Keeping Up With The Steins, a hit movie from 2006 was genius. Jeremy Piven plays a man named Adam Fiedler who’s son is about to become a Bar Mitzvah. Adam is consumed with throwing the most lavish event solely to keep up with his frenemy, Arnie Stein who had just spent an astronomical amount of money on his own son’s completely over-the-top outlandish Bar Mitzvah. If you thought Keeping Up With The Steins was relevant in 2006, can you imagine how relevant it is in today’s world? Um, have you been to Boca Raton? It’s the capital of conspicuous consumption.
Holy Haftorah! The Madness of the Mitzvah Circa 2018-19 is Unpolished Mayhem.
Obviously planning a Mitzvah is a big deal. There’s lots of details and let’s face it, your kid only turns into a man/woman for the first time once so it’s gotta be amazing. Nobody wants mediocre; everyone wants the moment to be monumental! Unpolishedly enough however, it seems as if the moment, the real moment of what a Mitzvah is about has gotten lost in the madness. And how could it not when no matter how down to earth you’re trying to be you get bombarded with questions like: How far in advance did you book the DJ? How many dancers did you get? Who’s your emcee? You got the head emcee right; not one of his backups I hope? Ooooh, you didn’t want to pay extra for the head guy? Well don’t worry, I’m sure he’s good too; you’ll still have a great party. What games are you having? Do you have a theme? What, you’re not having a theme? Well, are you having a logo then? Who did you hire to design the logo? Who’s your photographer? When is your pre-shoot? What about a photo booth? Are you having a regular photo booth or one of those flashy, blinky, techy ones? Are you wrapping the dance floor? You’re draping the room, right? Wait, what? You’re not draping the room? Why? Who’s your party planner? You don’t have a planner? (insert appalling gasp) How in the world are you possibly managing? What about tipping? How much are you giving to this one and that one? Who’s doing your security? Do you have two bouncers or three? Are you giving away sweatshirts or just long sleeve hoodies? And what about the socks, and the hats, and the t-shirts and the sunglasses and the light sticks and the gift cards and the string bags and the sweatpants and the sneakers and the iPhone cases and the bandanas and the headphones and the pre-paid college tuition gift cards? What about all that?
In my head I’m screaming, “Sheket Bevakashah!” For the non Jews, that’s Hebrew for “SHUT THE FUCK UP!” But sometimes it’s more fun to reply verbally with unpolished sarcasm. “Nah, everyone else does sweatshirts; our theme is Oprah Winfrey so we’re surprising each kid with a new car!”
So you want my unpolished take on the whole Mitzvah Madness? Okay, here’s my unpolished take on the whole Mitzvah Madness:
In 1985 I became a Bat Mitzvah. Technically it was called a B’nai Mitzvah because I have a twin brother and we shared the day. My brother Andrew and I also had to share the day with one of my other friends who too was having his Bar Mitzvah around the corner at another temple at the same time. I was devastated. Half of our friends went to his, while the other half went to ours. That said, have no fear because in today’s world there’s a Mom out there with a ton of spare time. At the top of each hour she’ll email you an updated PDF file of every single Jewish child you’ve ever laid eyes on who is in the same grade as your kid. This list will be sent two and a half years in advance to ensure there are no conflicts with overlapping Mitzvahs. As absurd as that sounds, maybe it’s not such a ludicrous idea since I’m still slightly scarred from the social ramifications in 1985 when I had to share my date. Hey Mom, where was the PDF file then?
Invitations. It’s a whole thing. While all other invitations from the mid 80’s had the typical mirrors and/or ribbons on it, ours was a Crane ecru colored classic card stock invitation that looked more like my brother and I were about to marry each other rather than about to read from the Torah together. Again, another socially suicidal moment! Think I’m kidding? Think again.
In 2018-19, Mitzvah invitations now come in all shapes, sizes and plexiglass. The formal announcement of said event has replaced the annual catalog from Restoration Hardware. The cost of postage alone is unimaginable.
Obviously it’s so thirty-three years ago to lightly mark the back of an RSVP card with a penciled number corresponding to the person whom you mailed an invitation; but inevitably even in 2018-19 there’s always gonna be some dope who forgets to write his/her name.
