My brother Ricky was a fairly normal bar mitzvah student, meaning that lots of threats from my parents finally got him rolling on his haftarah about six weeks prior to the event. But it was easier to convince him to study his portion than to wear the gray light wool suit my parents had purchased for him. Ricky could not stand anything remotely scratchy next to his skin. He declared that no matter what the occasion, he would not wear the pants.
Our mother was equally adamant, declaring that the pants were "soft and not at all itchy." Besides, she added, "this was a major life event, the entire family was driving in from all over the East Coast and he could put up with a tiny discomfort now that he was to be a man."
On the big day, Ricky wore his new suit. He was actually smiling. He chanted the haftarah flawlessly and led the congregation in song. Of course, sitting in the front row, I — his big sister — noticed that halfway through the service a colorful plaid 4-inch fringe appeared at the bottom of each pant leg. Ricky had solved the problem of itchy wool pants by wearing his flannel pajamas under his bar mitzvah suit.
Ricky, now known as Dr. Richard Yacowitz, will be 50 on Dec. 2. He still hates wool pants.