Sitting on the cold bathroom tiles, I’m clutching my knees. There are marks where my clipped fingernails have dug into my skin. I shiver because I am stripped bare. I shake because my heart feels raw. Tears fall freely down my naked face. All makeup scrubbed off carefully, all body hair shaved away. Chatzitzah, chatzitzah!
I’ve gone over my body a hundred times, checking each part again and again. Is that a stray hair? Shave again. Is that a scab? Soak it again. CHATZITZAH!
No barriers. No boundaries. Nothing except you and the water. That’s how it should be.
Wait, did I clean out my ear with a q-tip? Wait, did I trim that teeny tiny hangnail? Wait, do I need to use the bathroom for the fifth time?
Some women obsessively check themselves because they anxiously want to do it right. I do it because I hope I find a reason not to immerse tonight.
No barriers. No boundaries.
But my marriage is fully of barriers and boundaries. I’m alone and lost. I can’t handle this night. I know after I dip in the warm water, I will return to my own version of Gehenom. I will return to a husband who won’t be intimate with me, doesn’t love me, doesn’t want me. I will return to all my problems, plus new ones. Now, we will share a bed (no barriers) and he will brush against me when I don’t want it (no boundaries). There will be nothing but him and me. And my barriers that I cannot drop.
So, when I take a little longer to prepare, don’t be surprised. When you wish me a goodnight afterwards and I don’t reply, it’s because my throat is too tight. It will not be a good night. It will be lonely and sad. Because while some women go home from the mikvah excited to reunite with their love, I will be going home counting down the days until I will be niddah again.