All I can think is... Should I have done anything differently?
Sometimes I feel like applying makeup for 15 minutes brings me to the equal of a 20-year-old without makeup. Did I appreciate that when I was 20? Obviously not. But perspective comes with age, and 33 is just that: aged.
But I still love a wedding, and getting dressed in heels and something pretty is a great break from the same old, same old. Look good, feel good is my motto.
Naama texts she’ll be here in five. I take one final peek into the mirror, shrug, call out instructions to everyone, grab my clutch, and am outside just as she pulls up.
“Sarala is making a bar mitzvahhhh,” she singsongs, “in exactly—”
I swallow. “15 days.”
Naama slams on the brakes at a red. “Omigosh, really? Girl, that’s like tomorrow. Are you ready?”
Pressure makes me snappy. “Ohhh, was I supposed to be getting ready? And here I was, signed up for a Rosetta Stone learning Turkish.”
Naama snort-laughs. “You’re nuts. Come on, give me details.”
I sigh and try not to muss my sheitel. “It’s actually insane. I look around at how many men there are in the frum world, and I realize that they were all bar mitzvahed at some time or other. I now have newfound respect for all of their mothers.”
Naama cracks up. “That’s beautiful. Also, have I mentioned you’re nuts?”
The truth is, I’m really doing okay. Invitations have been sent out, and from the looks of the reply cards, my nightmare of my family standing in an empty ballroom can be discarded, along with my nightmare of the all the tables being set with rainbow-fish-scale tablecloths. I already picked up the gold leaf tablecloths, even though I have to pay more for having them longer, but I need the peace of mind. By the way, they’re stunning.
My dress and Rena’s dress are hanging in our closets, the boys’ suits are ready, and even Ari has a new hat and tie.
There’s just the small matter of the jewelry….
It’s not easy to be surprised by your spouse of 13 years, but when Ari sat me down and told me he’s been saving up to buy me something special for the bar mitzvah I was both shocked and really, really touched. Bar mitzvahs are actually super expensive. Who knew? But Ari has been saving — something my detail-oriented mind somehow missed.
Only thing… “Ari wants to buy me jewelry.”
Naama gasps. “Oh no, what are you going to do?”
Now, there are definitely more important things going on in the world, and in the scheme of things, this shouldn’t really be gasp-worthy, but the thing is that Ari is extremely talented… in picking out the world’s ugliest jewelry.
Do I sound terrible?
So is his jewelry.
Okay, I’m definitely the worst. But shanah rishonah he presented me with tiny pink flower earrings. I think they were a starter pair for new babies. And then the next year, there was the purple cocktail ring. And then the matching necklace-bracelet set of dangling hearts. The list just goes on.
I’m an ishah chachamah, blessed with binah yeseirah, and I’ve learned to say things like, “Omigosh, your sister Chevy was wearing the most beautiful earrings, let me ask her where they’re from,” and then exclaiming in surprise when he hands me an identical pair.
Naama has heard about these pieces over the years. “What are you going to do?”
I laugh; the simchah mood is contagious. “Don’t worry, Ari knows the routine by now. We go together whenever it’s time to buy me new jewelry.”
She laughs. “Smart girl.”
She parks and we hop out, shivering in our dresses.
I come home to utter chaos, and it’s not even ten.
Rafi is bursting with nervous energy and leining out loud and off-key in the way he does just to annoy Rena. The baby is crying and has a dirty diaper, and the babysitter looks like she’s running out to tell all her friends never to babysit by me, so I very begrudgingly tip her ten dollars. Then Ari walks in, exclaiming that he’s starving, which reminds me that I have not put up dinner for us yet, since I made the kids corn on the cob and fish sticks before I left.
When we at last sit down to stir fry, Ari updates me on who’s flying in from his side of the family, which is pretty important, considering I’ve been asking for the final count for the past month now.
“Oh, and when are we going for jewelry?” he asks, reaching for the salt.
“Ari, it already has salt. You know, a more sensitive woman would be insulted.”
He shakes salt liberally over his plate. “That’s why I married you, Sar. So what do you say, should we make an appointment at Simpson? Your dress is blue, right? I’ll tell the lady.”
Omigosh, why does he need to know the color? No colors! Please! Diamonds and gold don’t need colors.
