It’s days like this that I think to myself it’s time to grow up and stop storing stuff at my parent’s house. Case in point, my Bat-Mitzvah album, which is a time capsule of early 90’s hilarity, and would have certainly provided some excellent imagery for this post. But I’m too busy organizing the crap I am storing at my house to trek the twenty minutes to Mom and Dad’s and grab that particular embarrassing bit of memorabilia from my teen years. So instead, in honor of the (gasp) FIFTEEN YEAR anniversary of the day I became a woman, here’s a hilarious book to check out so you can laugh at other people instead of me: Bar Mitzvah Disco: The Music May Have Stopped, but the Party’s Never Over. (Oddly, I actually know a few of the people who have their simchas mocked in this coffee table treasure.)
But back to my own torturous rite-of-passage. While our wedding featured a parade of vomiting cougars (I mean that in the best way possible ladies) and a ganja circle ’round the bonfire, my Bat Mitzvah still holds the top spot for humiliating pubescent nightmares complete with party-crashers, wardrobe malfunctions, and Rachel’s 75-Year-Old Grandma (my beloved surrogate Bubbie) swapping saliva with my DJ. That’s right – Jews know how to fucking party.
Having a Bat Mitzvah, for those of you who weren’t subjected to it, is not unlike being kicked in the teeth while naked on-stage in front of your peers and loved ones during the most awkward phase of your entire life. Somehow (and I’m not sure if I owe this to my Mom or myself) I managed to escape having to do it in a frock of technicolor taffeta – a fate which befell most of my friends at the time. And I was spared the horror of having my mouthful of braces immortalized in photos lining the family hall, because like most self-respecting Jewish Moms of her day, my Mom took me to the orthodontist to have the front six brackets removed especially for the occasion. But looking back my simple black dress and hardware-free smile were the only reprieves I was granted by the Gods of the B’nai Mitzvot. I’m tone deaf, but I had to chant the torah portion. That wasn’t so bad (terrifying, yes, but not emotionally scarring.) I concluded my super awesome “speech” with a quote from the Lion King (Hakuna Matata.) Apparently my speaking Swahili from the Bima really pissed the Rabbi off, but again…could have been worse.
I’m not sure what the kids are doing nowadays, but in early nineties Los Angeles, if your Bat (or Bar) Mitzvah didn’t have a theme (which would then be interpreted in an explosion of metallic tissue paper and glitter on each table as a so-called centerpiece by your second grade teacher who moonlighted as a party planner) you just weren’t cool. My theme was The Beatles, which again, sounds harmless enough until you imagine the album cover to Yellow Submarine depicted in glitter 8 feet high, and you’re finally starting to get the gist of what being a guest at “Morgan’s Magical Mystery Tour” was all about. (Then again, my good friend Becca’s special day featured a larger than life – we’re talking 10 feet tall here – Cabbage Patch doll to go with her theme; an image which I’m sure any young children who were present are still haunted by at night.)
Other staples of the era not to be forgotten: The inevitable “name in glitter” towering above the dance floor. The sign-in board, usually featuring a photo of the guest of honor in their formative years, possibly either dressed up for a Dance Recital/Little League Game, or with birthday cake smeared on their face. The neon light sticks and jewelry – both of which support my theory that Candy Ravers were just trying to relive their days on the Bat Mitzvah circuit. Inappropriate slutty Go-Go Dancers? I had ‘em. Blow up guitars? I had ‘em. Rainbow (and/or metallic) Rock-Star wigs? I had ‘em. Mom’s boobs popping out of her dress while she was lifted up on the chair during the Hora in front of every boy in my 7th grade class? Oh yeah. I had ‘em. (The alterations place forgot to re-insert the boning in her strapless dress after they’d taken it in, resulting in a wardrobe malfunction of epic proportions.)
And then there’s the issue of the “Party Crashers.” I had a crush on this boy Andrew who was a few years older than me, so natch, I decided the way to win his heart was by inviting him to my Bat Mitzvah.
My parents still give me the stink-eye whenever the topic comes up. Much to my delight, Andrew showed. Much to their chagrin, he brought two friends, wore his usual grunge uniform of a plaid/flannel shirt and ripped up jeans, and proceeded to melt candle wax all over the dance-floor in what the “grown-ups” viewed as an attempt to burn down the synagogue.
As far as the 75-year-old woman who made out with the DJ? I was only 13, so no one ever really explained to me how that happened. All I know is that it did. I saw it. And it was amazing.
It’s occured to me that there are less years spanning the gap between today and the inevitable Bat Mitzvah of my daughter than years now separating me from my own. My friend Lisa reminded me of that when she announced she had already decided what to buy our baby as a welcome gift. (Seriously, how cute is that onesie though? Clearly I’m going to make my child wear it for an embarassing cake-smeared photo which will inevitably end up on her own bedazzled sign-in board.)