I have had many titles in my life: daughter, sister, lawyer, wife, mother and stationery-company owner to name a few. When I was a junior in college, I had another title: President of Rush for my sorority. My job was to help choose the women who we believed were fit to carry on our sorority’s legacy. It all seems silly now at 43 years old, but at the time, it was very important to me. I wanted to make sure that we found the next generation of strong, independent, and truly special women.
One of my first sorority friends was Robyne. Robyne was the nurturer in the bunch. One of six siblings, she always took care of those around her. Her freshmen year, Robyne met a boy named Marc. They dated for several years, and because he was a fraternity boy, he “lavaliered” her. (Note to readers: This meant they were “very serious.” The next step was called being “pinned” which meant that they were pre-engaged. I think.) When a girl got lavaliered, a special meeting would be called. No one knew who it was. The lights would be dimmed, and we would all gather in a circle. A candle would be slowly passed around several times until the special girl received it and blew it out. Everyone clapped and cheered. These ceremonies always made me depressed. I was never lavaliered or pinned. I blame several unnamed boys for depriving me of this experience.
After Marc finished law school, they were married and lived in New York and Chicago, but they love me so much that they ultimately moved to Arizona. Their first child was a girl named Avery. Avery turned 13 yesterday, and we all attended her bat mitzvah.
Avery was always pretty special. She entered the world a little too early, and at first she only weighed a little over 1 pound. Not letting her small size stop her, she fought hard for her devoted parents. She grew up to be a happy and funny kid and has turned into a pretty awesome teenager.
Girls these days wear some pretty ridiculous clothes. They wear super short shorts with their butts hanging out or tight leggings that are just not supposed to be pants, and they wear “half tops” that expose their little bellies. My kids have dress codes at their schools, and each and every day, girls are sent home for wearing inappropriate clothes.
For several years, Avery has decided that she’s much more comfortable in clothes that are designed for boys. She wears jerseys from her favorite teams (like her parent’s alma mater Michigan State University- go Spartans!) She wears athletic shorts. She likes to play all sports, including football. Everyone enjoys hanging out with her. Kids don’t really notice much that her hair is much shorter than a lot of girls her age. They don’t care that she loves to wear baseball hats and cleats. All they know is that she’s fun to be with. She’s a great big sister to her little sister and little brother. They both adore her.
Yesterday at Temple, while she became a “woman” in the eyes of the Jewish religion, she wore a boy’s suit. At her party last night while she danced and laughed, she wore another really nice-looking grey suit. Lots of girls her age wore very short dresses and super high- heels that no adult could possible walk in, let alone dance in.
During the Hora, I watched Avery, hoisted high up on that chair. She was smiling and waving to all of her friends and family, who were beaming with pride down below on the dance floor. I began to cry.
I thought of the sorority house where I first met Robyne. Each year as we chose new “sisters,” we talked about the values that we wanted to see in our sisterhood as the years went on. We all agreed that we wanted women with a strong sense of leadership, and the courage to always be true to herself. We wanted women just like Avery.
Avery: I know you read my blog even though some of them are very inappropriate for you, and you have to sometimes sneak and read them at school. I am so proud to know you and I can’t wait to watch you grow up. Becoming a bat mitzvah technically means that you are an adult. But I know that deep inside, you are still figuring out who you are. That’s totally o.k. Your mom and I always joke that 30 years after our own bat mitzvahs, we are still figuring out ourselves, too. Neither of us really know what we want to be when we grow up. Neither of us really knows yet who we are.
You are so lucky. I was not like you when I was 13. I was more like my own 13 year old daughter: trying to fit in and hoping that people liked me. I wanted to be exactly like everyone else. It’s totally fine to be like that. But it’s also pretty cool to want to be exactly who you are right now. It’s actually quite amazing.
I hope that when I finally grow up, I can be just like you.
Mazel Tov. I love you.