“My stomach really hurts,” Child Two declares as he gets into the car. Its 10:30 on a Saturday night and we’ve just picked him up from the third in a series of what is known as the Bar Mitzvah Circuit – the social season for the tween set. Every private school kid in southern California inviting every other private school kid to his or her bar or bat mitzvah. They don’t all go to the same temple or even the same school. And these temples are not close together. Like every other activity in a Los Angeles child’s social calendar, there’s a lot of schlepping - weekend after weekend of driving to the temple for services, back from the temple after services, to the party in the evening, picking up after the party. On and on, an endless cycle of sweaty, nervous hormones in khaki pants and blue blazers – an endless cycle of pasta bars and photo booths, of disco bands and empty dance floors.
“My stomach hurts,” he says. “No,” he continues, “it’s more like my kidneys. My kidneys hurt. “ He pauses and then, “Actually, I’m vibrating.” Child Two did not eat a bad piece of sushi. He did not hit the dessert table one too many times. And he wasn’t stealing sips from the grown up’s table. No. Child Two had just asked a girl out. His first girl – the girl he’s been pining over since the beginning of the school year and the most sought after girl in his class.
For thirty-five minutes – the time it takes to drive from the temple at the beach all the way to our house in the valley – we hear, in detail, the blow by blow of the approach – what he said, who was around, the specifics of the physical manifestation of hormones and nerves as only a love torn twelve year old can describe. And what does she say? This vixen, this whore? “I’ll let you know on Monday.” Monday! Seriously. A 48-hour wait for a twelve-year-old boy who has worked up the nerve to ask a girl out. Torture.
He proceeds to tell us what it would mean if she said yes. Apparently, “will you go out with me” means more than just a date. It means a date AND it means you’re now a couple. So we spend a few minutes talking about what they’d do together (I suggest a movie, he counters with “we should start slow – I’ll take her to the Coffee Bean”). And we talk about what it would mean if she says no (social suicide, everyone will know about the rejection and there’s no one else to ask out for the next six years).
When we return home, Child One is there with a gaggle of her friends – all seniors – boys and girls who had their own experiences on the circuit and who listen raptly as Child Two shares, once again, the story of exaltation and humiliation. The boys offer up congratulations and words of advice. The girls high five him – tell him how cool he is. And Child Two trundles off to bed still jittery but a little more sure of himself and with a little less of a stomachache.
Now, we all know what “I’ll let you know Monday” really means. Nothing good ever comes with a delayed response and an answer on Monday. If something is exciting, intriguing, enticing, you jump on it right away. If you need a moment – if you have to sleep on it – if you delay the inevitable until Monday likely you are just cruel. And so I hate her. I hate this little twelve-year old bitch I’ve never met. Just as I imagine I will hate girl after girl who might disappoint my sweet boy. But I’m so proud that he asked – so proud that he had the presence of mind, the confidence and the balls to approach a girl at all (much less the most sought after girl in 6th Grade). And now I’m buckling in for a year full of Saturdays, and battening down the hatches for the rest of the tweens, the dreaded teens and what I hope is a future of more yeses than Mondays…