Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Ode to Kugel Couples

I could write at length about the myriad differences between Jo'burg kugels and the more familiar JAPs (Jewish American Princesses). I assume, over time, I will. Today, though, I want to discuss my long-stifled love for kugel couples, particularly middle-aged kugels. Although the description is interesting in it of itself, I think the kugel couple way of relating is instructive in understanding some of the unfortunate ways American society treats aging in women and marriage.

One of the most (only) fun parts of flying South African Airways from New York to Johannesburg is watching middle-aged kugel couples cuddling on the flight. The woman is normally wearing Juicy Couture sweats with a low-waisted velour trackpant, tight on the hips, and flared at the bottom. She has cute matching Pumas and a tight white tank-top with a zip-up hoodie on top. Her butt looks good in the trackpants and her hair is always long, and always down. Ponytails only happen at the gym or in the bath. Lips are glossed and her modest wedding gold-band (we were just starting out!) has been supplemented on the other hand with a huge rock for their silver anniversary.

He is not exactly good-looking, but you can see the appeal. He's beefy and is wearing a Polo shirt and some sort of loafer. He carries all of her bags (and there are a lot!) and rolls his eyes like he's used to it. After take-off, he starts reading an autobiography of Lance Armstrong and she starts paging through American Vogue. She loves the adverts for Gucci handbags, but doesn't really like the "weird" designers like Yohji. The armrests go up, seatbelts unfastened, and they share two blankets. She falls asleep on his lap and he plays with her hair. They hold hands in their sleep, and share a toothbrush before landing in Jo'burg. He smiles when she touches up her lip gloss. They've probably been married for 25 years and have three kids.

Sometimes, at the numerous malls blighting the Johannesburg landscape, you see middle-aged kugel couples having coffee in the morning before Sunday lunch or Saturday shul. She rests her legs on his lap and when she stands up he tells her "you're a tough chick." A pretty girl in her 20s walks by in tight jeans and wedge heels and although he looks and remarks that she's a "hot babe," he tells his wife "I like your ass better...And you're the best mother ever."

They pay the bill, hold hands, and perhaps go shopping for a bikini for her to wear for their upcoming holiday in Mauritius. He's late, but wants to pick out which bikini will look the best. There's a little (lot) bit more fat than 20 years ago, but who cares, she's still "my hot wife."

I love how in good kugel marriages (and not like they are all good!), women still sit on their hubbies' lap in public and will totally make out at the movies. It's cool to be young and in love- even if you're 53 and have been married for 20 years. It's cool to keep your hair long and still wear tight jeans with heels and low-cut tank tops out to dinner. It's cool to keep pinching your husband's butt in public even if you're Lubavitch (witnessed by yours truly!). It's cool to feel beautiful even if you're not. It's cool to love making your wife coffee in the morning since it's the only thing you know how to make. It's cool to complain that your wife is blocking your view of the cricket or the rugby, but miss her when she leaves the room.

Some women look really good with short hair (like my mom!), but I wish American women felt that they don't need to just cut it off when they turn 35. That it's not inappropriate to have long waves and pink, glossed lips at age 50. That marriage can be really fun, not just that thing you do after a really good year of dating since you're getting older and it's easier to pay a mortgage with two incomes. Kugels often make marriage look really fun ("Ooh... I should buy this tea for Milton. We're going to stay home tonight and watch 'Prison Break' and I made these divine biscuits which will go well with the tea."), not like a chore all about sacrifice and compromise and lost youth. Kugels can be crazy in love and young at heart and married.


Blogger CJ said...

A very sweet and obviously approving view of the classic kugel couple, thank you for clarifying what a kugel is.

Re your interests on more serious matters-Genocide: I find Jared Diamond's views as to it's genesis in the book "Guns, Germs and Steel" quite interesting and agreeable, being mostly environmental.
Warning: he tends to kill a significant amount or readers himself - with boredom as he leads up it. Roberts Guest in "A Shackled Continent" has a view on the African version that is worthwhile reading.
Also linked is your other interest in Germs vs Population density. Again I find Jared Diamond's views quite well positioned, the same book but also in his book Collapse. Extreme interest in wading through tonnes of facts will insure survival(ok, he's not that bad).

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