Perhaps this small seed will grow into greater awareness of what’s really important, with empathy shaping food policy.

Another unintended, unexpected outcome from the pandemic’s necessities is less quantifiable, but this one holds lessons too: we have been forced to reimagine not only our mourning rituals (Zoom shivas, recorded funerals and eulogies) but also our simchas, those celebrations of life’s happy landmarks. People are finding ways to seize joy by all available handholds. The bat and bar mitzvah ceremony for a family’s twins, originally planned as a multi-generational tour of Israel, instead evolved as a masked outdoor service, the 13-year-olds prepared by their grandfather, in a service led by a great-uncle, with the few close relatives,

socially distanced, smiling together in a sunny backyard. The direct
involvement of the older generations, this family reports, brought
an unexpected resonance that would have been missing in a more standard-issue event. Or the decision made by an engaged couple to advance their elaborate wedding, scheduled a year from now, replacing it with a small outdoor chuppah ceremony this fall. Judging from the jubilant photos, no one’s happiness was diminished (except perhaps the caterer’s). The bride and groom could share their joy in the present rather than waiting a year through who-knows-what-uncertainties of health and fortune.

Look, these are not universally cheering panaceas, or anodynes for painful, significant losses—of loved ones, of jobs, of the chance to be with people we care about. But these glimmers of good news are reminders that we have points of connection available to us still, and that simplicity, born of necessity, brings its own pleasures and poignancy. They also remind us of the enduring ability to adapt to adversity.

For me, the enforced isolations bring both gain and pain. As an editor working remotely, with concentrated time to write and to process a complete, uninterrupted thought? A plus, mostly. But having to communicate via email or text when I’m accustomed

What good things can possibly emerge from our present circumstances?
to the pace of immediate, lively conversations in person? With people I’m accustomed to seeing in real life in Lilith’s office? Not very satisfying.

In a singular way, though, the pandemic has provided gradual easing into an anticipated change that would have been far more unsettling were it to have happened in Before Times: Naomi Danis, Lilith’s longtime managing editor, plans to retire at the end of 2020 to write more of her wonderful, perceptive children’s books. The pandemic’s work-from-home routine has become an accidental dress rehearsal for the separation when, after 30 years, Naomi will no longer appear under “staff ” on the masthead, although we look forward to keeping her close as a contributing editor. In addition to her tireless and creative work ensuring that Lilith’s humans and systems work smoothly, Naomi has modeled how to ask hard questions and how to smooth ruffled feathers. Rabbi Susan Schnur, Lilith former senior editor, once wrote that the women at Lilith operate “like teabags in a single pot,” steeped in one another’s quotidian lives. But beyond that steeping is Naomi’s own particular skill in honoring differing opinions while holding steady to the course of her own moral, Jewish, feminist, writerly compass.

I’m spurred to paraphrase Arlene Agus: May our dreams become our blessings in the year ahead.

Susan Weidman Schneider Editor in Chief susanws@lilith.org

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The Lilith Blog

October 7, 2020 by

I Had Planned a Midlife Hair Makeover— Then Covid Showed Up

Dear Reader,

In the midst of a terrible season, allow me some self-indulgence.

During the winter of 2020 before the world derailed with Covid-19, I was 49 years old, facing my 50th birthday with a mix of excitement and resignation. Certainly, I was glad to be healthy, in an intact marriage, with growing wonderful children, and a full roster of friends, family, social engagements, community service, and even a resuscitated second act after retirement to practicing as an attorney in solo practice.

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The Lilith Blog

July 30, 2020 by

Twinkle Times Two: On Vigilance and Anxiety

“Take your shoes off,” I remind my mother. “Drop your keys; I’ll clean them.” “Wash your hands and get changed. Wait, no—take off your street clothes first, then wash your hands. But don’t touch anything else.” She comes inside. I cringe as she sets her sunglasses down on the kitchen counter, making a mental note to sanitize them when she isn’t looking, and give the counter a scrub too, of course. I follow her to her bedroom, watching her undress, confirming that her shorts and t-shirt make it into the laundry bag.

