As young people, bar and bat mitzvah parties helped us build character: awkward social interactions, quiet slow dances where you desperately try not to make eye contact and condescending head pats from adults and kids taller than us.
Now that we’re older, how do we behave ourselves at our nephew’s celebration?
The first stop on the bar/bat mitzvah party train is the ceremony — a solemn, formal affair. Be a respectful adult. There is no snack bar. You will not be on a kiss-cam. You may be excited to support your celebrant, but remember that other kids are coming of age too. So when your relative goes up and aces his reading, DO NOT stand and yell, “YES! He nailed it!”
You’re here to have fun, so stick to the basics. Mingle with the adults, comment on how cute the kids are, and, if you share the same interests with the person of the hour, feel free to steal some of his or her themed decorations. My large basketball centerpiece is the classiest part of my apartment and the reason all my friends know I kill it at sports.
What to avoid
While enjoying the party, know what activities and events are appropriate for your age. Drinks, food, giving approving nods to children — those are within your domain. Airbrushed tattoos or face-paintings ARE NOT FOR YOU. I know, face-painting is cool, and yes, I have an awesome tiger on my face as I write this. But just for today, let the kids have their fun.
When approaching the bar or bat mitzvah to congratulate them, it’s important to not treat them like a child. Don’t patronize them or pinch their cheeks. On the other hand, don’t treat them like too much of an adult. Don’t sit down, light up a cigarette and starting venting about your relationship and faith-based questions. Your little cousin doesn’t have an opinion on legislative gridlock. He just either loves or hates Justin Bieber. Gauge whichever one is currently cool, agree with him, and go in for your obligatory head pat.
If you take the above advice, you’ll also lead a classy, understated night.