* For those unfamiliar, a "sycophant" is one who attempts to win favor by flattering those pereceived as wielding power.
When you get married, loved ones which may or may not include your mother-in-law, get together and present you with the age-old "something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue". For me, this involved, among other things, a piece of antique jewelry (a diamond watch, if I am remember correctly), which I returned to my mother-in-law after the wedding. I assume that it was then given to my sister-in-law when she was married last year, and presumably returned once again.
Apparently, in this town, this small, affluent town filled with people who fancy themselves as urbanites who wanted more for their children but who were too sophisticated to end up "back in Long Island" where they grew up, where there is only one elementary school, one middle school and one high school, where many of the children knew each other since diapers, where many of the parents knew each other when they were wearing maternity clothes, there is a lovely ritual for mothers-of-the-b'nai (MOB).
Here's how it all went down:
Apparently, one MOB gave her friend a present before said friend's son's bar mitzvah. When the bar mitzvah had come to pass, that friend gave the gift back saying (and I paraphrase), "I think you should have this now, on the occasion of your own son's bar mitzvah."
After the occasion of that bar mitzvah, the gift was then passed along to another MOB who then passed it along, and so on until eventually it made its way into the hands of a close friend of mine.
Yesterday evening, this friend, flush with friendly feelings about the gift and its tradition, and the apparent kindliness of the folksy folks in our leafy Westchester exurb, told me that someday not long from now - six weeks to be exactly, I would be getting the gift too.
Really? Because knowing what little I did of this tale of the traveling whatever-it-was, I already had my doubts.
You see, the reality is that it is not true that "everyone" gets the "whatever-it-is". In fact if you think about it for two seconds, you realize that every weekend, this town is host to at least three, sometimes four and five B-Mitzvahs. What this means that the "traveling gift" finds its way to maybe 20 percent of the MOBs in this town. And when you look at where it started and whose hands in whom it has fallen, you realize that this is not a folksy, kindly, inclusive, "join the club of mothers whose children have come of age" kind of thing at all. In fact, this gift was never intended to make its way into the hands of every MOB in this town.
No. Quite the contrary: by its very design, it was clearly intended to make its way through a loosely drawn, self-appointed clique of those whose sense of "belonging" is defined by their ability to exclude.
Please let me clarify: I mean no disrespect to my close friend in whose hands the gift has fallen this week. She has been included, and that is nice for her, for that I am happy for her. I hope she feels warm and wonderful and cozy about it, because in all honestly, I know I would if it were ever to make its way into my hands.
Which it won't.
Because I know to whom it is going next (because my friend told me), and I know that from her, it is almost impossible that it will never find its way to me.
So, the real question: Does any of this matter? Do I need to be in this sisterhood of inclusion based on exclusion? Allow me to answer that question with another question: Was I fully done with such passive-aggressive forms of flattery by the time I turned 17?
That was a rhetorical. As much as I was part of a delightful little group of mean girls called the Six Pack when I was in high school, which, incidentally, ousted me by midway through our freshman year in college for reasons that I have never learned, I have no interest in cliques as an adult. I disrust them, as a rule. Inclusion, inclusion, inclusion is my mantra. Make people feel welcome. Branch out. Get to know your "colleagues in parenting".
Yeah, I'm no perfect specimen of mature adult behavior. I've made my faux pas. I'm sure somebody somewhere is sad that FBS's invitation never made it into his or her mailbox. I'm sure that dinners in which I have partaken have failed to include people who would have wished to have been included. But the difference between me and the aforementioned group of women passing along this "gift" is that I don't couch my social behavior in folksy, quaint language that implies that all are loved and all are welcome when anything but that is true. When am forced to exclude, I try to be clear, albeit kind, about it.
And that is the last I will say on this topic, EVER. This gift, this is now going into my Amnesia File. So do me a favor, do NOT remind me about this again.