I grew up in the same community as the star of Netflix’s ‘My Unorthodox Life.’ Here’s what I wished she remembered.
Can I call you Talia? The same Talia the young me watched in total awe, dancing and leading her way thru our high school concerts? The Talia that headlined so many local Monsey events leaving her audience in stitches with her comedic genius? The beautiful and graceful and oh so well dressed Talia that walked the streets of Monsey (incidentally, the streets in your first episode are Boro Park, not Monsey, you might want to fix that teeny, tiny error). So Talia, is it ok if I refer to you as that, that girl, the one I remember?
Because Talia, while I didn’t know you well, two of our sisters were friends and I mean who in Monsey didn’t know the gorgeous, hilarious Talia Leibov, so I did know you, but never this former version of you that you now are choosing to showcase to the world. And the funny thing is Talia, I don’t think you knew her either. Sure she is familiar to you now, but ficitional characters have a way of growing on their authors like that. While not a writer, I, like yourself am a “voracious reader” and I’m pretty sure it’s quite common for authors to muddle up their own lives with that of the fiction they are creating.
Besides our passion for reading we have some other stuff in common too. Like you, Talia, I attended Bais Yaakov of Monsey. But Talia, unlike yourself, I somehow did get an education there. Not only that, I scored higher on my regents than most kids my age across the entire state, and got into the college of my choice and aced that too. I guess education is in the eyes of the beholder? I even got college credits for many of my classes there, not sure how that happened in the very same school you attended that I’m so sorry to hear did not provide you with any education.
Like yourself, I got married young. Sure our dating life was abridged and so was our engagement, but definitely not our love. This man loves, supports, respects me and hardly looks at me as a baby machine. Perhaps you would chalk it up to the fact that G-d only granted me three kids or maybe just maybe my young, sheltered, orthodox, yeshiva student of a husband actually knew how to treat a woman as a woman. Maybe my black hatter was taught in his narrow minded upbringing exactly what a woman, a wife and the mother of his children deserves.
Like you, I’m pretty successful. OK not like you, because I don’t think I ever aspired to head a lingerie company, but I do own my own company and I have pretty loyal clients that love and respect me and I make a nice income. Oh and somehow my family including the men in it support me and even pitch in when need be. I am not an expert at potato kugal, I’m working my way up with babka and I only recently started baking Challah every week, but unlike you I sometimes make million dollar deals the same time as I make chulent. (I excel at both). Feeding my family doesn’t feel imprisoning. Nah, rather it keeps me connected to my kids, keeping the mother in me alive as the career woman flourishes at her side.
So we definitely have a lot in common but Talia, we differ too in so many ways. For one I was allowed to ride a bike, I’m pretty sure you were too, a Huffy was it? But let’s leave that one alone because I’m thinking you loved yours as much as I loved mine, or were rollerblades more your thing?
Unlike you, I have two left feet. Dancing was never my forte. But it was yours and your sisters, if my memory serves me. They say to dance is to feel true freedom and the ultimate form of expression, I’m pretty sure no teenager in Bais Yaakov could dance quite like the master Talia Leibov. Free as a bird, she glided across that stage leaving her audience in awe of her stealth, grace and zero inhibitions.
While I know Talia, you and I are both Bais Yaakov of Monsey girls at heart (they say you can never take that darn Bais Yaakov out of a girl), I struggle to be dan lkaf zechus you. You see, I totally support your journey. Hell, I believe we all form and find our own paths and what works for some doesn’t work for all. I might have even picked that up in a bechirah class in good old Bais Yaakov. But your journey is your journey and while revisiting your past, you seemed to have altered all the facts of my past too. Because Monsey was not a shtetl, you did not grow up not watching movies, not reading magazines, not talking to boys. You did not grow up opresssed or stifled. While you may have struggled personally or behind closed doors our everyday world and our society was not what you claim it to be. Olympia, Carlton, Sophia, Concord, Main Monsey were not in the slightest bit ultra orthodox at the time. Women and girls were not less than. We were not kept, we were not suffocated or silenced. My mom was both a labor and delivery nurse and an attorney. My neighbor an accountant, my other neighbor an accomplished artist. The version of our wonderful Monsey you are skewing and showing the world, never even existed. Nowhere, Talia — not even in your own memories.
So please Talia if you need to speak your truth, speak it, but speak the actual damn truth.
Oh and regarding your need to expose as much of your flesh as possible in your post middle age years as payback for feeling restricted in your attire of your youth, class cannot be bought, for any price. Modesty, ala Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton, has nothing to do with Judaism and is all about knowing your worth.
And one more thing Talia, just something else I picked up in Bais Yaakov; happiness can only ever be found, within.
Your fellow Monseyite
Correction: a previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Duchess Kate Middleton is a princess. We regret the error.