My Mitzvah

Blaike Young My 11 year old sister went to her first Bat Mitzvah last Saturday and it got me thinking of how much I really don’t miss those days. Sure the first few were fun, but when you go to Anshe Emet and there’s one, or even two, every weekend, you get tired of the hugging game and the Hora. Eventually, the sweatshirts aren’t cool anymore and the occasional pair of shorts become not so occasional. The stack of Bar Mitzvah apparel sitting in the back of your closet, lets face it, doesn’t make you a socialite. This isn’t Gossip Girl and I highly doubt any of us will have a similar Bar Mitzvah scene to Chuck and Blair (you know what I’m talking about/we all wish). Anyway, my sister’s new inclusion in the Bar/Bat Mitzvah scene got me thinking. Is her attendance really a mitzvah (definition: a worthy deed)? While I’m probably obligated to agree with the basic principles of entering Jewish adulthood, I’m not sure I have to agree with all of the implications that come with the modern take on the initiation. At the risk of sounding bitter, because, let’s be real, brace face Blaike wasn’t too cute, when you’re in 6th, 7th, and 8th grade, the decisions people make during snowball can feel like the end of the world. It’s the new town gossip, especially when there are only 31 people in your grade and only 10 of them are guys (holla BZAEDS class of 2010). Now when I look back, the importance of the game seems miniscule. But, it is impacting our younger siblings probably more than we think and maybe it has affected us more than we’d like to recognize. At such a formative age, we’re enforcing the idea that being chosen over the 30 other excellent options makes you better. How are we setting a trend for the high school years? If a game, for 11-13 years old, focuses on who can hug someone quicker and then fight to keep them in their grasp, what are we saying implicitly about the nature of physical contact and relationships? I tried to question my sister, but since her first brush with her new social life took place at an ice skating rink and there was no snowball (ironic since the party centered around ice, but lucky because that sounds dangerous) she couldn’t give me anything too valuable. I tried to ask her some other questions, but she shooed me out of her room in typical 11-year-old fashion, all I got was an insincere “it was fun.” She did look comfy in her new sweatshirt though. While I’m not really a certified private investigator, before she got out of the car and into the party bus that would be taking the kids to the rink, she did look slightly nervous. And again, while I’m not a mind reader, I couldn’t help but wonder if it was because she was entering a new stage of her life. She’s not even a teenager yet, but now is the start of her party days. Honestly, it made me nervous. Here she was, entering a new era of bad dance moves, seating charts, and possibly after parties (which hopefully at this point are still only taking place at 24 hour non-sketchy Starbuckses– the ones without alcohol). When she got back in the car after an apparently nauseating ride, she didn’t seem too happy even though she insisted all was well in the land of kippahs and tallits. And while I would never show her, I felt protective to say the least. I remember feeling 30 years old when I was her age, but now that I look back, I was way too young to be watching the movies I was watching, listening to the music I was listening to, and wearing the heels at the height I was wearing them. All I want for her, knowing what I know now, is for her to be as sheltered and innocent as possible for as long as possible. While I think it’s pretty obvious that the most scandalous thing I do is write Forum articles that are sometimes mildly insulting, my mitzvah to her is my effort to keep her young. Perhaps my annoying advice that she never listens to, let alone incorporates into her life, is having the opposite effect. Maybe I’m too preachy, but I’m scared for this rising generation that probably will face a loss of purity before they should. As my sister got out of the car and boarded the bus, I felt she was boarding a symbolic bus to an undesired maturity that was scarier than anything. If she won’t talk to me now, if she just wants to shoo me away, what can I expect from her in a few years and what can we expect from her generation in a few years?]]>