As much as I don’t like going to the mikveh, there is a certain familiarity with your own mikveh. The walls of the mikveh are familiar. I know where the paint is peeling. I know what soaps and shampoos they have, I know how many steps I have to walk down, I can predict with reasonable accuracy what the temperature of the water is going to be, that I am going to take a dip and dunk in. I might not like that the paint is peeling, but at least there is the comfort in familiarity.
I also know who I’m going to be showing my sexy backside to. We have established an intimate relationship of sorts. She examines my back and I pretend I am somewhere else. Anywhere else. And it works for both of us.
And as much as I don’t like the mikveh I have become reasonably comfortable with my own neighborhood mikveh and the balaniot with whom I’ve established a working relationship. (Actually, the balaniot where I live are awesome and a huge shout-out to them!!)
The problem arises when I have to dip and dunk in a place where I don’t know the place where all the paint is peeling. Where I don’t know what type of soaps and shampoos are being offered. Where I don’t know instinctively the number of steps that I have to walk down. When I do not know the temperature of the water, and I don’t know to whom I will be showing my sexy backside.
This can happen on vacation, on holiday, Shabbat by the parents or any other time when I am not at home, and I have to dip and dunk.
I am not saying that change is bad. Exploring a new mikveh is refreshing. Invigorating. Curious, at times enlightening, and even illuminating. It does, however, require a certain amount of acceptance and a certain willingness to be open to new things, new people, and new experiences.
One time I happened to need to dip and dunk in a place far from my home. In a place close to Oz (name obviously changed). The mikveh was a beautifully designed building that was spacious and airy. It had beautifully decorated cupboards with expensive shampoos and soaps. That were available for use. The smells were inviting, and the music was pleasant. The towels were big and fluffy, they covered my entire body, and didn’t scrimp on any part of my body. The balanit herself was lovely and told me “You have the whole place to yourself. Call me when you’re ready.”
It was such an awesome experience of self-pampering and relaxation that I could easily see myself receiving this type of pampering every month. The mikveh was big. Spacious. Not claustrophobic and there was a ramp. Not one stair. They even had a waterfall. Everything was perfect.
There was no paint that was peeling from the wall. There were shampoos and soaps and while they were expensive, they were not what I was used to. The balanit was lovely. Really lovely. But she wasn’t my balanit. She didn’t know all the little idiosyncrasies of “Tova” when Tova goes to the mikveh. She didn’t know about the birthmark on my back that I no longer have to explain to my balanit, because she has known me and checked me for the last 20 years.
So, while I enjoyed the experience immensely (who wouldn’t?) I can definitely Identify with the thought that Dorothy expressed at the end of the Wizard of Oz. “There is no place like home.” Sometimes though, you have to go to the land of Oz to figure that out.
Whenever one travels to a foreign land it is advisable to take on a practice from those foreign lands.And one practice I have taken from the land of Oz are those big fluffy towels. Trust me. It was worth it, just for that.