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Ready or Not

Being prepared, actually leaving the house at a specific time, and measuring your moments of attendance at said event means different things to different people, depending on gender, maturity, and flexibility

The invitation arrives in the mail with times listed in bold just to make sure you understand that this event will begin and end in a timely manner. You are assured of this in advance, again and again.

You now have a new definition for timely.

Between you and me, starting times only count when it comes to lighting Shabbos candles and funerals, and I’m not so sure about the latter.

Every event has its own level of importance. Either your brother-in-law is the guest of honor at their school dinner, your favorite mechutanim are making their next child’s wedding, or your nephew (on your side) is celebrating his bar mitzvah. You mentally make a note of the best time to leave the house, allowing for traffic, babysitting schedules, and how long it takes you to change your mind about the shoes.

Being prepared, actually leaving the house at a specific time, and measuring your moments of attendance at said event means different things to different people, depending on gender, maturity, and flexibility. Please note allowances for the following ages and stages:

A single guy:

You never checked the starting time to begin with. You just know you have to show your face because your mother called to remind you three times. You’re not sure where it is (you’ll text someone), how long it takes to get there, and you really don’t care.

Getting dressed means reaching into the back seat of the car and grabbing the tie that you threw there on your way home from last night’s disastrous date — you’re wearing the same shirt anyway. You park where you shouldn’t and walk in like you own the place. You’re eligible.

A single gal:

Your second cousin once removed is making a wedding for her third daughter, but that doesn’t stop your mother from insisting you attend.

You don the navy silk with the designer floral pattern that your mother insisted on buying you for a bazillion dollars — the one that matches the lovely earrings you got as a consolation early-birthday gift after the last just-give-him-a-chance-again-date didn’t quite work out. Then you obsess over the choice of belt (the lavender leather with the hanging haute-couture charm or the matching fabric belt that looks so “classic yesterday”?). Despite all your stalling, your mother, ignoring your obvious eye-rolling, somehow manages to drag you out anyway. You still arrive uncomfortably early.

Young marrieds:

It doesn’t matter when you arrive at the cousin’s bar mitzvah dinner or when you leave. You’re too busy texting each other to notice anyone, and the only people who care are your parents, and they’re too busy trying to figure out why you’re ordering takeout when you’ve just eaten, raided the freshly restocked pantry and refrigerator, and “borrowed” all the good towels.

Young couple plus one:

You’re traveling to a family wedding — just you, hubby and baby — and everyone can’t wait to see you. Baby’s wearing the (ugly) outfit your mother-in-law sent, the one that matches all the other grands. It clashes with what you’re wearing, and you’re cringing.

Remember to bring a complete change of clothing, for yourself and baby, to allow for the possibility that someone will spit up, feel queasy, or the bottle will drip. Get there early enough so that your parents don’t worry that you’ll miss the family pictures, and make sure to smile at the new mechutanim. Twice.

Young couple plus three and a half:

If prep time is more than two hours, either take turns attending or just stay home. Between coordinating carpools, clothing, and trying to train your second princess, you’re frazzled. No one napped, and they’re all cranky (you included). The adorable little one cannot sit through Uncle Chaim’s speech without screaming; hopefully, everyone will forgive you for being on edge. Someone may or may not have forgotten the tote with the extra diapers, blanky, and paci in the driveway. It’s gonna be a long night.

Couple, not so young:

You  leave late, already tense. The house is in shambles, and the sink is gurgling, never a reassuring sound unless it’s coming from a cute three-month-old, and you don’t have one of those. The humidity is horrendous, the air-conditioning is on the blink, and the drive to and from the venue will be even longer because the dress you’re wearing doesn’t fit and your teenage daughters are mortified that you’re wearing it with that scarf.

Then again, they’re mortified about anything you wear. The gas tank’s on empty and so is your bank account. The roof is leaking and your boss just cut back your hours.

“Someone” forgot to pick up the dry cleaning, so he’s wearing the faded old brown (once black) wrinkled suit (again) that accentuates his paunch. You’re praying for rain so you can justify why the coif looks like it does, instead of the truth — who had time to get it done? When you arrive, you slap on a smile. Your mother still knows the difference.

Couple, young at heart:

Starting time is listed as six p.m. and you’re dressed and ready by two. You bought a new dress for the occasion along with matching shoes that pinch, and you’ve called three (different) grandchildren to remind them to pick you up at four, even though it’s only a ten-minute drive. You need to be there early, just in case. When you get there, you keep reapplying your lipstick and checking your watch wondering why everyone is so late.

If it’s the school dinner and your son is the Parent of the Year, you eagerly tell every person who will listen (most notably the principal) how worthy he is of the honor and how poorly he did (in this same school) when he was growing up. Look what’s become of him now! You brush hubby’s lapels (he wanted to stay home) while straightening his tie, and remind him to stand up straight and to remember he can’t nosh on any of those franks-in-blanks because they’ll keep him up all night.

Are we ever really ready — for anything?

Sometimes the only thing we can do in life is just show up.


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 855)

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