At the Celebración Bridal and Tuxedo shop, I hurry after my almost-13-year-old son as he darts past racks of fuchsia, teal, and purple sateen bridesmaid’s dresses. We meet at the cashier’s, under a wall festooned with tiny white baptismal gowns, as I wonder, not for the first time, just what the heck I—a sartorially modest mommy preparing for her firstborn son’s bar mitzvah—am doing in this temple of gentile flamboyance.
My son found Celebración on the Internet, shortly after he saw Daniel Craig play James Bond in Casino Royale. With the attentive support of Cedric, the shopkeeper, who hails from Toluca, Mexico, he’s discovered an ensemble that goes by the name “The White Contender.” It includes an ivory, pin-striped suit with a matching vest, black shirt, black Windsor tie, and optional, shiny white shoes. My son is opting for all of it, yet I suspect I’ve already dodged a bullet. On our first trip here, he’d lingered ominously over a catalogue photograph of a “Zoot” tux with a sweepingly long jacket and black-and-white fedora, while Cedric asked if he’d like to see the accompanying silver chain.
Now, as I lean against a glass counter filled with rhinestone tiaras, Cedric is carrying out a plastic-wrapped, size 12 Contender. I can tell that, to my broadly grinning child, the attire has transformative power, even as it speaks to me less of Bond and more of John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever.
The bar mitzvah ceremony is four days…