ruthie blum USE! 298.88.
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"I've been so depressed lately," Shir-li says, removing her Crocs and curling her feet under a couch pillow. "It's been ages since anybody hit on me. I feel so old and unattractive."
"At least you've got a trust fund," Ilanit says, flicking the switch on the electric kettle, and placing two mugs on the kitchen counter. "Ever since Eli grabbed that early retirement package, we've had to spend money on all the perks we used to get for free. I hadn't grasped how expensive everything is."
"What good is my cash-flow, if I don't have anyone to go on vacation with?" Shir-li sighs, opening her compact and pursing her lips in the mini-mirror. "Maybe I should get a face-lift."
"Well, you certainly can afford one," Ilanit says, handing her friend a cup of coffee. "Unlike me - now that I have to pay for things like gas out of my own pocket."
"But you've got a husband to curl up against at night and complain to about it," Shir-li says, drinking carefully, to avoid smudging her lipstick. "At the end of the day, I go to bed alone."
"You're in fantasy land, honey," Ilanit protests. "Complaining to a man about feeling financially deprived is always perceived by him as an accusation - especially when he's your husband. Which isn't conducive to curling up against him."
"Do you know that men used to whistle at me on the street?" Shir-li reminisces wistfully, extending her hand to examine her painted nails. "Now, I can barely get heads to turn when I walk into a bar."
"Do you realize that I used to be able to spend my entire salary on myself?" Ilanit contributes her own morsel of nostalgia to the conversation, while checking on the temperature of the wine she shoved in the freezer earlier. "Now I can barely get a massage without calculating household expenses." "God always gives walnuts to the toothless," Shir-li asserts, shrugging. "Blended together, we'd make a whole happy person," Ilanit announces, laughing bitterly. "Not a chance," Shir-li disagrees. "You heaven't heard the rest of my woes - which are many and varied." "Now that you mention it," Ilanit, considers, suddenly remembering the near-frozen wine, and rushing to rescue it, "I've got a lot more on my plate as well." "Like what?" Shir-li asks with concern, reaching for the wine glass Ilanit is handing her. "Are you ill?" "No, nothing like that," Ilanit answers reassuringly, then hastens to add, "though sometimes I think having a disease would be preferable."
"Bite your tongue," Shir-li scolds lovingly. "But believe me, I'd probably feel the same way if I were guaranteed a little tea and sympathy from a man - which, as I've already pointed out, I'll never have again."
"Bite your own tongue," Ilanit reprimands affectionately. "If I had your freedom from economic worry and matrimonial bonds, I'd be on a cruise around the world right now."
"OH," SHIR-LI exclaims suddenly, sitting up and looking at her watch. "Shouldn't we be saving some of this wine for Edna?"
"Nah," Ilanit responds, peeking out the window to see if Edna's car is approaching. "She told me she never drinks on the job."
"On the job," Shir-li repeats the phrase sarcastically. "As though coming to your house and schmoozing with us about her problems is going to be real work for her."
"Well, she is coming to interview us for her article," Ilanit says in defense of their common friend - their partner in self-pity - who also happens to be a high-powered journalist in Israel's most prestigious daily. "With a tape-recorder and everything."
"Oy," Shir-li says, heading for the bathroom. "If she's bringing a photographer, I'd better do something about my make-up."
"Don't bother," Ilanit reassures. "She said she wants our pictures taken outdoors during the daytime. Somewhere that symbolizes our views - maybe at Rabin Square."
"Oh good," Shir-li says, returning to her comfortable perch. "That means I might have time to get my hair done."
"I wish I could afford to have mine done," Ilanit groans, lifting a long strand as though it were a dead rat.
"JUST WHEN you thought things couldn't get any worse," Edna announces as she enters Ilanit's apartment, "they, of course, do."
"Without fail," Shir-li commiserates, nodding mournfully as she greets her friend.
"Without let-up," Ilanit confirms, pecking her friend on the cheek while taking her coat.
"Yeah, well try and top this one," Edna huffs, lighting a cigarette. "On my way here, I just got another ticket, and now I've got to take that ridiculous 'cautious driving' class with a bunch of losers."
"Maybe you'll meet some hunk there," Shir-li says, part-comforting, part-envious.
"I can get you out of it," Ilanit nods, winking. "Eli still has the contacts."
"Talk to Eli, then," Edna says to Ilanit, flinging her purse over a chair. To Shir-li, she says, "I prefer to flirt in sexier settings, if you don't mind."
"Shall we get started?" Ilanit proposes.
"I'm game," Shir-li consents.
Edna turns on her recorder and clears her throat.
"Ilanit, as a social worker specializing in post-trauma, how would you rate country-wide morale in the wake of the war in Lebanon and current events in Gaza?" she asks, shifting into professional gear.
"Couldn't be lower," Ilanit responds. "The citizens have lost faith in all state institutions - a phenomenon which has begun to express itself as a kind of collective malaise, a sense of ethical impoverishment, if you will, further compounded by the corruption of much of the political echelon, for whom padding their pockets and their power bases is top priority."
"As a women's rights activist, do you agree with this assessment?" Edna asks, now turning to Shir-li.
"Absolutely," Shir-li answers with confidence. "But I would go a step further, to include the appalling sexual conduct of our leaders, who continue to treat women as objects - a phenomenon made possible by the second-class status granted to us in government and elsewhere, and covered up by fig leaves such as Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Education Minister Yuli Tamir."
"Thanks, girls," Edna says, satisfied. "Now, back to our bitching session."