I can't help thinking, less than 72 hours to Bar Mitzvah, of how much easier my child's life would be if he didn't have to live with idiots like Sandra Bullock and me. I know we're idiots because we constantly try his patience. We know nothing about computers, for example. We don't know how to load photos onto our desktops and we depend on him to do things as simple as switching the TV back to cable after playing a DVD.
Some children suffer their parents foibles in silence. Some retreat into privacy, hoping that by limiting their exposure to the two morons who pay the rent, they can get through adolescence with a shred of good feeling intact. My child prefers to meet this sudden crisis head-on.
Our Jawa is no shrinking violet. His approach to handling life's curveballs is to launch a preemptive strike right back at them. Some kids go fetal, their fallback emotion being sadness. My son's go-to is anger. Add to that some impressively developing skills in the ancient art of sarcasm and you're looking at a long teenage road ahead.
My guess is that this morning our Jawa awoke suddenly aware of the full weight of the coming weekend. All of our efforts of the past year are about to either pay off or flame out spectacularly. And despite what he sees at home -- a mother busily tying bows, wrapping banana bread, negotiating with Bob from the Golden Gate Yacht Club to see if we can drop a bunch of stuff off on Thursday instead of Friday, a father disappearing for hours and returning with tales of multiple parallel parks and often tense back-and-forths with service industry employees -- the Jawa must know that, in the end, it all comes down to him; he shows up and nails it or slinks off in horror in front of 185 people.
So, feeling uncomfortable and pressured, he unsurprisingly established early on, less than three minutes after stumbling out of his room this morning wearing, that today we should think of him as a combination of De Niro in "Raging Bull," Popeye's nemesis Bluto, Steve Jobs on a bad day and Wile E. Coyote. In the hours that have passed since this morning, he has repeatedly demonstrated his commitment to upholding this promise.
The argument I enjoyed most concerned the Sunday brunch. I think I mentioned a week or so ago that, despite the wide range of personalities, cultural totems and socioeconomic status of our 185 guests, almost all have asked us the same question: what are we supposed to wear? The service itself is slamdunk (pretend like you're at a wedding), but our efforts at creating clear guidelines for Saturday night have come up just short of igniting a riot as our flustered guests try to pierce the ambiguity of the term "dressy casual."
The Jawa should be beyond all this. There was the Bataan-like shopping trip that ended with triumph in the Bloomingdale's basement. That took care of Friday, Saturday and Saturday night. We assumed he would carry this over to Sunday morning's brunch (to be attended by everyone staying at the Hyatt Regency Embarcadero), thinking that 48 hours clad in classy duds would convince the kid to don something workable Sunday morning. We were wrong.
"I want to wear whatever I want to the brunch," he announced late this morning.
"That's fine," S. Bullock responded. "Just like, you know, some jeans and a collared shirt."
"NO. NOT A COLLARED SHIRT. I WILL WEAR A T-SHIRT."
"Not a t-shirt. This is a brunch with all of your out-of-town guests."
"SO? I WANT TO LOOK LIKE I JUST GOT UP, LIKE I ALWAYS DO AT BREAKFAST."
This doesn't seem feasible, I thought. 60 people did not come all the way to San Francisco to watch you eat pancakes while wearing too-small boxer shorts and nothing else.
"At least wear a nice t-shirt. Your nicest Godzilla t-shirt."
There were two or three minutes of back-and-forth in there that I left out. I was hiding in the bedroom, pretending I was getting ready to take a shower, knowing that any contribution I made to this specific argument would only escalate things. Without spelling it out, I can tell you that he was not budging, and that by arguing the point, it only confirmed what he'd known all along: that his mother was a fool.
It seemed pretty stupid to me -- him making such a big deal out of wearing a collared shirt when he'll have been wearing one non-stop since Friday by then -- until I remembered how deep a line in the sand I'd drawn over his wanting to buy a fourth Wii controller (to replace the one mysteriously lost in our house) so that everyone attending his candy-fueled post-Bar Mitzvah hotel room party could play at once.
I figure that, faced with the sudden realization that he'd lost all control over his Bar Mitzvah, the Jawa grabbed onto the nearest thing he could get his hands on. Out of the hundreds of items whizzing by, "what to wear at the Sunday brunch" was the one he grasped. He's had plenty of say in Bar Mitzvah planning and execution -- I mean, as much as a 13-year-old stuck in the midst of a grownup-sized party budget can expect -- but I can see why he'd want to make something, anything, his own; especially something that shouldn't mean much to his parents, if they thought about it.
For all we know, for the past nine years he's been carrying around a very specific image of how his Bar Mitzvah, like how once, for a week in second grade, I locked onto the idea that I was going to grow up and be a teacher, but my classroom wouldn't have desks. Instead, it would have couches and chairs, so everyone could lounge around in class.
We've seen bits and pieces of his Bar Mitzvah ideal. The rest of it he's probably kept to himself, having seen how far his idea to build a roller coaster in the backyard went once it got to me.
This was a panicked Jawa seizing power, using his default emotion -- anger -- to get his point across. Eighteen years ago, I used a barely more mature approach to get my bride to agree to spending her honeymoon walking around Skagway,, Alaska a month after the cruise season had ended.
That, and the fezzes my dad bought for the groomsmen to randomly wear during the reception, totally confusing a few of my brand-new, not dialed into absurdist humor, very not Jewish relatives, who kept asking if "that was some kind of Jewish thing," and the 1966 Triumph Bonneville we rode from the reception to our hotel. Those were my power grabs, and I was satisfied.
Come Sunday morning, you can wear what you want; if you need the Jawa, he'll be the guy in the ratty Godzilla t-shirt and hopefully something more than too-small boxers (but not those huge Walton's Grizzly Lodge sweatpants. We drew the line at that). Jawa wear his Sunday morning worst as a proud display of adult-like power? Maybe. Either that or he's just sick of dressing up.