Angelina Jolie Helped Me Study Trope
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by Jessica Katz March 3, 2011


A note to my future kin (or whoever it is that might end up reading this): never get behind on studying for your bar or bat mitzvah or there will be blood. At least if you live with a person like my older sister. OK, well, there won't be BLOOD blood - not quarts of it, really. Just the amount you lose from a few paper cuts.

Actually, some paper cuts, which cause a lot of pain, and don't even have the decency to bleed. That really bothers me. But the point is, I have a story to tell about all that, as well as my potentially insane sister, her obsession with celebrity eyes and how that played a key role in how I studied  for my bat mitzvah.

That day, when the mail finally came, it was ridiculously hot for an April afternoon, and still my dog Zig had pinned me to the couch like the walking wool blanket he was. When I heard the mailbox slam shut I tried to push him off. He must have been asleep or had gone brain dead from enduring the heat under all of that fur, because he would not under any circumstances move his furry butt. The mail was waiting, so my sister jumped up from the one chair in the room that actually caught a breeze from the fan and went out to the porch to retrieve it, successfully knocking the remote from my hand in the process.

As I was struggling to reach around Zig in order to reach the remote without splitting either of our skulls open, my sister walked by and dropped it in my lap. It being a copy of the text I needed to more or less intelligibly chant in front of the full synagogue in a few months.  Introducing (cue the horror movie music): my torah portion, along with assorted prayers and Haftorah.

My parents had ordered that the moment I received this lovely package, I was to rip it open and start studying immediately. Ordinarily, I told my sister, that's exactly what I would do. Honest. But it was too hot, Zig was too comfy, and the movie Big Fish was on HBO. My sister would have none of it: she grabbed the remote and flung it across the room onto her chair. I could understand her wanting to change the channel or read her new stack of glossy magazines in peace, but that was completely uncalled for. She then yanked Zig off my lap, pulled me off the couch and proceeded to drag me up the stairs. I figured we were headed for my room, but instead we veered off to the right, into forbidden territory: her room.

 And then there were the eyes. Now, I knew my sister didn't actually care about who wore what or who was written up for which offense in those trashy celebrity gossip magazines. But I never knew the real reason she subscribed to all of them. I was safely seated on her bed when she started to pull out shoebox after shoebox of celebrity facial features she had cut out from magazines. Lips, cheekbones, and noses were all accounted for. But it was clear she was devoted to eyes. CREEPY. She rolled her eyes at my shocked expression and said she was disappointed that I thought she read "such drivel."

Then she gestured to the wall behind her dresser. If the box of eyes didn't shut me up, that sure did. She had sketched a portrait of herself directly onto the wall, and had started filling it in with those magazine cut-outs. She said she was inspired by how we let ourselves become shaped by the mass media and believed we needed to call attention to this "soul-crushing practice" by giving art to the people. I wanted to tell her it's pretty hard to give art to the people when it's attached to your bedroom wall. But obviously I was in her room for a reason, so I kept my mouth shut.

She then said that, since she had way too many eyes on her hands, she wanted to put them to good use. She said the hardest part about her bat mitzvah was standing up on the bimah knowing everyone was watching her, so I should get used to that feeling now. Then she sent me away with a shoebox full of eyes.

When Mom and Dad found me, I was practicing trope and enunciation in front of the eyes of models, A-list celebrities and people who wished they were A-listers. Their eyes were all taped up in neat rows of 20 on the wall facing my bed (I took them down before going to sleep). It actually did help my nerves to practice in front of an audience. But it was a pain trying to pair the eyes up, and I got a ton of paper cuts rummaging around in the shoeboxes. A few even bled.


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