The Stress of the Dress

My girlfriend texts me first thing: Hey, Lis – so what’s on the agenda today? Followed by … AND, how r u holding up?

“Holding up” is code for: My daughter’s bat-mitzvah.

I respond: coffee, writing, shrink, work out – gotta release all the stress …
PS. The dresses are friggin’ killing me.

She texts back: Fuhgetabout-it. There’s no way out of hell, baby.

When planning a bat-mitzvah (note: I say BAT not BAR) – bat is for girls/bar is for boys. Bar is code for a good suit, nice tie, black belt and socks, dress shoes, clean underwear, and a sky blue-buttoned down shirt (read: DONE). Bat is code for dresses — as in Welcome to the Dark Side (read: You are NEVER DONE).

Finding the dress is EVERYTHING. The true meaning of a bat-mitzvah goes south once the Quest for THE Dress is in fifth gear. The search begins, and it’s Game On, Baby, all the way.

The bat-mitzvah dress is a 13-year-old Jewish girl’s version of her wedding gown. And if someone else is wearing it before her Big Day, then IT is no longer “special.” IT from then on will always be known as the Other Girl’s Dress.

Okay, I confess, I AM asking for a Pity Party (even if this is a few months after the actual event). Here is my in-house ratio of girls to dresses: Three teenage girls, 9 dresses required (Friday night service, Saturday morning service, Saturday night party), shoes, bras (Mommy, my strapless doesn’t fit!), line-less underwear, waxing, nails, hair, makeup. Plus throw in me and my 3 dresses. The human ‘car-wash’ to get ready for the Big B-M is an endless suck.

Moms with boys, think oh so fun. It IS NOT. It is stressful, nothing fits, nothing is pretty enough, what if someone else buys the same dress?

What if, what if, what if.

And what if the What If actually comes true … Here’s how “The Situation” went down in my house.

My middle daughter’s bat-mitzvah was in February. But the date doesn’t really matter, because this story could be told by every Jewish mother having a bat-mitzvah or even those non-Jewish mommies who have Homecoming, Turnabout, Prom, a Sorority Dance or Wedding on the brain. Before I share, here’s a brief history of OUR dress… (By the way, one Mom who I just bumped into while I was writing this blog told me she went through FIVE dresses – meaning bought it, brought it home, a “situation” occurred (we’ll get to that), and had to return it until she landed The Dress, The One, The B’sherit (Yiddish for soul-mate).

I bought my daughter’s dress at Betsey Johnson. I found it early on, accidentally, seven months before her bat-mitzvah (first problem: TOO early). There was a 30 percent-off sale and we saw the dress in the window. It was gorgeous. It fit her perfectly, and yes, she LOVED it. We both knew we couldn’t pass it up. I was thrilled. More importantly, I was DONE.

And then … November rolls around. I’m at a movie with my husband – and I get what I will refer to as the OMG Mommy!!!! Text – straight from another bat-mitzvah that my daughter was attending. The panic text went something like this:

OMG Mommy!!! I can’t breathe. Lindsay (fake name) is wearing MY dress for her bat-mitzvah!

Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. (FYI: that was me, not my 13 year old – and not in a text, but to my husband who was enjoying the movie right next to me – WAS being the operative word here.)

“Oh c’mon, what is the big deal?” he whispered back when I broke the news. “No one will remember.”

No. One. Will. Remember.

Right there. Mark it. The difference between man and woman. Venus and Mars. Brilliance and idiocy.

Everyone who has a vagina remembers.

The bat-mitzvah dress is a 13-year-old Jewish girl’s version of her wedding gown. And if someone else is wearing it before her Big Day, then IT is no longer “special.” IT from then on will always be known as the Other Girl’s Dress.

As I watched the movie, I was furiously working out Plan B. Yes, the suburban disease of THIS-IS-A-BIG-DEAL had infected my body. I was furiously trying to figure out what to do with my daughter’s Non-Returnable Betsy Johnson dress as Tom Cruise was working out his Mission Impossible. I was on my Mission: Make Something Possible Right NOW.

And therein lies the second problem … how not to disappoint my daughter. How the dress “Situation” suddenly became my fault.

As Tom Cruise climbed some ridiculously tall building in Dubai, I found my solution: My younger daughter’s bat-mitzvah was 10 months later – my bat-mitzvah girl could wear THAT dress there. Hallelujah! Now to convince my husband…

I won’t get into the follow-up conversation (bribery) except to say … Mission: Accomplished.


I was clear with my daughter that if we were going to purchase another dress, the second dress for synagogue (where the actual service is held) must be a very economical purchase. Agreed? She agreed.

Happily Ever After was once again in the cards — WAS being the operative word. Okay, so I finally got it all under control. Here’s the math: It is now December: 3 dresses for me. 3 dresses for my older daughter. 3 dresses for the bat-mitzvah girl. 3 dresses for my younger daughter. So Done.

And then The Call came, one month before the bat-mitzvah. A friend of my daughter heard about my daughter’s “service” dress and cried out that she had the very SAME dress for her own bat-mitzvah party a few weeks after ours. The friend’s version was the pricey designer garb; ours was the economical knock-off.

My daughter said, “Mommy we know exactly how this feels. Let’s change the service dress to help her. It’s her party dress. We can’t do this to her.”

What about me??? that tiny voice cried out from the dark, dank bottom of the well.

Deep cleansing breath … it was nice of my daughter to care BUT back to the damn stores… Just shoot me.

I called the girl’s mom, and told her that I knew our bat-mitzvah is “first”, and that we too had a “situation” but I’m willing to help her. She was so deeply appreciative, and we really worked it together. She checked out other dresses, and I went back to the store where we had purchased the dress to see if we could return our dress or make an exchange. I had the whole staff at the store (E-Street Kids — yeah, I’m name-dropping ‘cause you deserve it) trying to find my daughter another dress. Yes, my husband (and the Other bat-mitzvah girl’s Dad) kept saying we were both “fucking crazy and who cared? And no one noticed anyway. (Oh, what do they know).

In the end, after much texting, phone calls, and attempts at new dresses, both girls ended up keeping the same dresses, and both came to terms with the “situation” with care and consideration of the other, minus any Middle School bitchiness.

I was so proud of them, and something really nice came out of all this drama: Two girls who were in different “groups” became closer friends, two moms who “knew” each other from the ‘hood but were not close friends shared a lot of laughs, appreciating the other’s Herculean efforts to deal with a ridiculous situation. Amid a slew of frantic funny texts and phone calls. we even made plans for coffee — which quickly changed into sharing a good bottle of wine after both bat-mitzvahs (given she has two teenage daughters and I have three — the one bottle will surely morph into two).

The Stress of the Dress had, shall we say, a silver lining.

– LB

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