Speaking of RSVP’s, what’s taking you so long to reply? You’re either coming or you’re not.
1. Open the invitation.
2. Check your calendar.
3. Make a decision and then
4. Send the damn reply card back.
If I have to hunt you down after the clearly indicated due date to ask if you’re coming, I’d rather just make the decision for you. I’ve decided you’re not coming. Please stay home. I’ve been secretly praying for some no’s anyway!
And wait, there’s more. Can someone help me understand the Mitzvah Memo I clearly didn’t get about having to host the out of town camp friends for a sleepover the night of the Mitzvah either at my home or in a hotel? I can’t. I just can’t.
Unpolished Definition of “I Can’t” As It Relates To This Sleepover Scenario: There will never be a universe, alternate or otherwise where I’m enthused about being responsible to host a sleepover party for kids I don’t know to stay at my home, a hotel room or anywhere else after I just hosted a three ring Mitzvah circus. The tent comes down at eleven o’clock in the evening. Not at eleven o’clock the next morning. P.T. Barnum has left the building.
Sorry. Not sorry!
If you looked up ‘thirteen year old girl’ in a dictionary from 1985 you would find an awkward, pre-pubescent female with braces, horrendous hair, pimples, pantyhose and satin shoes with a barely-there heel dyed to match the ugly, loose fitting, satin dress. In other words, you’d find me.
Thirteen year old girls in 2018-19 are completely different creatures. Innocent ‘tween angels no more, but rather what I suspect JonBenét Ramsey might have looked like had she lived to be a teenager. Knockouts with bodies that just don’t quit, their hair is perfectly flat ironed or intentionally curled and their skin is blemish free. Can you imagine, blemish free?! Their makeup is professionally airbrushed and their wearing skin tight teeny weeny bandage dresses with high-heeled platform shoes. Can you imagine, high-heeled platform shoes?! Whether it’s a knockoff from Bebe or perhaps a real Herve Leger nobody knows, but what we do know is if I had a daughter, I would sit her ass down and tell her, “Unpolished Rule Number #1: WHEN YOU GO TO A MITZVAH YOU ARE THERE TO DANCE THE HORA NOT LOOK LIKE A WHORA! NOW GO UPSTAIRS AND TUCK IN YOUR VAGINA.”
They say the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree so it shouldn’t come as a surprise when I say Mothers of Mitzvah children are in a league of their own. Multiple outfit changes is now standard. Low key conservative is the look for the service but then the crowd waits for the grand entrance reveal after the cocktail hour. In 2018-19, Mothers of Mitzvah children have not only brought sexy back but Mitzvah Moms are singlehandedly responsible for bringing sequins back. They have unquestionably brought back floor length plunging neckline sequin gowns. Yes, sequins. Yes, gowns. Yes, floor length. Yes, I think legendary costume designer Bob Mackie would be proud. I guess if these Moms ever want to enter a beauty pageant for women over forty, they’ll be ready with an outfit for the talent portion of the contest. And what is their talent you ask? Why talking about the Mitzvah but of course!
In 1985, the entertainment at my B’nai Mitzvah consisted of a six piece live band. Pretty fancy huh? Relax though; the band leader was more like Adam Sandler from The Wedding Singer and less like Adam Levine from Maroon Five. The extra pizzazz back then was the magician who worked the room by roaming table to table wowing our guests with hand tricks and riddles.
Midway though the night, my friends went into the ladies room with an empty wine glass, filled it up with dirty napkins that happened to have our name on it, a matchbook and whatever other crap they could find to memorialize the night. They then melted wax over the top to seal the deal with the help of a woman who sat in the bathroom giving out free tampons and hairspray. I was presented with this memory glass at some point between the cutting of the challah and the lighting of the candles. It took approximately forty-eight seconds and even back then no one paid much attention.
In today’s day, Maroon Five is in fact the entertainment. Famous DJ’s and celebrity emcees are hired to perform and it’s not uncommon to create a red carpet vibe so the Mitzvah princes and princesses can be ushered into their ball with the utmost flash factor. There are both male and female barely clothed dancers whose singular job is to rub up and down the said Mitzvah Maven(s). There are robots. There are fireworks. There are Cirque du fucking Soleil. And if you’re willing to splurge an extra twelve-hundred dollars for a clean up fee, there are seventy-two pounds of glitter confetti that can be dropped from the ceiling right before the white-gloved servers begin the dessert extravaganza .