Will it be enough? Is it too much?

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July 27, 2020 by

We’re Going to Witness a Surge in the Current Health Inequality

MARION DANIS is a physician and bioethicist who directs the Bioethics Consultation Service at the National Institutes of Health. The views she expresses here are her own and not necessarily a reflection of the policies of the N.I.H. or the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The coronavirus pandemic feels like a throwback to an era when human capacity to overcome diseases was minimal. We revert to ageold techniques—isolation, hand-washing, masks. The novelist Orhan Pamuk, who knows a lot about how it feels to live through plagues (he’s read many of the great novels about past plagues as he has been writing a new one), tells us our experience is similar in some ways but different in others. We fear the unknown, we start rumors and blame others for bringing the plague. But unlike the experience of past plagues, we aren’t in the dark; we can know what’s going on everywhere in great detail, and we avoid the full impact of isolation by connecting virtually. We are relying on the biological sciences to eventually find more modern solutions.

In the U.S., the healthcare system will be in a sad state after we have made our way through the pandemic. This will not be solely due to the outbreak but also due to policy decisions made before the pandemic, and during it.

Millions of people will have lost their jobs and will lose their employment-based health insurance as a result. Many people who worked in the gig economy without an economic safety net will be unable to afford the basic elements needed for health, particularly safe housing and adequate nutrition, and will not be able to afford healthcare without incurring debt. Many medical practices will have faced economic hardship and even closed, and healthcare practitioners will have lost jobs because all routine, non-emergency medical care will have gone on hold. We will witness an exaggeration of health inequality because death rates from Covid-19 have been higher among minority communities. We will recognize how important maintenance of public health infrastructure is and what a mistake it was to allow a lapse in preparedness for pandemics.

It will take remarkable optimism to see much good coming out of this pandemic. But perhaps the consequences will be so dire and the urge to fix the problem will be so great that we will urge or even insist that Congress pass legislation to create guaranteed income and expand health insurance, and demand that the executive branch plan better next time. 

 

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July 27, 2020 by

Abortion for Anyone Who Needs It

STEPH BLACK is a writer, activist and clinic escort in D.C. who is passionate about the intersections of Judaism and feminism. 

Post-Corona, I want to imagine that abortion will be accessible in the ways I’ve always dreamed: The option to seek care in a clinic or self-administer abortion medication wherever a person feels comfortable. The abortion, whether by medications taken at home or by a procedural abortion done in a clinic, will be free. Information around abortion care will be holistic, demedicalized, and demystified.

At this moment, we are at a crossroads. Telemedicine options for many kinds of healthcare have spiked. Yet this has not been true for abortion: the FDA’s stonewalling on accessible abortion medication is baseless. Its refusal to relax medically unnecessary restrictions on the accessibility of these medications is life-threatening to those who need it. As an educator trained on how to self-manage abortion with pills, I know that access to these medications, and information on how to take them, is vital and urgent. Being able to manage an abortion yourself at home during Covid-19 is lifesaving.

Even as more people seeking abortion care turn to this option, I’m hoping others will understand how safe and necessary it is. I envision a time when these medications are available in pharmacies, for free, for anyone who needs it—no questions asked.

Right now, abortion is essential. In a post-Corona world, it must be freedom.

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July 27, 2020 by

Labor Activism Has New Momentum

AMELIA DORNBUSH is a former Malka Fellow at Lilith and currently works for a union in Michigan.

Labor unions in the United States have an approval rating of 64% in the US according to Gallup. Yet, union density continues to decline—currently hovering just above 10%. Clearly, there’s a gap between the wish of American workers to have a democratic say in their lives and the legal mechanisms by which they can attain such a voice.

