Right now Sandra Bullock is on the phone, counseling a fellow Bar Mitzvah planner whose event, she claims, half-seriously, is creating a giant schism in her marriage. They have twins. Her husband is advocating for an Israel Bar and Bat Mitzvah. She would prefer the standard, locally-based happening. Meanwhile, the quickly-approaching-teenage-attitude Jawa is lobbing ideas at her from his bedroom.
It's a balance, I tell you. Earlier today, while we were driving home from swimming lessons, the Jawa took a little time from intently watching videos of Disneyworld on his iPod to throw out an idea he'd thought of. The idea, we would agree, was brilliant.
"You know how they have those splitters for iPod headphones?" The question mark is redundant. It could be applied to anything he's said in the past year. The pre-teen Jawa knows no inflection other than inquiry.
"Yeah?" I said back.
"We could get those and then people could watch Godzilla movies using headphones at the Bar Mitzvah!"
I suppose, in retrospect, I was too quick to dismiss the idea. "No way," I said, scrambling to soften the blow with something like, "You don't want people wearing headphones at your Bar Mitzvah, do you?"
His world silently collapsed.
Sandra Bullock piped up from the back seat, to which she has been exiled since the Jawa decided he liked riding in the front seat. We go to pick her up at work; he's in the front, he's staying in the front. She must ride in back, where she, unfortunately, is indifferent to the real responsibilities of the back seat passenger. She does not lean forward, she does not interject herself into the conversation, she is not gremlin-like. She may as well not be there at all.
This time, she piped up. "Yeah, you don't really want people disappearing into headphones. You want them to be part of the party." She's better at this stuff than I am.
What would this event look like if we left it up to the guest of honor? The menu would consist of hot dogs, plain pasta and, inexplicably, unagi and calamari. Entertainment would be simple: mounds of Legos, a separate room for Yu-gi-oh and Star Wars miniatures, and a huge screen showing an endless loop of Godzilla movies.
Now that I see it laid out like that, I kind of like it. Looks like it would cost about a tenth of what we're spending. Maybe we should suggest he take the reins.
Yesterday, eight months and eight days to Bar Mitzvah, we zeroed in on Sandra Bullock's wardrobe. What would she wear to the Bar Mitzvah?
To complicate matters, this is no one-off event; it is a weekend of activities, kicked off with Friday night services at Temple Emanu el. "I'll just wear something that I would have worn to work, " she said from behind the pages of some catalog I'd never heard of. She was in her designated relaxation spot, the green Z Gallerie couch in the living room. A tall stack of catalogs lay on the coffee table, within arm's reach.
"What do you think of this one?" she asked me. For reasons only known to other obsessive people, I was standing across the room, frantically playing solitaire on my iPod. Two years-plus I have this thing, I play only music on it. A month ago, I'm somewhere, killing time, and I give solitaire a shot. Since then, I have devoted at least 45 minutes of each day to playing solitaire on my iPod.
So I'm standing there, not sitting, playing solitaire, and I've got my contacts out and my glasses off, because I can't see the little iPod screen otherwise, which is an issue I'd rather not dwell on. She's all the way over on the couch (Okay, maybe not "all the way." This is San Francisco. Our living room is about 14 feet long.) holding up this tiny little catalog picture of a brown dress.
I put my glasses on. I squint. By now I've been shown photos of almost a dozen dresses. "Sure," I say, "It looks good."
"You don't like it?"
I could lie and say I do like it, but am too busy marveling at how 17 years of marriage have created a sixth sense in my otherwise intuitive, logical wife.
"Well, it's, I don't know. Not really, no."
Fortunately, I don't have the kind of wife who gets hurt if you tell her you don't like something she likes. She depends on truthfulnes, actually, and would be irritated if you lied to spare her feelings. "It's pretty plain, isn't it," she says, literally and figuratively turning the page.
I go back to solitaire. This time, I'm going to win.
Sartorially, the Bar Mitzvah weekend will play out like this: Friday night services, followed by dinner at an as-yet unnamed nice restaurant that has a private room capable of seating about 24 members of our families. The big day comes next; dress code for the actual Bar Mitzvah is suits for men, nice dresses for women, and a stretched-out black t-shirt for the guy I saw last week at Josh K.'s Bar Mitzvah. This being San Francisco, I am probably just being uptight and square for noticing.
Me, I've been shrewd, stockpiling two suits after not owning even one for the past decade. I've got a black one and a brown one, both off-the-rack and susceptible to whatever weight loss (or, God forbid, gain) I may experience over the next eight months and seven days. I've got a few shirts suitable for ties, and a few ties. If anything, I might want to beef up the tie selection. I may want a new pair of brown shoes, too.
One pair of brown ones, one pair of black ones. End of story.
Not to seem too much like a barbarian, pre-enlightened male, but every single potentially-invited woman we've talked to about our Bar Mitzvah has expressed concern over what they were going to wear within five minutes of hearing they'd be invited. This includes my mother's friend/cousin in Arizona, who I've met exactly once, that one time being to explain to her that the dress code will not include shorts.
I have complete confidence in my wife. She will find something tasteful, not guady or overwrought, something that will both flatter her and let her disappear into the crowd when necessary. And it will cost much less than it could have.
I will wear my two suits, mixing in a tired old sportcoat for Friday. The Jawa will sport a suit, having become comfortable with business wear during the 40+ Bar and Bat Mitzvot he will have attended by then. And at least one kid will show up in sweats, because we live in San Francisco where many people have evolved beyond the point where they are handcuffed by tradition and tyrannical notions of conformity and respect.