Rites of passage are tricky things.
For the person going through the rite of passage, things are relatively clear. Once you do these things or reach a certain age or stage, you’ll be on the other side, starting fresh as a newly minted next-phaser. Take my son, for example. This weekend he becomes a Bar Mitzvah, which means that in the eyes of the Jewish people, he’s a man, responsible for his own actions and expected to follow laws — 613 of them to be exact.
That the Jewish people figure a kid entering the throes of puberty is at the right age to take on a boatload of responsibility is very intriguing to me. My son is the last of his friends to go through this ritual, and I always smile when I listen to the bar and bat mitzvah speeches when the kids talk about all the ways they will begin to prove that they’re ready to accept more responsibility for their own lives. These things normally include doing a better job cleaning their rooms, voluntarily doing other household chores, and being nicer to their siblings and more respectful to their parents.=
While all of those things sound so mature, so thoughtful, so… responsible, the truth is that once stated, the rite of passage truly kicks in, and the rebellion begins. Parents and little sibs suddenly become ultimate irritants, which leads the teen to spend more and more time in their bedroom, proclaiming it off-limits to everyone else. This is a good thing, since keeping their (wo)man cave clean becomes the lowest of low priority. Other household chores? If that means cleaning out the refrigerator by consuming everything in it and leaving behind empty cartons, then yes, that does happen, too. The once agreeable child is replaced by a sullen, questioning teen, guided more by friends than parents, id than intelligence.
The thing is, when someone around you, like your child, goes through a rite of passage, you join him or her in your own parallel universe version of it. Which you realize, perhaps most clearly in retrospect, is your own convoluted coming of age.
While I thought that the Bar Mitzvah service would calmly and clearly mark the profound transformation from childhood to adulthood, the truth was the tipping point came out of the blue when I driving my son to a tryout for a new team recently. I was doing my usual mothering (Read: nagging — “Remember to relax… you’re just as good as all of the other boys… don’t let any balls hit you in the face a week before your Bar Mitzvah!”) and under his breath, I heard him say, “Enough! I got it!” And then louder he said, “STOP! I GOT IT!”
That shut me up, all right. In that moment, I felt a mixture of anger, pain, and strangely enough, pride. And after I dropped him off, I suddenly realized it was official: I was a grownup.
Of course the signs had been hotly flashing at me for months, maybe even years. Despite that in my head I feel like I’m maybe 18, or when I need a drink, 21, there are countless ways that I can now clearly see I’ve officially become a grownup.
Have you gone through this rite of passage, too? If you’re not sure, take this brief survey:
1) Do you dye your hair, not just for kicks, but because you have to?
2) When you meet a pair of college aged kids and make a few off-color jokes about partying and your own wild ‘n crazy youth, do you hear them snickering and sense them rolling their eyes as you walk away?
3) How many layers of Spanx does it take to get everything as flat as you remember it being?
4) When you are grocery shopping and the Spandau Ballet song, “True,” starts playing, do you find yourself inadvertently tearing up in the frozen foods aisle? Conversely, when the next song comes on and it’s the Hall & Oates ditty, “I Can’t Go for That (No Can Do)” do you find yourself cabbage-patching in the deli as you wait for your sliced turkey?
5) When you get an airbrush tattoo at a Bat Mitzvah or Halloween fair, can you feel the disdain dripping from the person doing the airbrushing? And do the people you love ask you to cover it up immediately because it’s so “uncool?”
6) Have you ever pulled something out of the archives that you once loved wearing and was really cute on you, only to realize:
a) You look like a human sausage in that once blousy top.
b) Neon, when worn by you, isn’t ironic or fun — it’s just sad.
c) There aren’t enough hours in the day to shave your legs thoroughly enough to rock that mini skirt. And leaving the leg hair to cover the cellulite is equally unappealing.
d) Your kids admonish you to take off what you’re wearing because it’s totally embarrassing… to them?
e) All of the above.
7) Have you found a gray hair anywhere on your body besides your head? You know what I’m saying… eyebrows! In your eyebrows! And if your mind just went to your nether regions, and you have enough pubic hair to notice a stray gray, then you are definitely a grown-up. Kids today are much more, shall we say, insistent about personal grooming.
8) Does sleeping make you sore? Do you hear snap, crackle, and pop before you pour yourself a bowl of cereal for breakfast?
9) Speaking of sleeping, do you find yourself dozing off long before you’ve had a chance to put the kids away (as I like to call it), and up for hours before they stir? Remember when it was the other way around? No? Me neither — who can remember anything these days?
10) Do you jump for joy when your parents make you dinner or give you a ride somewhere… because it means you don’t have to lift a finger and for a few precious moments, you get to be the kid again?
If all of the above resonates with you and you don’t give a rat’s ass about what anyone else thinks, then you are officially a grownup.
Welcome to the club, my bitches.