In early April, I was struck by a headline in the publication Labor Notes that read: “Will Covid-19 be Our Triangle Fire?” In 1911, over a hundred workers (many of them Jewish women) burned alive in a shirtwaist factory because of unsafe conditions that were entirely preventable. The protests that followed led to the establishment of numerous worker safety protections.

The parallels to our current moment are unmistakable. Tens of thousands of Americans have died of Covid-19. Essential workers are especially at risk, all the more so because the protections that workers won over a century ago have gradually been eroding.

Historically, an interplay between shop-floor action and legal changes have led to the growth of workers’ rights and democratic expression. Given the antilabor Labor Board and Supreme Court, it seems unlikely that legal avenues will offer much solace now.

That leaves direct action. And during the pandemic, worker organizing is on the rise. A strike map has shown over 200 walkouts since March, many of them happening at not-yet-union facilities.

It is genuinely impossible to say what the future of organizing will be after the pandemic—unemployment is rising and union members have been hit hard with layoffs. Corporations have ruthlessly fired workers who organize, even hospitals short-staffed during a pandemic. In many ways, the future could be grim.

We have to hope we can build ourselves a new world from the ashes of the old. The labor movement at its core is about democracy and connections among workers. A virtual world makes it harder to attain those things—but the labor movement has adapted before and will adapt again.

During this pandemic, we have seen glimmers of what that new world could be. From anecdotal evidence, it looks like unions have been fielding an increased number of calls from workers seeking to organize. Even without a formal union, workers have been winning demands through collective action. So there is hope.

Following the Triangle Fire, Rose Schneiderman delivered a speech to the Women’s Trade Union League. She said: “Public officials have only words of warning to us—warning that we must be intensely orderly and must be intensely peaceable, and they have the workhouse just back of all their warnings. The strong hand of the law beats us back, when we rise, into the conditions that make life unbearable.

“I can’t talk fellowship to you who are gathered here. Too much blood has been spilled. I know from my experience it is up to the working people to save themselves. The only way they can save themselves is by a strong working-class movement.”

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The Lilith Blog

June 25, 2020 by

“We’re All Nervous About What’s Coming”—A Michigan Nurse on the Covid Crisis

Melissa Boals is a nurse at Munson Medical Center in Traverse City, Michigan. She serves on the board of the Michigan Nurses Association, which represents approximately 13,000 nurses, and her hospital recently won its fight for unionization in 2017. In early May, she spoke to Arielle Silver-Willner about her experiences during the Covid crisis, as well as Jewish identity in the predominantly non-Jewish Traverse City.

Arielle Silver-Willner: I’d like to begin by thanking you for your hard work, bravery, and the sacrifices you’ve had to make during the last few months (I heard that you had to be separated from your daughter for safety reasons and that today is the first time you are able to see her again). All of this could not have been easyhow are you?  

Melissa Boals: I’m happy right now. When I picked her up I teared up. I know that I only have so many days with her and then we’ll see what happens because we’re having a lot of tourists coming, not social distancing and not wearing masks and it’s very concerning. According to the Grand Traverse Health Department website we had two out-of-state travelers test positive. Both were symptomatic. They had traveled to Grand Traverse County to visit family, so we’re all nervous about what’s coming.

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The Lilith Blog

May 29, 2020 by

I Told Our Son He Can’t Come Home

He asked to borrow the car. 

Just two weeks earlier, he’d been sheltering with us in our Hudson River town, where he’d stayed for the first two months of lockdown. Despite our pleas, he returned to Manhattan. On a whim before leaving, he took the antibody test and learned that, like 30% of people infected with the coronavirus, he’d had it asymptomatically. Considering himself safe, he asked if he could stay overnight before taking the Honda. I reminded him that no antibody test is highly reliable and that nobody knows yet whether a true positive test means a person is immune. I had to say no. 

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April 29, 2020 by

When Home is Not a Shelter

Looking at me, you wouldn’t have guessed. I was a smart, outgoing, well-nourished, girl from a secular Jewish home, a top student at the school where I never missed a day. 

I was also a battered child.

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