Bat mitzvah speech, November 18 2006

I was 13 and a half.  Please also note that stuffed llamas were used as props during the presentation of this speech.

Abraham buried Sarah in a cave.  The cave gave me the idea for this story.

This story takes place in a well know place called Llama Land.  Once a llama in Llama Land turns 13, they are sent off to boarding school in the mountains.

The adult llamas feared that once their child was a teenager, they would try to do something stupid like get mad and burn the whole forest down.  The boarding school, in their opinion, kept the rest of the population safe from the hormones.

This is the tale of a teenage llama girl named Magenta.

Magenta was excited for her first day of boarding school, like most llamas were.  Her 13th birthday was yesterday, and she had been up since 4 am packing all her luggage.

She and the other teenage llamas journeyed uneventfully up the mountain until the counselors led them to a cave.  They were told that they must bury what they didn’t need.

Magenta entered the cave confused.  What was she supposed to do?  She walked among the many rooms of the caves.  There were many other counselors inside the cave.  She watched the other kids.  All of them were burying something.  Magenta couldn’t think of anything she had to bury so she walked back towards the mouth of the cave.

She met Counselor Alpo at the entrance.  “Have you finished burying?” asked the counselor.

“Er, no?” replied Magenta.

“But you simply must bury before you enter the school!  Come on, I’ll help you.  First, dig a hole.”  Magenta obliged.  “Now, let’s see….ooh, this is interesting…you like to be abnormal?…And weird?….And you strive to be the different one in the group?…I think you’ll be better off without that…..You seem to have an inclination to be confrontational and radical…a rebel, eh?…We’ll have none of that…it might be distracting….and—Oh my!   You’ve considered starting a jazz band club at school….and you aspire to study humans….and you think the school song should be The People Song?….oh no, that won’t do-“

“Stop!” Magenta exclaimed.  Ms. Alpo startled.

“What is it dear?”  She got up and started backing away slowly.

“Can I at least keep some of me?” pleaded Magenta.  “I don’t want to bury myself!!  Can I stop, please?”  Magenta took a step towards Ms. Alpo.

“Now child, don’t hurt me child.  Throw some sand into that hole and you’ll be fine.  Okay?  Believe me, as a teenager, your life will be so much easier if you bury this particular part of yourself for now.”  Ms. Alpo hurried away to help the next confused teenager.  While her back was turned, Magenta scooped up the things she had been forced to throw away and placed them back inside of herself.  She buried an empty hole.

Magenta shared a dorm room with two other girls.  One thing in particular stood out.

“Why are there so many boxes of tissues?” she asked one of her room mates.

“Well, we’re the girl llamas, and we’re teenagers, so we’re expected to burst into tears every half hour or so because life is so hard and we’re not emotionally stable,” explained the girl.  “The boys are so lucky.  They have hammers and when they get angry or emotional, they’re allowed to go around hitting things.”

Magenta had never experienced so much homework in her life.  She was assigned project after project as she sat through all her classes.  She made some new friends, but she was not allowed to sit next to them at lunch because they were not in her dorm.  And she was strictly forbidden to try out for jazz band because she was an honors freshman and was required to take too many classes to have time for jazz band.

By the end of the third week, Magenta had had it.  “how is this fair?” she asked herself.  “How is it fair that even though we’re old enough for the responsibility of several long term projects, but not responsible enough to pick our own specials?  Or not old enough to sit where we want at lunch?  And why do all the teachers and counselors act like we’re all violent, dangerous beasts when we disagree or argue with each other?  Why does everyone assume that all girl llamas average 14 tissue boxes a day?  I never cry!  Why can’t we get hammers like the boys?  This is so unfair!”  She looked around and saw that no one else was getting as frustrated as she was.  She came to the conclusion that she was one of the only llamas who hadn’t partially buried themselves in the cave.  “And what is this whole business with burying ourselves in the cave?  I’d bet my two right hooves that this is some kind of conspiracy to become boring, unimaginative adults.”

Magenta decided that she could not let this go on.  She confronted the principal.

“You didn’t bury anything in the cave, did you?”  Magenta told him the truth.  “Ah yes, now this is where the problem is,” he said solemnly, nodding.  “We can no longer have you in our school if you have not at least made an effort to bury parts of yourselves in the cave.  You see, llamas with radical personalities like yours are problems and interfere with the way we try to raise you.  We want to turn you teenage llamas into good, hardworking, adult llamas, and the cave is to get rid of certain distractions in your personalities.  If you are already rebelling in your first year in this school, then we must view you as unfit for adult llama life.  You must be banished from these mountains immediately.”

And true to his word, Magenta was banished from the school.  She did not go back home, but vowed to be a symbol of justice and integrity throughout Llama Land.  Word reached the llamas at the boarding school, and as we speak, they are planning a non-violent rebellion to overthrow the common teenager stereotype.  They know that they can be non-violent, responsible members of a llama community without having to hide their true selves.

Sometimes, teenagers try to hide themselves from others.  They’ll lie about themselves, they’ll lie to themselves, and sometimes, they’ll try to pretend that they’re someone they’re not.  I have noticed that this kind of behavior increases when the particular kid is:  a) a new kid at school, b) really shy, c) surrounded by adults and/or their parents, or d) in front of someone they like.  My opinion is:  Why are you doing all that work burying yourselves in the cave, when what you really want to do is relax, or, in special cases, run around in circles outside while wearing a grass skirt singing The Llama Song at 60 beats per minute at the top of your lungs?  Why follow the crowd when you would rather lead your own?  I know if anyone tried to drag me back to the cave, I would be stronger than they were.

Amen.

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