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“I know, I mean I don’t know. Of course I know — it just started jumping.”
My cousin stepped forward. “Let me check it. I’ll fix it.”
My eyes opened very wide.
“Oh no,” I said. “The kids are screaming. We’ll just watch from here. This, here — See, it’s perfect. Elmo’s counting fish.” And then, a miracle: The phone rang. It was her husband.
I glared with suspicion at the screen. I had always known that the secular world is filled with sex and drugs and nothing else — but on “Sesame Street,” too?
You see, in the ultra-Orthodox world where I grew up, we are careful with our womanliness, our sexuality. We do not suppress our womanliness; we only hide it away so it can never be seen. This keeps us safe. This ensures that our womanliness cannot be exploited the way it is in the outside world. This is why we dress modestly. This is why we don’t watch TV. This is why we are not taught anything pertaining to our sexuality until very shortly before our wedding day. And this is why, when we dance, we don’t move our hips. Or neck. Or waist. Or anything that might slip a hint that when God created us, he made us female. We do, however, trot. We cha-cha to the right and cha-cha to the left, carefully keeping our bodies in straight lines, so as not to expose any hips we might unknowingly have.
It says in the Torah: One sin leads to another. A women who shakes her hips (hence, her tush) is declaring her womanliness in public, like a whore, with an obvious desire for sex. A passerby sees her shaking hips and is provoked to sinful desire. Which leads to evil thoughts, unrestrained sex and then drugs. More unrestrained sex and drugs. Then, hell.
The matter was deeply disturbing to me. Millions of innocent children were exposed to some lady’s womanliness, hence tush, hence sex, hence drugs, and hell, and all on “Sesame Street.” Now what was I supposed to tell my children?
Over time, I calmed down. In the months and years that followed, I watched more episodes of “Sesame Street,” movies, TV and popular entertainment. I found myself in an alien world where womanliness is not a secret, but a mystery. A place where a woman’s body is considered a beautiful thing.