I gave up organized religion a long time ago. I think G-d – or whatever higher power you believe in – is very personal, and I subscribe to the “hey, as long as you are good to others and teach your kids to be good to others, whatever gets you through the day is fine by me” school of thought. I was raised Jewish, however. And there are two things I have taken away from that guidance. One – I hyphenate G-d. Don’t ask. It just stuck. And two – I have a solid Bat Mitzvah story.
If you’ve never been to a Bar (his) or Bat (hers) Mitzvah, all you need to know is that in Miami in the 80’s it was all about outsnazzing each other. Not the kids. We – at 13 – cared about big hair and frilly dresses and boys. Our parents, on the other hand, took the traditional religious passage into adulthood and turned it into the obvious precursor to My Super Sweet Sixteen.
One friend had breakdancers and a caricature artist. My parents hired a comedian. It wasn’t as bad as the 50’s doo wop group they flew in for my brother’s fiesta two years later (Danny totally got shafted on that one), but in retrospect, it was still an odd choice. I appreciate where they were going with it. It was clever. It was different. But it was so clearly not about me at that point. The glitter and sparkles and baton-twirling theme – me. The nightclub entertainer from Dangerfield’s in NYC – not so much me. More the 2-drink minimum demo in the room.
My friends and I sat in a semi-circle around the comedian on the dance floor like little kids waiting for the funny clown to make balloon animals. He started to tell jokes. Edited jokes. For the PG crowd. Which had to be hard enough to begin with. But when the anxious kids turned into bored hecklers, that’s when the evening’s entertainment realized he had made a horrible mistake.
To his credit, the guy tried really hard to make the best of what turned out to be the worst performance situation of his career. In case you suspect I am exaggerating, I can assure you this is true. I ran into the same comedian years later while I was in college, and he told me the evening did, in fact, suck.
Probably a little for my parents too. See, I’m guessing it’s not cheap to fly a guy in from the NY scene and put him up for the weekend in Miami. They’d like to know at the very least they are getting their money’s worth. But I had a crush on a boy. And since the boy’s mom was coming to get him early, Captain Comedian had to cut it short so I could dance before the boy bailed. Seriously. I was 13. Buh-bye expensive entertainment. Hello awkward barely touching slow dance with crush of the week. Priorities.
I know today is the start of the Jewish New Year (I know because I got a card), and the Day of Atonement is still about 10 days out (correction: 7 days. See, I have no clue). But to Wayne Cotter and my parents – I’m sorry. I know you were just trying to bring a little grown-up laughter into my sparkly 13-yr-old pepto-bismol pink baton-twirling extravaganza. It bombed, but it was a valiant effort. And I am sure at the time, you poured a couple of drinks, toasted your new little woman, and said, “She’ll appreciate this someday.”
I do. Very much so. It’s a great memory. Thank you.