My girlfriend’s kid turned 13 last week. According to Jewish tradition, that makes him a man.
“Now that you’re a man, I expect you to start mixing my cocktails,” I informed him, handing him a recipe for mojitos.
“But you’re not even Jewish,” he said.
“I follow whatever religion benefits me most at any given moment. And the Jews say that now that you’re a man you have to stop leaving your clothes on the floor and put them in the hamper.”
He looked at me in confusion, and then said, “Remind me again, what’s a hamper?”
“It’s that basket in the laundry room that your mom slams really hard each time she scoops our clothes off the floor and shoves them into it.”
This kid is surrounded by mothers and step-mothers (six at last count—if you’re a lesbian with a romantic history I won’t have to explain the math; if you’re a gay man, just shake your head in disgust), but I don’t really qualify as one of them.
The rest of his gaggle of maternal creatures hover above him like loving drones, swooping in to obliterate any small threat to his emotional health. His every whim is satisfied immediately. Every self doubt is fretted over. And there have been countless hours of disturbing speculation about what he does behind his closed bedroom door at night.
“He’s 13,” I said to the coven of handwringers. “What the hell do you think he’s doing in the privacy of his bedroom? And if you want to see for yourself, just keep barging in without knocking on his door first.”
I’ve known the kid since he was 8, and I made it clear from day one that I was not another mother hen. Rather, I’m like the more experienced kid from a troubled home that your mom doesn’t want you to play with. The first time we were alone together, I introduced him to “The Sopranos,” a TV show not known for its kid-friendly content. He loved it. And I was promptly scolded for my poor judgment by the other moms.
But thwarting authority is what I’m all about, and over the years he’s edged closer to my sloppy influence while keeping a careful eye on his altogether more skilled, nurturing, wise, and wonderful moms.
Although I’m not Jewish, he is. And so, for the past year, he’s been preparing for his bar mitzvah. Much of the preparation involved interviewing the women and men in his life about what it means to be an adult. I waited with great anticipation for my interview! I had a lot to say on the subject. Most of it had to do with how awesome it is to be able to eat and drink whatever you want, and to have the freedom to tell people to go to hell whenever you want. And to continue to wear footie pajamas well into middle age and not give a damn what anyone thinks about it.
But by the morning of the Bar Mitzvah, it became clear that he had no intention of including me in his interviews.
“Because you’re not an adult,” he said, when I asked him why I was the only mom not interviewed.
“I am, too!” I cried, stomping my foot and contemplating whether to throw a tantrum to pull the spotlight away from the bar mitzvah boy and onto me.
But, then he gave me that sly crooked smile that he tries to suppress each time he greets me after a long absence. It’s the smile that let’s me know how delighted he is to see me, and not just because I let him use all his curse words when we’re driving alone in the car. “You’re not an adult,” he confirmed. “You’re a friend.”