My Second Bar Mitzvah, When All The Rules Changed

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Written by Herb Foster. Herb, a first-time Jewrotica writer, is the author of the best-selling Ribbin’, Jivin’, and Playin’ the Dozens and is working on the manuscript Ghetto to Ghetto: Yiddish and Jive in Everyday Life. Herb is also our most mature contributor to date at 84 years old and is President Emeritus of the Martha’s Vineyard Hebrew Center.

Rated PGOn February 15, 1941, at the age of 13, at Beth Israel Congregation of Boro Park in Brooklyn, NY, I became a bar mitzvah and, hence, a man. On January 29, 2011, at the age of 83 at the Martha’s Vineyard Hebrew Center, I had my second bar mitzvah, became a man again and started my second lifetime. The idea for a second bar mitzvah came from the Book of Psalms where King David noted that 70 years is the average person’s lifespan and a man reaching that age starts a new life. Therefore, 70 years plus 13 years equals 83, and, if one wishes, one can have a second bar mitzvah.

As a guy from Brooklyn, three of the topics I most often thought and talked about with friends were sports, women, and sex. Hence throughout my life my brain has tried to comprehend and come to terms with what women and sex are all about. Without a doubt, sexual customs have changed in the 70 years between my first and second bar mitzvahs and twice becoming a man. I now find myself witnessing a different world of sexual mores – in particular for those much younger than I.

After I graduated from high school, I went to NYU for one week and then took a leave and enlisted in the US Army. Back at NYU by way of the GI Bill, I joined the NYU Outdoor Club and met my wife-to-be Anita. I was married to Anita, my college sweetheart, for 54 years when after a long bout with Parkinson’s disease she passed away on January 8, 2006.

One night, about three years later, after great internal philosophical debate about whether I would be more attractive to a woman with or without a wedding ring, I finally took my wedding ring off as I went to bed. About three that morning pangs of conscience awoke me. I jumped up and figured that Anita was saying, “Not Yet, Herb,” and I quickly put the ring back on my finger.

A few days later, however, I took my ring off again because my conscience was more at ease; I figured it was OK to find a woman with whom to share time and feelings. With Anita as my omnipresent standard and steadfast baseline, I thought I knew the type of woman, this second time around, with whom I would want to share my outdoor life, other interests, and, of course, sex.

Since then, I have been dating a few women who are either divorced or widowed. I have learned that many women who have lost their spouses, for whatever the reason, keep their rings on as well as keeping their late husband’s name in the phone book. These women tell me that they feel safer by doing so. By comparison, a few weeks after Anita’s death I had Anita’s name removed from the telephone book.

Anita and I have two daughters – Donna, 55, and Andrea, 53. Since Anita’s death, my daughters and I have discussed my meeting and getting involved with another woman. Our common agreement is that anyone I date seriously should be older than Donna. Furthermore, my daughters are supportive of my becoming involved with another woman.

Back in my earlier days, most often there was necking, petting, and if you were lucky, sex – possibly only after you were engaged and then with a ring. When purchasing a condom, you waited until there was a male behind the counter to sell you the then-hidden and treasured product. Our wallets had the shape of the condom showing through the wallet walls. All the guys I knew back then carried a condom in their wallets. Per the Boy Scout motto, you always wanted to “Be Prepared.” However, I never knew of anyone who actually had used his condom. As I think back, I figure if anyone got lucky, the condom would have probably disintegrated from old age!

Since Anita has been gone, I have been teased about women bringing me a casserole. I respond by noting that no one has brought me a casserole. Sometimes when I grouse that no women are hitting on me when I am supposed to be such a good catch, my male friends tell me I am too independent and some women like to marry men they can take care of. Of course, many women in my age group are not looking to take care of another man.

Initially, a woman friend told me I was too naive to realize when a woman was hitting on me. That led me to become a bit paranoid and think that when a woman in conversation tells me that I must be dating a bunch of women, I think she is really saying, “Herb, take me out.”

Because the Vineyard is a small community with countless yentas, I found out that there was somewhat of a wager about which of two women would nail me. Had I been asked I would have noted that neither was in contention. I am also amazed and laugh at the stories I hear about the large number of women I am allegedly dating and sleeping with. Like George Washington, I was sleeping everywhere. All of which is untrue.

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