Saturday, January 08, 2005

:: Blink ::

:: Blink ::

:: Streeetcccchhhhhhhhh ::

We went to a Bat Mitzvah tonight, which is not something our new friends do, not in the neighborhood we live in now, not a Bat Mitzvah like this one anyway. Shteebel people don't do bat mitzvahs, and when they do they are calm. They are sedate. This one, though was anything but. It had ear-poppingly loud hip-hop songs (with Hebrew lyrics); raucous (single-sex) slam dancing; a DJ and dancers (who all wore wigs, and spoke with, you know, that Jewish accent, including -especially - the very matronly head DJ) ; inspirational divrei Torah (delivered by women.) Sushi. Steak.

I won't lie to you: I enjoyed it, (and you'll never meet a man who dislikes eating steak in a room with music and dancing woman.) My wife liked it, too, but she wasn't completely comfortable. "We're not doing this for our oldest daughter," she exclaimed, a little too loudly for my liking.

For the record I agree.

We sat with people who agreed, too. During breaks in the music, we discovered that I was the only person at our table who had ever been to a bat mitzvah before - by which the tablemates meant a bat mitzvah like this one. I was also the only one who knew the rules to "Pepsi / Coca-cola" – a party game that very well might have been played at Sorah Imanu's bat mitzvah.

The rules have changed though. Lots of new wrinkles have been added. The girls knew all the steps. As if driven by instinct. I used to know girls like that...

Oddly, as the night progressed, though, I found myself thinking not of tweenagers, but of single Jewish woman, woman in their thirties, woman who are stilled called “girls” by clueless matrons, woman who haven’t yet found their man, or their place yet on the wide, wide, spectrum that is the Orthodox Jewish community. At some point we all choose our own spot on that spectrum, and implicitly we announce that all the other spots – the Hasidic spot, the modern spot, or whatever – we announce that those other spots aren’t for us, or for our children.

I was married before I thought about these things. I didn't understand the deep deivisions in Orthodoxy, and it never occured to me that I might one day live, and also thrive, in a neighborhood so alien to my upbringing. Now, at thirty-two, my bed is made so to speak. I have the house, I have the kids, I have the community, and for better or for worse, I have my spot on the spectrum.

What do single women do, I wondered? Do they choose their spot on the spectrum, and hope to meet a guy on the same spot? Or do they keep their doors open, saying, I can be happy on any one of a dozen spots, so let's not foreclose any opportunties. I'll worry about it after I meet my man.

That's what I would say, if I was single again. That's essentially what I said until I ended up in my little town, and it's what I've tried to do, with small success, since we got here.

Anyway, as I listened to the throbing songs, I thought about choices and opportunities. What must it be like to be a single adult - a real, fully aware, adult and not a twenty-one year old pishka, rushing to marry the first, sorry, only girl he ever loved? What must it be like to be that adult, an adult who is not married or living in a community, and is therefore able to keep a toe, or more, concurrently, in all those different spots on the rich spectrum of Jewish life?

Is it liberating? Is it terrifying? Is it really possible to do once you have the house and the kids? Lord knows, I am trying....

[Note: Bad form I know, but I am reserving the right to edit my work after publication. This post is not in its final form until this footnote disapears]

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