I first started going to the mikveh when I got married at the age of thirty six. I went right before my wedding day, quite the emotional experience, especially considering all those years of pent-up expectations that finally found expression as I stood on the stairs leading to the water.
Throughout the following months, I performed the moves as my kallah teacher had instructed me: insert, check, count, groom thoroughly. Insert, check, count, groom thoroughly – “as if you’re going to the most important interview”, she once told me. It was a regimented choreography that I found dry, somewhat stressful, but there was a certain privilege to it: I had made it to marriage, where having my period was a value of sorts. I had been menstruating mindlessly since I was eleven years old – twenty five years –without paying it much attention, yet suddenly, my period became the center of my world for two weeks out of the month. Menstruating in the context of marriage meant a time for renewal, an opportunity to develop one’s marriage, and a necessary element to eventually grow one’s family.
Yet, each month, I wondered whether the mikveh water would wash away the growing tension in our tumultuous marriage. There was a weird dynamic between us from very early on, but I couldn’t pinpoint what was actually wrong. I just knew something was off, and hoped that the mikveh would help us recalibrate. [Read more…]