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avoid planning

 

I got married at city hall. I wore a white leather mini dress and white leather boots. I was going for an ‘Amy Winehouse retro’ look but ended up more ‘boozy Nancy Sinatra’.

Afterwards, we had a barbecue in our backyard. My lawn caught fire which I expertly handled by drinking copious amounts of tequila. I’m told I ran around the backyard in various states of undress, but I have no memory of that. It was pre-camera phones. Thank God.

 

I love to throw big parties, although admittedly, it’s been a while. I provide excessive amounts of food and alcohol, make an 8-hour mixed tape that whips the crowd into an orgiastic frenzy of dance, and pray that no one pees in my living room.

What I can’t do – or rather, what I loathe doing – is plan events like weddings. I got married at city hall precisely because I’d rather set my teeth on fire than worry about center pieces and invitations.

This is where “you do you” comes in. I’m sure there are scads of people who wouldn’t devote an entire Saturday to hunting down a Partridge Family lunchbox, like I did.

 

According to everyone in the free world, I should already have started planning my kid’s bar mitzvah. It’s in November. Most mothers where I live would have already booked a summer face lift.

There will be a Saturday morning service at the temple, at which time my kid has to read his haftarah– a portion of the Torah.

It’s endless pages of hieroglyphics, and everytime he practices it, I marvel at his ability to learn a language that’s written right to left, in a completely different alphabet. Considering most people I know mangle this one.

There’s a small brunch-y reception right after the service,the kiddush, and then a big party that night. I have to decide what we’re serving at both those events and it has to be kosher, and what foods are kosher?! and did I forget to mention that my Ex used to call me “the Shiksah” because I don’t know jack shit about my own religion?

I should have already picked a venue. Places are booked a year in advance. But they won’t re-open CBGB’s to host a bar mitzvah, and beyond that, I don’t care.

 

A month ago, I was asked what my kid’s “theme” will be.

Theme? I was having a fun little fantasy wherein I begin every conversation at the party with “So, these adult diapers I’m wearing” and then this…theme thing happened.

I went into protective mode. I became a hedgehog whose life is threatened. I shot up my prickly spine and hissed and hoped it would all go away.

The decor and centerpieces are supposed to reflect said “theme” and I’m wondering if the theme can be “themeless.” Just like this blog.

My kid is looking forward to a party – after all, he’s been studying for 5 years – but he’s not invested in how elaborate it is. He did, however, also ask about the “theme.” HISSSSSS.

I have to pick out invitations and pre-invitation invitations, ‘Save the Date! notices. This locks people in so they can’t get a better offer at the last-minute and ditch us.

I have to decide who we’re inviting, and who we’re leaving out because we’re not inviting everyone we’ve ever known and I’m capping this bitch at 50 people.

We’ll need a DJ. But not JUST a DJ.

You need pyrotechnics and flashmob choreography. People hire entertainment companies, complete with girls dressed like rap video hoes, to get everyone shaking it on the dance floor. And to get air humped by pubescent boys.

 

Traditionally, the bar mitzvah boy has personalized yarmulkes (beaniescreated in his favorite color, with his name and date printed inside. Little Dude cannot make up his mind what color to have, and recently suggested rainbow-colored. Which would be convenient, if we were going straight from the bar mitzvah to the Gay Pride parade.

I need to wear grownup clothes to this. Not just one outfit – I’ll need TWO. One suitable for a morning service at the temple, and one for the party that night. I have to buy these because I DON’T OWN CLOTHES LIKE THAT.

I’ll probably break tradition and wear a rock tee-shirt and jeans to the party that night because (this is becoming my mantra for the event) WHO CARES? My kid is fine with that, but has already put me on notice that I have to wear something “mom-ish” to the morning service.

I’ve decided to purchase an expensive, tasteful dress at a local department store. I’ll wear it with the tags still on it, Febreze the shit out of the armpits and return it the day after.

 

 

My mother passed away last fall, and while going through her belongings, I found ancient family photos. One yellowed packet contained photos of my eldest brother’s bar mitzvah. It was right before my father died, leaving my mother a widow with six kids.

It’s the only bar mitzvah my family had, although I have no memory of it beyond these photos.

I am 3 years old in the pictures. I don’t remember my father, or the mother of those pictures. She is laughing and whirling. She is beautiful; her body svelte and her flaming red hair matching her red lips. She is holding a cigarette in slender fingers just like mine, elegantly photographed at some catering hall in the Bronx, I suppose.

I do remember my brother, although he too, is gone now. There’s one picture of him holding me, laughing. Behind us are our parents, who are smiling for the camera, but mostly for the day and the joy it held.

Everyone but me in that picture is gone.

All that remains is a faded analog reminder of a different era; a time when we were all still alive and together and happy.

 

My son deserves his day.

Tomorrow, I start planning.

 

Are you good at planning these events? Do you want to plan this one?
Talk to me. I’m listening. 

Join me on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter  so I can have friends without leaving the house.

Is it possible to fall in love at 8 years old? I did. I can’t say his name, because he went on to become well known in the Manhattan music scene. Part of me itches to write it; and accidentally reach him, this man I’m still a little in love with.

