"I don’t know where he gets it from,” she said half laughing. “My son shakes in front of the mirror, watching the creases in his pants and how they sway. If they move too much, get thee to the cleaners! It’s not me, and it’s definitely not my husband.” We were talking in the teachers’ room about our children’s fashion sense, and where they pick it up.

We laughed at the image of her teen, and the next teacher told of her 18-month-old, with no hair to speak of, gazing adoringly in the mirror smoothing out her “tresses” with a brush. The talk reminded me of someone else — my little brother-in-law.

At 19, he’s super put-together, and polished. I always wondered what it was that made his lines so crisp; it couldn’t just be his Brooks Brothers collar-stays, because my husband has those too. Then one Shabbos meal, while waiting for my husband to finish washing and return to the table, I observed his preoccupation with his shirt cuffs.

He tugged at them a little, one edge of the cuff was a millimeter off and not completely aligned with its counterpart. He adjusted it, then readjusted his cuff links, which had moved a “ma — she —hu” in the tweaking. It took seconds, but in that moment I knew that I would never be it. I would never be super-polished and sophisticated, with my sheitel perfectly coiffed.

And then there’s my sister-in-law, who I love dearly, but who really solidified my despair of ever being the enviable “How does she do it?” Superwoman. Shortly before her wedding, she gave me a tour of her soon-to-be-inhabited apartment. It was brand-new and pretty, even without her little touches. I really liked her kitchen; there was a lot of counter space, and two sinks, none of which my own apartment possessed. I absentmindedly reached for the faucet to turn on the water.

“Don’t,” she said quickly.

“What? Why?” I asked. “Worried about water bills already?”

She laughed, “No, it’s just that I dried the sink before you came and I don’t want to do it again.”

I scrunched up my eyes in confusion.

“Dried the sink?” I wasn’t familiar with the concept. Wiping, yes; drying, no. And I’d been running my own kitchen for a very long time by then: six months.

“Yeah, I don’t like water droplets in the sink, so I dry it.”

I knew then that my kitchen could never look like hers.

Yes, if I choose to, I could dry my sinks, too, using extra-strength Bounty paper towels (I do on occasion, it makes such a difference, it’s crazy). And if I were a man, I could sway in front of the mirror, and realign my cuff links. But it’s all ex post facto. I watched others do it, saw the results, and I’m just imitating. I’d have never thought of it on my own. And the thing is — they didn’t think of it, either; it came naturally. (Excerpted from Family First, Issue 546)