Coming of Age

Photo by Anna Vander Stel on Unsplash

The Last Bat Mitzvah

My youngest cousin’s bat mitzvah was in 2015. Do the math and you’ll realize that there’s a considerable age gap between us. One might think that it would be awkward, annoying, uncomfortable perhaps to attend a bat mitzvah party – a party celebrating a twelve-year-old girl and geared for her friends – as an adult.

Actually, it was a wildly good time. We danced hard. We drank at the open bar. We took fun photos with all the silly props in the photobooth, some of which even today, are among my favorite family photos ever. It was just enough of that 90s/00s bar/bat mitzvah party nostalgia combined with the adult privilege of bringing your significant other and getting to drink openly. It was the last family bat mitzvah, and it was a really good time.

My cousin’s bat mitzvah was a really awesome time. Image by Amanda Green from Pixabay

The First Bar Mitzvah

Fast forward to 2022. We received our first bar/bat mitzvah invitation since my cousin’s. It’s for the bar mitzvah of my husband’s friend’s son. Husband’s friend & his wife are approximately my age.

This bar mitzvah is a reminder that Husband’s Friend & Husband’s Friend’s Wife have (among other children) a child who is thirteen years old, whereas we…do not. “Bar Mitzvah 13_Jerusalem_9720_Yonatan Sindel_Flash 90_IMOT” by Israel_photo_gallery is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0.

I feel like this bar mitzvah will not be a wildly good time.


  1. Back when I worked for a photo studio in town, I had photographed a few bar mitzvahs, I don’t recall photographing a bat mitzvah. They were so much fun to photograph (way better than weddings). The participants had a great time and they always made me join in on the dancing between taking photos.

    Liked by 1 person

      • The bride and grooms were usually pretty easy to work with. You know how it’s so annoying how photographers often take over the wedding and direct everything? That’s because the bride and groom need help, and wedding photographers are the ones who know what the hell is going on. It was the familyzillas that were usually the problems for me and having to keep the ones that didn’t get along separated could be quite an undertaking (like keeping an undertaking from happening). Broken families were a real problem in the 80s. I can’t imagine what wedding photographers have to deal with these days.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Ah yes, familyzillas. I can see how that would be difficult. I think we were pretty ok to work with from the photographer’s perspective (probably every couple says that and every couple is wrong). My family didn’t have a pushy photo agenda and even though my mother-in-law is the sort with a ton of ideas for photos that made no sense whatsoever, we just ignored her and she was fine with it. I got lucky in the MIL dept. Newly engaged cousin will have a lot of fun with wedding because Cousin’ and Cousin’s Fiance both have divorced parents. Still, optimistic for a fun wedding!

          Liked by 1 person

      • Most Christian denominations have some type of confirmation service, but they are rarely as profound as Bar/Bat Mitzvah. I was confirmed Methodist, but it was mostly a group of teens lined up in front of the congregation during a standard Sunday church service. It almost seemed like an afterthought. Asian religions, particularly Buddhism have elaborate rites of passage especially for kids who become nuns and monks. Taking refuge is a big deal–I know this from experience.

        Liked by 1 person

          • My personal formal act of taking refuge was basically after a week-long meditation, study retreat. It was condensed as a result of cross-cultural time restraints. Two other students and I had afternoon interviews and examinations with the head lama of the school. Afterwards, a special ceremony was held where we promised our layperson vows and received tiger eye (stone) malas (like Catholic rosaries except with 108 beads). There was an hour-long service in our honor. The final day of the retreat, we held an early morning group meditation, then were served breakfast. We three new members were presented with white silk shawl scarves to wear. The three of us gave a five to ten minute speech to express our gratitude and our future intent to continue our studies. Afterwards, monks and the head teacher blessed us before sending us home.

            I have a nephew by marriage to a Thai monk. His period as a novice and eventual ordination was a lengthy process. I did not attend any of it because it happened in Thailand before dad married his aunt (my step-mom). It was a great big deal with the family giving gifts to the temple and hosting a feast for the entire village. I saw a video of his ordination and the feast. It was like something out of a Hollywood movie.

            Liked by 1 person

          • This sounds incredibly meaningful and powerful. With bar and bat mitzvah, there can be a good deal of practice and preparation. But there is also an element for the family and community that can feel very “performative” (I didn’t mind it at the time, but I know a lot of people who did). Also culturally, there is often a large party thrown to celebrate. The end result is an atmosphere that feels very social and celebratory, but not meditative or reflective. It sounds as though the Buddhist experience leaves more room for the reflection.

            Liked by 1 person

          • At least this seems to be true in certain schools of Buddhist philosophy, in others, there is some posturing and sanctimony. It depends upon the teacher and followers, of course.

            Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve had the experience of seeing peers, including people I was at school with, have bar/bat mitzvah age children, while I’m not even married, but I haven’t been invited to one yet. It must be hard.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Since my mastectomy I find myself looking at women everywhere wondering why they still have two boobs and I don’t. There is pain and grief everywhere. I guess we all must navigate it how we can. I don’t feel like most people acknowledge my grief about my boob. But why would they? I wear a prosthesis. They don’t need to think about it. All around us, people wear smiles and have the trappings of a happy life and we assume they’re fine. And all around us people are hurting for a million different reasons. But because the language of pain is hard to speak, everybody stands alone with it. It’s kind of crazy when you think about it.

    Liked by 3 people

    • This makes so much sense. It absolutely makes sense that you’d be grieving about your boob. You’re right that probably everyone is grieving something and we’re all carrying on because we have to, but no one is as fine as they seem. It is pretty wild to think about it.

      I was in a writing group once and one woman, in response to the prompt wrote a poem she titled “Ode to My Absent Breast”. I don’t remember the rest of her piece (this was many years ago), but it was just such an incredibly powerful title. With your poetic skill, I feel like you could totally borrow this title and do something incredible with it. ❤️

      Liked by 1 person

  4. All i know from Bar Mitzvah and Bat Mitzvah is what I see on TV and in movies. It seems nice. Nowadays–maybe even back in the 50s and 60s when it might apply to myself–it seems like our culture isn’t old enough to have developed a ritual for coming of age. At some point, maybe, a boy’s father imparts some wisdom, delegates some job, passes on some skill, and it lasts for a few years until the boy becomes so-ooo much smarter than his dad, and maybe that’s the real coming-of-age, even though it’s based on hormones or something.
    But you have a mature, deeply rooted foundation, and it must be difficult to not fall into a prescribed role like, it seems, everyone else. But you can’t know, actually, You can only be yourself, which is not easy even in the most secular of settings.
    Enough philosophical babble. Have fun! There’s always something entertaining around the corner.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I was once able to write off the expected societal roles as silly and meaningless, and I did have plenty of friends who weren’t meeting those roles. But I myself did fulfill all socially-acceptable the roles within the socially-acceptable timeframe. It’s odd being on the other side. No one is outright mean, which is a blessing, but I really feel the tension.


  5. Ugh I totally feel ya with the awkward sadness of being childless at a family-centered event. It’s so weird when you see people with kids that are in middle school and you feel too young to have kids that old, and then you realize you’re more than old enough. And then you wonder how you screwed this up so badly.

    Liked by 2 people

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.