If Tiffany Haddish can have a Bat Mitzvah, why can’t I have one too? And why not now?
For a little background…
It was the summer of 1977, the summer I turned 13 with a mouth full of braces and feathered hair. Fleetwood Mac’s Rumors and The Eagles’ Hotel California ruled the radio, and I was a Dancing Queen, or so I thought. While most of my Jewish friends had either had or were preparing for their Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, I sat on the sidelines as their guest at many a clubhouse, country club or roller rink party. Hey Houston friends, remember Uncle Sam’s?! Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t mind not going to Hebrew school, with all that studying and tutoring, but I did feel a little left out. And I’m certain my friends thought I was lucky not having to endure it; grass is always greener and all that. But I still wondered what could have been, and yes, had regrets.
Fast forward 43 years…
It all started about a year or so ago talking to my son, Jack about his impending Bar Mitzvah. The 2020 date had been set two years earlier. Competition is stiff in NYC.
The countdown timeline with all the dates and activities leading up to the actual Bar Mitzvah arrived over the summer. Of course, when the date was first set it seemed very far away. Not anymore.
To know Jack is to understand he’s a very crafty and determined young man. When he wants to do something, he does so with great passion. And when he doesn’t want to do something, well, you do the math. Ever the negotiator, when it came time to start discussing Bar Mitzvah plans, he had a lot to say. One evening at dinner he dropped a big bomb on us and said he no longer wanted a Bar Mitzvah. He said it so matter of fact like, “hey, I’d like pizza for dinner and oh, by the way, I don’t want a Bar Mitzvah.” Oh, okay. What the? Mind you, he’s been a regular at religious school every Sunday morning since kindergarten.
Of course, he had no real reason as to why he no longer wanted a Bar Mitzvah, but let’s just stick with he was adamant in his decision. Since he is MY son, I was adamant too. This wasn’t negotiable.
So began a series of conversations known as we’re-not-going-to-talk-about-not-having-a-Bar-Mitzvah-today. And this series continued for months. Now, before you think I was force-feeding him religion, let me explain. A Bar Mitzvah is a huge rite of passage for Jewish children as they begin their journey to Jewish adulthood. My father, who I would never have characterized as a religious man, even had one, albeit the shortest service on record, or so he always told me. My husband had one too so naturally, we would carry on the tradition with Jack.
It’s no mystery that we are more of a cultural Jewish family who enjoy all the great traditions that have been passed down through generations. Some may accuse us of being “high holiday” Jews, those who only go to Temple for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Maybe to the judgmental, we were sounding a bit hypocritical wanting our son to become a Bar Mitzvah based on our own practice. Hey, everyone is entitled to their opinion. And you know what they say about opinions…
The reality is I didn’t want this moment to pass any of us by. Also, I didn’t want Jack to sit on the sidelines and have any of the regrets I had by not participating in this milestone celebration.
Even though I told Jack his Bar Mitzvah was not negotiable, he challenged me. Shocking, I know. Again, MY son. So, he’s now decided he will have a Bar Mitzvah, but conditionally. And that condition is that I have a Bat Mitzvah with him. And he’s dead serious. After picking myself up off the floor, I pressed him on this huge condition he bestowed on me. And he simply explained, “Mom, you never had a Bat Mitzvah and I thought it would be cool if we did it together.” MY son!
So, if Tiffany Haddish can have her Bat “Black” Mitzvah, I can have my Bat Mitzvah too. And to think I thought having a child in my 40s made me a late bloomer.
Here is my hope and my promise to Jack: I will stand up in front of my family and friends with him by my side, having learned a new language and memorized a passage from the Torah so I can finally declare “Today, I am a woman!” — and do all this without throwing up.
They say a parent will do anything to make their child happy. I say that declaration should come with caveats and said parent should probably have their head examined. But how does any parent deny such a thoughtful request from their child?
No more sidelines and no more regrets.
And for those of you who have had a Bar or Bat Mitzvah (however long ago), please feel free to share any tips that will help me not totally embarrass myself… or my family and friends!
Stay tuned for more to come. New year… new adventure!