He lived upstairs from me. We became “boyfriend-girlfriend” 3 year later, in middle school. I was 11, he was 12. My first kiss. His mouth tasted like warm honey.

People say love is blind. Which includes color blind. He was black, I was white. We didn’t say “African-American” back then. I didn’t see his color. Or rather, my love for him transcended it.

I was 11 the first time someone hurled this vituperation at me: “N-word Lover.” I was confused. Yes, I loved him. What did that even mean?

He was an incredibly talented drummer. He lived for music, and for me.

When we were in 8th grade, boys from another neighborhood chased him into a deserted area.

Hunted him, like an animal.

And broke his arm.

It healed. I did not.

By high school, we were apart, and I knew the agony of first love ended. Off he went to Music and Art, as New Yorkers call it. High School of Performing Arts, the school the movie “Fame” is set in.

We’d broken up before that. Our families stepped in and demanded we split right after he’d been attacked.  These words awaken a memory that pierces me afresh. Details have been imprinted permanently; then veiled. Now the veil is lifted.

I had that revilement hurled at me many times over the decades that followed. Anytime I dated a man of color, I was abused by both races. White people felt I was somehow betraying my race. African-American or Hispanic people felt I was “stealing” from them, dating men I had no business dating.

It’s No Man’s land.

In the end, I was a coward. I married a white Jewish man I shouldn’t have crossed the street with. Because he was one of my own “kind.” I’m not saying I didn’t love him – I did. Deeply. But by the time I met him, I only dated Caucasian men. I’d had enough.

I live in an area where there are almost no Jewish people. I didn’t know that when I bought my house. Even if I had- it wouldn’t have mattered. I just don’t think about those things.

But now I have a child. And I have to think about those things. He is always the only Jewish kid in his class. He feels very alone. He suffers for it.

He had a best friend last year. His mother sought me out on Back-To-School Night. Came in, calling out, “Where is Little Dude’s mom, Andrew cannot not stop talking about him!”  We exchanged numbers. They were BFFs from the first day of school. Inseparable for months.

Until Andrew found out we were Jewish. After that, he never spoke to my son again.

When you have a kid, and they hurt like that…it’s different than your own hurt. It’s much, much worse. It’s an amalgam of your pain and theirs. Times one hundred.

And this week, yet again.  We’re hosting a holiday breakfast in his classroom. The class mom emailed the 4 of us running it, asking who would like to read a holiday book. Little Dude was all over that.

“Mom, please, YOU be the reader!”

He’s been listening to Christmas books for the last 5 years. So I volunteered. The class mom asked if we needed the librarian to help us choose something.

“No thanks, he’s picked his favorite Hanukkah book. It’s hilarious, and the kids will love it.”

She sent me an email.  No holiday books allowed. The teacher only wants winter-themed books.

After I could breathe again, I starting working on how I was going to present this to my son. I ended up just saying it very offhandedly,

“Oh, Mrs. Dugan wants a winter-themed book; we should go the library to get one.”

He’s too smart for that.  “What? Since when? That’s crazy! They read a Christmas book every year” and on and on.  That night he cried himself to sleep, which he hasn’t done in years.

 —

I needed to put the pain of this somewhere. I wrote a post about Real Life Trolls attacking me.  I titled it:

“Confessions of a N-word Lover.” I spelled the word out.

Because of all things in the world,  I abhor racism the most. Because I’ve proudly loved black, white, and brown men. Because I thought I would use that word blatantly and take the stigma off of it. Like the artist who inspired me to become a writer – Patti Smith.

I contacted Le Clown, because I was borrowing a phrase of his in the post. I wanted to make sure he was comfortable with that.

 And then he took the time, because he is the incredible Clown he is, to tell me that he was worried for me. That he feared I would be attacked, not by trolls, but by well spoken people. And that it was perhaps not my place to take the sting off this word, because using it lacked sensitivity.

Thank God.

I took it down.

If people don’t read you, then your message exists in a vacuum.

Mostly, I took it down because the thought of hurting anyone is abhorrent to me. As immune as I am to that word in print, others are not. Others did not grow up desensitized to it through repetition.

Le Clown was right.

After I posted today, I went on my reader to comment on some posts.  Bloggers had unfollowed me; beloved bloggers.

And now? Now I have to sit with the fact that I hurt some of you. Maybe many of you.

What if you unfollowed me because you’re  African-American? Or if you’re married to someone African-American?  Or you just thought it was disgusting?

This post is to say, if I hurt you, I am sorry. I was insensitive. This was a hard lesson.

Yes, I am provocative and edgy. But to hurt people? The way I’ve been hurt? The way my son is being hurt? To do the exact thing to people that incited me to write the damn post?

It’s tearing me up. And now I have to live with that.

We have to do better. Intentions are not enough. If my actions are insensitive; cause pain, whether intentional or not, I need to examine those actions.  Better yet, to think before I act.

I wish I’d had the courage to marry the boy upstairs.

And we were sitting here right now, and he would kiss me with those beautiful, honey flavored, color blind lips.

Kiss these tears off my face.

Kiss these words off my lips.

Did I do the right thing, taking that post down? Talk to me. I’m listening. 

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