Thoroughly Postmodern Lily

Lily, 13, is all curled up on the sofa in her Los Feliz living room and this makes her appear even smaller than she already is. Lily, who describes herself as a “normal but weird seventh-grader,” is discussing bar mitzvahs, specifically the one she attended yesterday, for her friend Miro. “The service, as usual, was a bit boring,” Lily says. “But maybe I should explain. I don’t understand Hebrew. And, I don’t really understand how it feels to be going through this rite of passage into adulthood.” Lily, who has long, blond, wavy hair and whose toenail polish is chipping, adds, “I wore black. I like to wear black.” She’s attended seven bar/bat mitzvahs in the past three months and estimates she’ll go to “like six” more before the year is up. Lily isn’t wearing black right now. Instead, she has on a pair of her mom’s jeans, her favorite purple T-shirt and a long silver-and-black scarf thrown across her shoulder as if she might board a Led Zeppelin tour bus, circa 1973. But don’t mistake postmodern Lily as someone lost in a retro daze. Quite the opposite, she attended a costume bar mitzvah dressed as Yoshimi, the anime character from the CD cover of the Flaming Lips’ Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots. Though no one knew what she was, Lily feels confident she and her friend Gabe, who went as a priest, had the best costumes. The way she sees it, when it comes to bar mitzvahs, about the most important thing you should bring with you is a willingness to dance. “You have to dance at a bar mitzvah — it’s a rule,” she explains, eyeing her cat Benjamin B.W., who is also curled up nearby. “If you’re not dancing, you have to be in that group. That little group over in the corner, who are like, ‘Weee [pause] are so cool. Thisss [pause] is so boring. I could totally be elsewhere talking about nothing [pause] in my lavish mansion in Bel Air. But no, I have stooped down to this level to be at this barr mitzvahh . . .’ If you dance, you’re sending the message to the bar or bat mitzvah that you are having fun. It’s like, ‘This is great!’ and ‘I respect you!’ and ‘Congratulations!’ ” Lily, who transferred to a well-regarded private school this year, has a name for those people in the corner, the ones who are too cool to dance: “The Them.” When one of The Them has a bar mitzvah, she says, “every single person ever born goes.” Which translates into about 500 people. If you’re still unclear about The Them, maybe Lily can help: “Those quote-unquote popular people? If it’s a girl . . .” Lily’s voice speeds up. “ ‘Hi, I wear miniskirts up to my butt, or maybe past my butt.’ ‘I wear these really low-cut shirts.’ ‘Oh, I have a Prada bag.’ ‘Oh, I bring my hair straightener to camp.’ Those people. Everyone goes to theirs. If it’s just a regular, nice, normal person who is, like, new to the school . . . maybe half of that goes to theirs.” Miro’s party was held at the Hollywood Roosevelt. Lily thought that was a good location. She especially liked the basketball hoops they set up inside. She’s also gone to bar/bat mitzvahs at the Beverly Hills Hotel, the VIP Room at Dodger Stadium and a country club. She says there are rumors that one kid in her class is going to have his on a yacht. “If that’s not fancy, nothing is,” says Lily, who has three best friends: Izy, Gabby and Siena. She claims to be neither Jewish nor Christian. “Me no like religion,” she says in a Carmen Miranda accent. But, quickly adds that bar/bat mitzvahs are big fun and it’s nice to get invited and show support. That said, if you’re planning on attending one anytime soon, there are a few things she thinks you might want to know. First of all, don’t get drunk. Recently, she went to a bar mitzvah where a boy drank “like 12” cups of Manischewitz at the toast and ended up being uninvited to the party after he climbed the fence, was chased by security guards and ran all around the girls’ bathroom. “Yeah. Don’t do that,” she says, shaking her head. Also, don’t play with your cell phones. “That’s the worst. You can even be pretending you’re cool, but don’t play on your cell phone.” Don’t expect to spend time with the bar or bat mitzvah “because they’re going to be over with the old people getting fussed over. You know how many times they hear ‘Congratulations’??” Also, you probably want to make sure all your zippers are in working order. You wouldn’t want your skirt to fall down at a bowling-alley bar mitzvah like hers did. “That wasn’t good,” she recalls with a smile. “Luckily only about 10 people saw until somebody warned me.” A good DJ makes all the difference. There are a few on the circuit presently she could do without. Like the grabber: the one who grabs the kids and shakes them, trying to get them to dance, and the other one who brings his own dancers with him. “He has these two . . .” Lily, whose mom is a lawyer, searches for the best words, “scantily . . . clad . . . blond women and this huge guy who break dances. They get up really close to people and go, ‘Oh yeah! This music’s pumping! This is the best party ever!’ ” Instead, Lily suggests a DJ who keeps it simple. “Play some music everyone can dance to and hand the microphone to whoever needs it.” Oh yeah, and don’t play jazz. “No one dances to jazz, especially not 12- and 13-year-olds.” But even if the hosts hire that one DJ who only plays jazz, and even if you get a Coke spilled on you, Lily says you’ll probably have fun. “If your friends are there, everything is going to be okay. Unless your friends go hang out with people who are higher on the ladder and ignore you. Then, what happens to me is, I try to dance. But when there is no one else dancing, it’s kinda sad and you feel scared.” Lily mocks herself, casting her eyes to the ground. “Then you go hang out with Gabe!” Remember Gabe? The one who wore the cool priest costume? “Gabe is my friend and he is always there. He will always be there. He is a good person. He will come over and talk to you and tell a joke and make you feel better about not being the most popular person.” Is Gabe invited to every bar mitzvah? “Gabe gets invited to every bar mitzvah. Everyone loves Gabe. Nobody hates Gabe. Because he is the funniest person in the world. He is not evil and not posh-posh.” To conclude, Lily says, bar mitzvahs and bat mitzvahs are “all good.”


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