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It was at Shari Saltzman’s Bat-Mitzvah that I asked my husband if he was having an affair. While Shari and her family had carefully planned every last detail of her momentous event—from her flawless Torah reading in synagogue to the Gummy Bear toppings at the ice-cream sundae bar at the reception—I hadn’t planned a damn thing. Still, both Shari and I came of age that spring day. 

I’d been to plenty of coming-of-age celebrations that year. Between nieces and nephews and neighbors, it seemed every Jewish kid was turning thirteen. One party was pretty much like any other, though the Saturday night receptions promised a little more panache (for a lot more green). The Beaumont Yacht Club, where Shari’s hoopla took place, had the requisite spiral staircase, white marble with swirls of gray, a very grand ballroom which could seat upwards of three hundred, two glorious fountains—one flowing with semi-sweet, the other, milk chocolate and wide, bold, floor to ceiling windows facing the Long Island Sound. In other words, the Saltzmans splurged.

Sometime around 7:30 p.m., Danny and I took our places at Table 7 just to the left of the ten-piece band. The tables were dressed for the evening in rose colored silk overlaying crisp white linen. Stemmed glassware glinted with water, cut crystal topped off with wine, and tulip-shaped flutes bubbled with champagne. Five other couples were seated with us—the men in their custom-tailored tuxedoes (black tie is always so much easier for men), the women in sleek spaghetti-strapped numbers, cocktail or floor length, with strappy thin-heeled pumps to match. 

We came ready to party, relishing any excuse to pretend we weren’t getting older, to forget we’d reached that sneaky turn in the road where the pressures and disappointments of life began to seriously mess with our heads. We were only in our mid-to-late thirties. There was still plenty of time to keep climbing the ladder, though not nearly as much as there once was, but the number of rungs seemed endless and that much further apart. Demands grew as our children did, along with truckloads of slippery resentments. And that age-old midlife question, “Is this all there is?” burned fiercely through our veins. 

“Let’s dance,” Danny said, right after the spring greens salad with endive and the band had begun its second set with Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit. Danny placed his hand at the small of my back, his cool touch more a habit than an expression of love or lust. Our bodies moved together like two old slippers, comfortable but worn. All as the band’s lead singer crooned his best Kurt Cobain. 

I had spent that morning in synagogue at Shari’s service with Jason, our ten-year-old. Danny stayed behind with Jenny, fourteen. At the Kiddush, after the blessings over the challah and the wine, several guests approached me. 

“Love the dress,” Shari’s aunt Sheila said, Nova lox heavy on her breath. I wasn’t wearing anything special, a simple navy slip-on thing and a floral shawl to cover my shoulders in the inevitability the air conditioner ran too cold. 

“Your hair! It’s fabulous! Just love the cut,” Rhonda, the neighborhood gossip squealed. She pulled me into an overzealous hug, during which her breasts pressed uncomfortably into mine. I quickly unlatched myself from her arms and reached up to touch my soft waves.  

“Thanks, Rhonda,” I said, wondering what else she noticed about me, what future fodder I’d unknowingly provided. 

I thought back to the morning, getting ready at the house. 

Me: standing in front of the bathroom mirror, working that subtle smudge of green liner I was famous for. (I had once worked behind a Lancôme counter at Bloomingdale’s.)

Me: applying just a hint of lip gloss, my favorite new shade—Barely Nude. 

And Danny: saying absolutely nothing about how I looked. When was the last time he told me I was beautiful, pressed my breasts against him?  

I drove home from synagogue a woman possessed. It had felt good to be noticed at the Kiddush between bites of bagel, but what about some recognition at home? I was so over being discounted. Dismissed. Ignored. Take your pick. 

“Why do I hear ‘you look so good’ from everyone but you?” I came straight at Danny like a laser before even putting down my keys. 

“You never compliment me! You never …” 

“You’re right,” he interrupted, stopping me cold.

You’re right. Odd music to my ears. When I heard those lovely notes, words that rarely left Danny’s lips, I stood taller, embraced my inner badass—in a Helen Reddy sort of way. I am woman hear me roar, I thought. And I thought about our after-Kiddush exchange at Shari’s reception that evening, as Danny and I stepped together on the Beaumont parquet dance floor, wingtips and stilettos moving in time to the Sister Sledge throwback “We Are Family.


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