Say Mnyes to the dress

My seamstress has a name that starts with T and ends with the sound of breaking glass, and she has the best reviews on Yelp. 

She also has four trophies for Great Business and Seamstress and Tailoring, but I think she may have bought them herself, so pretend I didn’t mention them.

I’ve never had a seamstress before and on my way to her house I wondered if maybe she’d written all those great Yelp reviews herself, but when I met her I felt much better. There was no way she could have written them, because her English wasn’t great. In fact, for the first ten minutes I was there, the only word she said was “Mnyes.” Would you like me to use that in a sentence? No problem. Here are things she said “Mnyes.” to:

Sorry I’m a little early. 

You have really beautiful flowers out there. 

Should I take my shoes off? 


Are you asking if I’ll come upstairs? 

Oh, what a room! 

What, should I change here? I’ll just take my clothes off here.

I don't know one word in her first language, let alone one word that can do so many things. I wish I did, because when you can get that much mileage out of one word you don’t really need others. I assumed her catchphrase was the extent of her English vocabulary, until she started pinning the bottom of my dress and I started glancing absentmindedly around the room.

“It will really help me a lot if you look directly at your eyes in the mirror.” she said, in absolutely perfect English. 

“At my eyes?” 

She was back to “Mnyes.”

There was a giant mirror leaned against the wall a few feet away, and I stared at my eyes in it.

How much time do you spend looking at yourself in the mirror? 

Growing up I always wondered if, were I for some reason put up to the task, I could recognize my face out of a line up of twenty other caucasian faces. No hair, no birthmarks, and no eyes, just empty sockets in an empty face. You know, the things little kids think about.

I’m embarrassed to admit that now I don’t think I’d have a lot of trouble. I’ve spent a lot of time studying. Malcolm Gladwell says it takes 10,000 hours to be an expert at something, and I’ve put those hours in, a few seconds at a time. Every time I wash my hands in the bathroom I make different faces to myself. Casual glances, normal smiles, shock, boredom, I’m just curious I guess. I haven’t read Malcolm Gladwell’s book in a while so I can’t remember if he has a term for spending 10,000 hours on something that’s probably bad for you.

“It will really help me a lot if you look directly at your eyes in the mirror.” the greatest seamstress kept repeating, every time my line of sight drifted even an inch.

Had she pre-recorded it somehow? Did she practice every night the way I’ve been practicing my Torah portion? 

Boaz doesn’t look at his face in the mirror nearly as much as I do. Bless his heart, sometimes he’ll brush his teeth and then have some toothpaste on his cheek. “How did you not notice that when you were just looking at your reflection?” I ask and it's not rhetorical, I honestly desperately want to know. "How does he do it?" I'll ask myself, as I stare at my reflection in the bathroom at a party while other guests are out talking to other people and not their reflections. Boaz has my favorite face in the world but he somehow never looks at it, not even when he’s brushing his teeth. 

I would rather watch my face than watch some tv shows. Not all tv shows, but some. Malcolm Gladwell, what is this called?

Until 200-or-so years ago good mirrors were sort of a luxury so unless you were hanging out by a pool of water a lot you weren’t super occupied with how the left side of your upper lip was shaped, or what you looked like when you were shocked or bored. And you never knew when you had toothpaste on you, and seamstresses had absolutely nothing to say except “Mnyes.” 

And people had to go around not knowing what other people saw when they looked at them, like that party game where you have a celebrity’s name taped to your forehead and your friends give you clues to help you guess who you are. “You’ve been in a bunch of movies and now you’re in television.” “Once you had a big scandal and it had something to do with phones.” “I think you might have an Emmy.” “There’s some toothpaste on your face, other side.”

After she was finished pinning she had me change, and handed me an indecipherable note on a slip of paper, and I asked her when the dress would be ready. You can guess her response. I have a really good feeling about seeing that dress again. That many trophies can’t be wrong.

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