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Post-Bar Mitzvah Stress Disorder

Post-Bar Mitzvah Stress Disorder

This malady follows a case of Pre-Bar Mitzvah Stress Disorder, characterized by bursting into tears with no warning because your little boy has the audacity to catapult into puberty before your very eyes.


Our youngest son has just celebrated his bar mitzvah, and I am recovering from a case of Post-Bar Mitzvah Stress Disorder. This is a seriously underreported malady, yet shockingly, the government has yet to allocate a single dollar to research.

Post-Bar Mitzvah Stress Disorder (PBMSD) usually follows a case of Pre-Bar Mitzvah Stress Disorder, characterized by speed-dialing your caterer several times daily until you actually hear him chewing antacids while you speak; zipping around frantically on errands, leaving you only enough time to eat large brownies in the car (perversely, this still causes weight gain); and bursting into tears with no warning because your little boy is now a newly minted teen who has the audacity to catapult into puberty before your very eyes.

My symptoms became acute as the weeks counted down to The Big Day. The following diary entries explain why:

Five weeks before the bar mitzvah: The invitations arrive, but the envelopes won't seal shut. Wrestling the envelope flaps down with a hot glue gun for six hours eventually does the trick. I fail to pare down guest list. Like a powerful Hollywood party hostess, I withhold a batch of B-list invitees, pending the acceptance rates of other guests.

Four weeks and counting: Son is still growing too fast to buy the suit. He practices his Torah chanting each night, perfecting the reading. But the boy will give his speech at 90 miles an hour. Is it too late to hire a speaking coach?

Three weeks: Response cards arrive each day, many including checks. Son discovers that happiness is a positive cash flow! An alarming 90 percent of invitees have accepted! Cannot decide about B-list. Send to all anyway.

Two weeks: While meeting with caterer, son insists on a dinner menu of corn dogs and pasta. Fortunately, few 13-year-old boys are on the South Beach Diet. Musician nags me with repeat calls, urging me to hire his entire orchestra. I repeatedly refuse, reminding him this is not a presidential inauguration; it's just a bar mitzvah.

One week and a half away: Son still practices speech faster than a major league pitch. Consider speech printouts on each seat?

Seven days away! Musician, magician, and caterer all need deposits. Consider asking son for loan.

Six days: Should I get a new dress? I had planned to lose 10 pounds for the occasion, but failed to take necessary actions. Decide to wear ivory colored spring suit, which still fits. The fraud detection department of my credit card company calls to warn me of an unusual amount of activity on my account.

Five days: Must get son's suit now. Even if he grows another two inches this week, it will still fit. Son finds all formal shirts in the store too scratchy. I snag a hand-me-down shirt from the closet, worn at an older brother's bar mitzvah. Finally, I save money!

Four days: Try to pre-arrange seating for family dinner. No configuration seems likely to prevent Uncle Harold from starting up with Cousin Norman about . . . what was that fight about, anyway? Pray that Aunt Shirley takes her meds before arrival. Stock up on my supply of migraine pills . . . just in case.

Three days: Call everyone who hasn't sent in response card. Some remind me testily that they did send them in and I must have lost them. I lose my house keys.

Two days: Caterer calls to report he can't get the petit fours I had ordered, and a trucking strike on the east coast may mean we can't get the sorbet, either. Default to bakery cookies. Photographer calls with an emergency, and she'll send her trainee instead. Will that be okay?

Day before: I supervise floral delivery to synagogue. Florist with heavy Italian accent assures me they will be "stupendous", but doesn't warn me they're nearly as big as Mount Sinai and hardly fit through the door. At home, the phone won't stop ringing. Everyone apologizes, since I must be so busy, but what time is the party called for? Can they bring a niece who unexpectedly flew into town? My keys have not shown up yet, and I lose my spare set as well. Next move: climbing through the window to get into the house.

The Big Day: Get up early enough to put in contact lenses and dress with care. While drinking a quick cup of coffee in the kitchen, a crisis erupts! The dog rushes in from the yard, ecstatic at seeing me after an absence of seven minutes. He leaps up to greet me, festooning my ivory suit with muddy paw prints! I've got to leave for synagogue in three minutes, but have no plan B for another outfit. I race to my room and throw on a dark blue suit whose jacket won't button all the way.

Son chants his portion from the Torah beautifully. He looks both adorable and handsome in his suit, straddling that brief, shining moment between boyhood and manhood. Miraculously, he gives his speech slow enough for most people to hear. Sometimes, nagging pays off! In his speech, he thanks his father for taking him to Dodger games; me for correcting his grammar. He is in his glory, and I am in mine, even if my dress is too tight.

Four days later: The party goes smoothly. Some computer glitches make the music intermittent, and the silences are hard to explain. Several people wander into the hall, fill plates with food, and leave. I have never seen these people before in my life. The desserts are a big hit, especially the brownies. I could have told them that. Keys still MIA.

Five days later: My son's 15 minutes of fame are over, and he is returning to life as a mere mortal. And each day, he continues his deployment into manhood, standing a little taller, his face and body becoming ever thinner. The next time I see his chubby cheeks, they'll be on my grandchildren. I am wildly happy that he is not embarrassed to say, "I love you, Mom."

I am also nearly wildly happy that my keys finally turned up -- in the backyard. My symptoms of Post-Bar Mitzvah Stress Disorder are dissipating at last. Mazal tov!

June 25, 2005

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Visitor Comments: 5

(5) Anonymous, January 4, 2011 5:05 PM

Mazel tov

What a timely and important piece. I just celebrated my daughter's bat mitzvah. Cried for at least a month leading up to it -- especially at other simchas! I wish someone had warned me about the bank -- they actually put a fraud hold on my account due the unusual activity! I have never been so stressed in my life as during the month leading up to the bat mitzvah -- and I have never had so much nachas as I did watching my beautiful daughter taking on the responsibility of a bat mitzvah with such poise, grace and confidence. Thank you for sharing your experience and making me laugh and cry -- again!.

(4) Deborah, March 24, 2010 2:57 PM

I happened upon this article while looking for a gift for my nephew who will have his Bar Mitzva in October - his Father is Jewish and my sister Catholic - I sent it onto her as she most likely has no clue as to what can possibly go wrong. We laughed so hard! What a hysterical article - I am still laughing. Thank you!

(3) Anonymous, July 3, 2005 12:00 AM

We are one week away from our youngest son's Barmitzvah. I read this article to my husband while the tears of laughter poured from both our eyes. With just a few changes, this article is about us right now. I have not lost my keys (yet) but I have washed my phone which now does not work!
Neither my husband nor I can believe that our'baby' is an adolescent!

(2) Annette, June 26, 2005 12:00 AM

Boy, can I relate!

My son's Bar Mitzvah was the first big Simcha I was making, save for my sons' brisim. I had been told that the rule of inviting was that you invite twice as many people as you want because half of them won't come anyway, right? WRONG! EVERYONE RESPONDED THAT THEY WERE COMING!! To top that off, my caterer informs me 2 days before the event that he forgot to calculate the fact that I was using china instead of plastic & it will cost at least $1,000.00 more. The day comes: the caterers didn't follow my directions for the sweet table & they forgot to tell people that there was an option of fish (which I paid extra for, of course!) But thank G-d, my son read off his speech beautifully & it turned out to be the best Bar Mitzva ever (in my humble opinion).

(1) lillian oliver, June 26, 2005 12:00 AM

very funny

enjoyed this article

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