I bite a piece of chicken and chew carefully then swallow.
“Yeah, Simpson sounds great!”
Naama saves me a bike at Spin Cycle.
“Gotta fit into that dreessss.”
I grimace. “Don’t remind me, please.” This whole planning a bar mitzvah thing is not for the fainthearted. I’m tired and cranky, and I literally can’t decide what to do about the jewelry. Colors! I know it’s a champagne problem, but I’m kind of disappointed in myself. I want to be the sort of person who can just flippantly say something is precious to her just because her husband bought it for her, but I don’t think I can. Especially when it’s a significant amount of money.
“You’re overthinking for a change,” Naama pants out.
I pedal faster. She’s right. But I’m still uncertain.
Ari knocks on my office door, where I’m pulling out the final list for the caterer.
“Hey!” I smile at him, trying not to seem guilty. He’s holding a large paper bag.
“What you got there?” I ask, turning in my swivel chair.
Ari grins and swoops out a single rose wrapped in cellophane.
“There is more,” he says in a terrible accent I think is supposed to be French.
He adds a box of my favorite chocolates to the desk.
“Ar! I need to fit into my gown. But yum! For the after-party!”
He laughs and reaches into the bag one more time. And suddenly I know exactly what’s about to happen.
And there it is. A jewelry box from a nice jeweler in town.
“You’re so busy. I wanted to take something off your plate,” he says shyly.
“Wow,” I say weakly. “That was so thoughtful.”
I have a headache. “’Kay!” I open it. Oy veeeeey. “Wow. Ari, just wow.”
He looks worried. “Yeah? Cause if you don’t like it, we can totally exchange. I know it’s a lot, but how often do you make your first bar mitzvah, right? And I took a picture of your dress and brought it in, and the lady said this is exactly what it needs.”
Yes, this is exactly what it needs if my dress were a costume in a Bais Yaakov performance about the Spanish Inquisition.
But if I’m not dressing up like a 15th century queen, then this is probably not what I need.
I look at the zigzag of blue jewels and diamonds and I’m just struck by how sweet Ari is. And by how tremendously ugly the necklace is. I didn’t even know they made jewelry like this anymore.
I walk into Simpson the next day and immediately lock eyes with the most beautiful necklace in the world. It would be perfect for my dress, for any dress actually.
I tuck the sleek box into my dresser drawer at home and try not to think about the fact that I now have two necklaces and zero idea of what I’m going to do.
It’s B-day! Nothing terrible happens, which makes me highly suspicious.
Rafi has his hat and suit and pshetl, Ari looks put together, Rena looks like a doll, the boys are adorable, my dress fits(!), and… I can’t bring myself to wear the necklace. I look at it once, tears springing to my eyes, and then I resolutely tuck it into my dresser drawer, pull out my Simpson box, and head out to the car.
The photographer is there on time, the ballroom looks beautiful. We’re about to start photos when I gasp.
“I knew things were running too smoothly. Ari, my necklace!”
“Oh no, what happened?” He sounds nervous.
I feel tears spring to my eyes, half relief I don’t have to wear the horrible clunker, half disappointment for Ari’s hard work.
I hurriedly wipe them away before my makeup is ruined. “I left it at home.”
Ari closes his eyes. “Should I run and get it?”
The photographer snaps his fingers. “People, we need to start this second.”
Ari shakes his head. “I can’t believe it. Okay, kapparah.” He follows the photographer over to the backdrop.
I wipe another tear, sniff, and straighten my shoulders. Peering in a nearby mirror, I fix my mascara, and come to the conclusion that my dress really needs a necklace. I reach into my bag and clasp the choker around my neck. It looks amazing. Then I tuck it under my dress.
A minute later, I pull it back out, still undecided.
But Ari will be crushed….
Rena comes over. “You left Tatty’s necklace at home? Wow, but that’s stunning, Ma.”
Simpson necklace it is. I take another quick peek into one of the mirrors lining the wall. Not bad for a 33-year-old.
But when I join the photo and Ari says, “What’s that?” in a flat voice, I wonder if it was worth it.
Would you like to respond to this column as a Second Guesser? Email email@example.com with Second Guessing in the subject line.
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 870)
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