In 1985 a Mitzvah wasn’t a Mitzvah without a traditional candle lighting ceremony. The big cake that looked like an open Torah book was a staple among all Jews as was the adorable rhyming poems used to introduce aunts and uncles, cousins, friends, siblings, grandparents and parents up to the dance floor for the honor of lighting their candle.
If I can convey one bit of sincere information for the Mitzvahs of 2018-19 it would be this: I’m unpolishedly certain nobody really cares about the candle lighting ceremony. Even Aunt Ruthie and Uncle Seymour who should be lighting candle number four don’t give a shit due in part because the music is so loud they can’t even hear themselves think and on the outside chance they do hear their names being called it would take fifteen minutes to get from their table all the way in the back of the room up to center stage. And there’s more…. How about the fact in 2018-19, the cake isn’t even cake? It’s some lucite cylinder faux design concoction that’s not edible! If you’re gonna energy suck the life out of the party for forty-five minutes at least give me a piece of real fucking birthday cake!
Wanna know what else no one gives a mazel about? The photo montage. I’m telling you straight up, save it. It would be one thing if we’ve never seen pictures of your beloved Mitzvah Man before, but can we please be honest for once second? We’ve all seen a zillion photos of your kid because you’ve been posting them on Facebook for the last thirteen years. We’re well aware of every single milestone and we’ve even commented on it along the way. What more do you want? Here’s an idea, why not have your video guy rig a live feed so the people at home who weren’t invited can watch on PayPerView. These days you don’t even need an invitation because within 48 hours after the Mitzvah celebration, the maniac Moms publicly post thousands of photos so the entire world can see the gala they produced. After the pics, here comes the humble brags! You know, the part that’s all about the brag and nothing about the humble. It sounds very much like an acceptance speech from the Golden Globe Awards. “I’d like to thank the Hollywood Foreign Press and my entire team for making this vision become a reality. There is no way I could have put my makeup on by myself or zipped my gown without my staff and there are no words to adequately express the enormous amount of gratitude I have for the two hundred vendors whom made my, um, I mean my son’s day so extraordinarily magical and amazing. We would have been lost without all of you. I’m still floating on cloud nine but when I come back down to Earth I promise to personally tell anyone who will listen about every single perfectly perfect detail.”
In 2018-19 Mitzvahs are much like the story of Cinderella. No matter how glamorous the decor, how delicious the food, how crazy the music and prizes or how much top shelf alcohol flows from the bar, at the stroke of midnight your transformed Mitzvah room turns back into a pumpkin when the crew comes in to wipe the slate clean as if it never happened. Some will complain there wasn’t enough no matter how much enough you have; and others will complain just to jump on the one-upping bandwagon. By the time the kids get dropped off at home, their attention has likely already shifted to the next upcoming Mitzvah set to take place six nights later.
The madness of the Mitzvah can be pure mayhem but the mayhem is contrived, trivial bullshit especially when living in a Keeping Up With The Steins type town. This is why more than ever before it’s so important to make the real moments matter most. The essence of the moments that matter most should be highlighted, capitalized, underscored and celebrated to the fullest. It’s essential to focus on the true meaning of the memory you’re making for your newly recognized mensch. The real theme; the only theme that matters is the acknowledgement defined by Jewish religion as a coming of age ritual for a boy or a girl to take on obligations and responsibilities. The real logo; the only logo that matters is being surrounded by family and dear friends whom have traveled from near and far to be a part of such a joyous occasion in your child’s life. The real vibe; the only vibe that matters is the reverberation of insurmountable amounts of love and pride toward your son or daughter who has reached an incredibly important Jewish milestone. That is what matters most. That is what the moment is all about. And that is the true Mitzvah. Don’t fall prey to the madness of the Mitzvah. Make it about the moment not the unpolished mayhem!
JUST TO LET YOU KNOW….. If you’re wondering, Is she talking about me? Let me clarify. Yes! I am 100% talking about you. I’m talking about you and me and every other maniac Mom out there who has gotten caught up in the madness of the Mitzvah. And guess what? I’m not the only one who’s talking about you! Watch this: