Dear me at 13,
You’re pressing the “close elevator” button as quickly as your little fingers can manage.
“1,2,3,4,5,1,2,3,4,5,1,2,3,4,5…” you count the pushes in your head as you plead with the doors to shut already. People are taking their seats. The ceremony is about to begin. You’re not quite sure where you plan to ride this elevator, but if it doesn’t take you there soon, you’re considering scaling the shaft yourself through the emergency exit. Anything to get you out of here.
As the doors begin to close you can feel the hot sting of tears in your eyes. You’re trying to keep them in there so they don’t smear the makeup that you don’t know how to fix.
You’re standing in the elevator of the Beth Tikvah Synagogue in North York, Ontario. Today is David L.’s Bar Mitzvah, and somewhere between the coat check room in the basement and the main floor you were dumped by your boyfriend of a week and a half.
He said his friends thought you were too controlling and that he needed some time to be single. How you could possibly be controlling through the course of a week and a half in which you only saw each other at school and talked on the phone twice is beyond me (and you). But the ridiculous nature of his logic doesn’t take away from the hurt you’re feeling right now.
Tonight was supposed to be a really big deal. Everyone cool was coming to this Bar Mitzvah. Everyone cool was coming with a date. In fact, coming here with a date was the single largest factor in being considered cool in the first place. For the last week and a half, your life has been consumed with planning for this evening. The dress. The hair. The makeup. Standing in front of the mirror twirling and smiling. Practicing your “Mazel Tov”s so as to sound as authentic as a nerdy suburban shiksa can.
When he first asked you out, you were nearly too shocked to accept. I mean, he was one of the popular boys. One of the boys all the other girls liked. One of the boys who generally didn’t give you the time of day unless they were publicly ridiculing your clothing or your straight A grades. How or why he would come to the conclusion that he wanted to date you was a complete and total mystery. You somehow managed to get your words together and accept.
Instantly, your social standing changed. People who had intentionally avoided you but moments before were now clamouring for your attention. Heads turned as you walked through the hallways. And not in the “Now’s the perfect time to stick the ‘Kick Me’ sign on her back” kind of way you had typically experienced. You could sense your peers re-evaluating your worth.
It was wonderful. You felt as if, for the first time, your classmates were actually understanding who you were. Like they were finally catching onto what you had known about yourself all along. You started to imagine what the remainder of your Junior High career might be like if you could just keep this up. And it felt as though a gigantic weight had been lifted from your shoulders.
And now, travelling in that rickety elevator to goodness-knows-where, that weight is resting firmly once again, although now in the pit of your stomach. You are terrified to face your classmates. To face the popular girls. To face him. You don’t want to leave that elevator, but you know you can’t ride it forever. Your parents might worry. You’ll need to eat eventually.
Here is the thing: This situation is a perfect example of how fickle the popular 13-year-old crowd can be. Kids go from A List to D List and back again in a span of days. And they even do it to themselves! Amanda S. might be popular today, but believe it or not, in a few months, one of her fellow clique members will start a rumour about a naughty dream and her stocks will plummet too.
If I were you, I wouldn’t put so much weight on being accepted by people incapable of acceptance. They are 13. They’re hormonal. They’re insecure. You are an old soul. And deep down inside, you know you’re way beyond this. You will grow up into a successful person who loves her life, who has amazing friends and an incredible family (including a super hot husband, by the way! Yipee!).
The bad news is: You have to exit the elevator. The good news is: This Bar Mitzvah only lasts one night. And you’re already part way through. As your Dad always said, “By this time tomorrow, it will be what it was”. So wipe your eyes, straighten your hair, march on into the sanctuary and watch your classmate become a Man.
And if the popular girls ask any questions, just tell them you’re glad to be single again. After all, he was pretty controlling anyway.