Weddings are sexy. It's where many people meet their spouse or, at least, get lucky. Same goes for bar mitzvahs, in spite of DJs catering to the questionable musical tastes of thirteen-year-olds. But as I aged, I began to dread finding my place at the singles table, as far from the main table as possible and as close to the kitchen door, with a cast of characters who seemed to have escaped from a circus sideshow, including the Fat Lady, the Bearded Lady and the Fire Eater.
So when I received an invitation from my dear friend Suzie to her son's Safari-themed bar mitzvah, I was determined not to go it alone. The reception was an outdoor dinner dance, under the stars. (Not so much "Out of Africa" as "Out of Bloomingdale's.") The RSVP clearly asked if I would be attending with a "guest." You betcha! I wasn't about conga to "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" by myself. I invited a gentlemen named Andy whom I had been dating for a few months. Not a great romance, but a congenial enough fellow with a sense of humor who owned a black tie and jacket.
A week before the bar mitzvah, Suzie called. "Are you bringing someone?" she asked. When I reminded her that I had indicated as much on the RSVP, she became as confrontational as a TSA officer. "Who is he?" she demanded. "How long have you known him?" At first, I chalked up Suzie's aggressive manner to nerves. Two hundred people, mostly her husband's business associates, would soon be doing the Chicken Dance on her lawn. I did my best to calm her down.
"You sound really stressed," I said. "Do you want a Xanax?"
"No!" she screamed. "What I need is to cut down my guest list. The caterer is charging sixty bucks a person."
I did the math. Twelve thousand dollars before you add in the band and the booze. I felt for Suzie. But I didn't want to sit next to her octogenarian aunts and watch a hundred couples slow dance to "Sunrise, Sunset." I came up with a compromise. I offered to skip the catered dinner (kosher wild boar) and come afterwards with my date just to wish them well. Suzie told me to hold on. I heard some whispering, then her husband got on the phone.
"That won't work," said Bob. "This is a family celebration. We don't want anyone whom we don't know."
I reminded Bob that I had known his wife since tenth grade. I even offered to pay for both my dinner and my date's, as absurd as that was, given Suzie and Bob's tax bracket. (Not on par with Kanye and Kim, but in the realm.) Bob wouldn't budge.
I could've added authenticity to their safari-themed bar mitzvah by releasing a live cobra between the filet mignon and the baked Alaska. Or I could've gone to the event, tossed back a couple of Cosmos and had my way with someone's husband or the bartender. (That certainly would make them think twice about asking me to come alone.) Instead, I stayed home.
That was many years ago. Recently, a divorced friend told me she went to a lavish wedding and had a "god-awful time." She left before they served the main course.
"I was at the damn singles' table and nobody made eye contact," she complained. "They were all texting."
Over chilled glasses of white wine, we agreed. Seating guests by their marital status is as idiotic as seating them by their religion, age or occupation. Imagine a table of dental hygienists. Or what if guests were seated by sexual preference? Not just straight, gay or bi. But, specifics: missionary style, table two; whips and chains, table eight. At least everyone would have something in common long before the lollipop lamb chops arrive.