It’s Bar Mitzvah season for The Boy. On at least one day every weekend, I have to tie his tie (at what age should he know how to tie his own damned tie?) and drive him to a reception at one catering hall, hotel, or party spot after another. There’s a break in the action for the summer but it’ll pick up again soon, with a party scheduled for Labor Day weekend. The Boy had his own reception not too long ago and planning that required a swan dive back into my pool of childhood insecurities.
My bar mitzvah reception was held a million years ago at the famous Huntington Town House. Don’t bother looking for it—it’s probably an Audi dealership now. I don’t know what happened to it. It may have been a victim of one bad economy or another. Perhaps the soaring taxes did it in. Or maybe the place just sucked. It was a huge place that could host 3 giant parties at the same time without any guests from one party knowing there was another party going on. My reception was pretty fancy—one of the fancier ones of all the receptions I attended—but not opulent or over the top. This is before the “theme” receptions that turned bar mitzvah receptions into ostentatious baccanals that had the barest nod to the religious significance of the day.
I’d heard stories of receptions costing into the hundreds of thousands of dollars and I stressed out about the possibility of having to throw one of those one day (yeah, I worried about things like that in my teens). This kind of meshugas was going on as recently as 2 years ago, Out loud, I swore I’d never cave to that kind of nonsense but I knew I’d have to face the social pressure of having to host one at least as big and memorable as the smallest one my imaginary kids would be attending. It didn’t help that I ended up in New Jersey, where The Kids’ Mother and her friends regaled me with tales of wild parties with great themes, huge bands…no, orchestras…and piles of money thrown at every extravagance available.
When it came time to plan a party for The Boy, I sank back into my shell and as his Mother worried about locations and menus, I worried about “important” things like appearances. Would it be like all the others he’d be attending? Would it be nicer? Will his friends have a great time and will it make The Boy more popular? And what would my friends say about it (behind my back, no doubt)?
But something happened in the decades between my reception and today. Maybe it was the economy or maybe society had changed and what was socially acceptable for these pseudo-religious ceremonies was more down to earth. I stopped hearing stories of the wallet-draining bashes. People I talked to were planning smaller parties or if the parties were big, they were much more tasteful. But maybe it was a trap. Maybe I was being lulled into a state of false confidence. Yeah…that’s what they want me to think!
In the end, everything turned out fine. The Boy had a great time. His friends had a great time. Good food, plenty of it. I botched the toast but no one was paying attention anyway. I survived relatively unscathed and can look back on the night and realize that I’d been stressing out for nothing. Yay for me.
The Boy’s mother told me that come January, we’ll be filling out the paperwork for The Girl’s bat mitzvah. In 2016. Is it getting hot in here?