My bat mitzvah date fell on Memorial Day, a Monday, which saved me from having to read a whole Shabbos-sized Torah portion. Immediately after was a luncheon for family and close friends. There were only a few people there that my parents made me invite. It was very good food at a kosher restaurant near the temple. I had the kids party a week later at a health club. There was swimming and basketball and other fun things. And it did not involve the mortifying slow dance with my dad* that a 'regular' party would've. The best compliment I got was from a male classmate- "Your bat mitzvah was the best of all of them because I didn't have to wear a tie to the party."
An article in the NY Times, My Big Fat 80's Bar Mitzvah, has some interesting insights about this major Jewish rite of passage. Though my own bat mitzvah was in 1992, I can relate.
The MTV-era bar mitzvah... was a time when an insular Old World ritual blew up into an all-American affair: inclusive, often suburban and, thanks to new Hollywood production values, unforgettably garish.
Parents are featured in the book as well, always lavishly dressed and often posing proudly in front of banquet tables overflowing with food. Many Jews of that era, said Jeffrey Shandler, an associate professor of Jewish studies at Rutgers University, saw their son's bar mitzvah as a way to telegraph their social standing and ambitions....For them, he said, their child's party was as much about networking and conspicuous consumption as about watching their child give a commentary on the Torah. Bar mitzvahs built around a "Raiders of the Lost Ark" or a Disney theme became common. Thanks in part to the introduction of the videographer, he added, the parties started to take on the look of movie sets.
I cannot tell you how many of those I went to. Where it was way more about what the parents wanted than what the newly anointed Jewish adult wanted.
*I regret that my dad will never be able to walk me down the aisle at my wedding. But I do not think that I missed out on something by not doing this. Having to slow dance, in the spotlight, with anyone is still not an idea that thrills me. Hopefully I can skip out on that at the wedding too. :-)