By Hannah Reich Berman

Purim is known in some circles as “the small p.” This is to distinguish it from Passover, which is known as “the Big P.” In discussions, others refer to it as “the P word.” From the perspective of Sheila, who has a terrific sense of humor and who is a close friend of mine, “Pesach is not for a nice Jewish girl.” But, alas, that’s the way it is. It is for us–and it will be here soon.

But I haven’t moved forward. I am still hung up on the small p, the Purim just past. That’s because I only recently rid myself of the pain and discomfort that I sustained from that otherwise happy day. I didn’t fall and I wasn’t ill. My pain and discomfort were self-inflicted. They were caused by my costume.

Shortly before Purim, my daughter mentioned to me that her children were anxious to see me in costume. I thought that what she meant was that they wanted to see me in my annual costume. The reason I thought that was her meaning was because I have only one Purim getup.

Since I attended a different Megillah reading than did my daughter and her children, I planned to wear my costume to the seudah being held at their house. Knowing that the kids would be thrilled to see me in full regalia was all the incentive I needed. Late in the afternoon on Purim, I showed up at their place in my usual Purim state of dress–a Cleopatra outfit.

The accouterments necessary to produce this Cleopatra look are a hard headdress and false eyelashes. And they are not comfortable. The beads hang down to my shoulders, and the beaded brass headdress covers my ears, which interferes with my already declining hearing. To boot, the beaded bangs slam against my forehead every time I turn my head. In general the thing gives me a headache.

Added to that is my Cleopatra makeup. Or, to be more candid, what I think of as Cleopatra-style makeup, which it probably is not. My idea of how that femme fatale looked includes long eyelashes. To that end, years ago I purchased two-inch-long false eyelashes. That is no exaggeration. I know the eyelashes are that long because I measured them. They are self-stick. At least they were self-stick when I bought them. But that was many moons ago, and over the years the adhesive has dried out. Unfortunately I never replaced the lashes. The result is that when I apply them to my delicate lids, the strips of heavy lashes keep popping up.

No sooner do I press them down on the inner side of my lid than they pop up at the outer side. And when I press them down on the outer side, as you might guess, they pop up on the inner side. And so it goes. I spend most of my time pressing on my eyelids. Added to that is the fact that the lashes are so long that they interfere with my vision. I did drive to the seudah that day while wearing them, but, between the headdress and the lashes, it was only by sheer luck that I avoided an accident and arrived safely.

Once there, I parked my car and headed to the front door, certain that the youngsters would be delighted when they saw me in costume. It was a rather glamorous look and they had, after all, requested that I repeat it. When the door opened, I saw the five kids standing there. They took one look at me and it was clear that they were underwhelmed. Then the youngest of the lot turned to his siblings and said, “Awwww, she wore that last year!” At that point they turned away and went back to whatever it was that they had been doing before I made my appearance.

Seeing my look of confusion, my daughter explained that she had meant for me to wear it only to the Megillah reading, which is less than an hour long, and that I should wear a costume, not the costume. Apparently she assumed that I would come up with something new this year. I have no idea why she thought that, since I have worn that same costume for the past ten years! But, at that moment, my prevailing thought was that I would now be stuck wearing the annoying headgear and accompanying eyelashes for the rest of the day.

Of course, I did no such thing. Not being one to suffer any longer than I have to, within minutes I removed the headpiece and ripped off the eyelashes. That made me comfortable for the rest of the day, but it was too late. The damage had been done. The next day I woke up with an allergic reaction that nearly drove me crazy. For the next week I suffered with red, watery, and itchy eyes and instantly became a pariah something akin to Typhoid Mary.

Thinking that I had conjunctivitis, or “pink eye,” or whatever anyone wants to call it, everyone avoided me like the plague. And it didn’t cut any ice with anyone when I explained that the problem was caused by a reaction to the dried-out adhesive on my false eyelashes. Nobody listened to me, and a few days later I had to suffer the indignity of begging to be allowed to play in my weekly Mah-Jongg game. Happily, the girls gave in and allowed me to play. I knew in my heart that they took the risk of being in close proximity to me, and touching the same tiles that I touched, only because these Mah-Jongg addicts were anxious to play and they couldn’t find someone to replace me. But that didn’t bother me. I had no pride; playing was preferable to not playing.

My eyes are no longer red and my vision is much improved. That headache caused by the hard headpiece is also long gone. And all of that is just in time to get ready for the Big P. That’s the way it is. v

Hannah Berman lives in Woodmere and is a licensed real-estate broker associated with Marjorie Hausman Realty. She can be reached at or 516-902-3733.


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