Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Post-Traumatic Party Disorder

I wake up, heart racing. I'm sweating, even though the air around me is cool.

Blame it on trauma suffered the day before - indignities inflicted upon me along with the title of "party mom."

Yes, as heinous as it is to attend one of these events, it is far more damaging to my psyche to be the party responsible for the party.

Our latest gala was a bowling extravaganza for Little Miss Deep Thinker's 7th birthday.

Every year, I approach the party-planning process as I imagine Christie Brinkley has entered each of her four marriages -- optimistic that this time things will go better.

But, as sure as a 47-year-old architect needs a 19-year-old assistant, something always comes up.

Something spelled "R.S.V.P."

I know those French have a different word for everything, but does it take a linguist to figure that R.S.V.P. means you are actually supposed to respond?

Every time we've thrown one of these parties, I'd say at least 30% of the invitees don't bother to reply.

This year, with only a few days left before the cutoff, we hadn't heard from half the children. And only a handful replied, "Yes."

The party package had us paying for a minimum of eight, so I briefly considering rounding up a couple of vagrants to reach the required number. But I'd be afraid to open any gift they might present.

And so, a note to parents everywhere: It's the not-knowing that really screws me up. Honestly, I really don't care why your kid can't make it...just call and say the damn kid can't come. We'll get over it, really we will.

You don't even have to say your child has a "previous engagement." (Does it make me a bad person to admit I chuckled at the mom who stammered over that phrase in her phone message?)

At least she called.

Heck, I'm fine with an ambiguous, "We have other plans..." (Even knowing that when I use that one, my "other plan" is to do whatever it takes to avoid yet another kid party.)

However, a flurry of last-minute (including one day-before-the-event) yeses brought the total number of kiddies to an even dozen.

Still...I'm creating a master list of all the parents who didn't R.S.V.P. There will be retribution for the habitual non-responder. (I'm not sure exactly what kind of retribution, but I know the giant mechanical Chuck E. Cheese mouse will be involved. Maybe in bondage gear. I haven't quite worked through the kinks yet.)

And Now -- The Actual Event:

All went well with the bowling portion. No ball injuries or fist fights. And we managed to keep the children out of the adjoining bar.

But then I met my nemesis - the party room.

Three folding tables were arranged around the room like three sides of a square. The kids sat down to dine as the parents stood along the sidelines with nothing to do except watch me and my Esteemed Husband awkwardly tend to the children's pizza and chip needs.

I have the hostess skills of a...hmmm...I'm at a loss for an analogy. I was going to say crack whore, but I don't know, maybe a crack whore is a good hostess? At least while high she's probably pretty entertaining. And the whole whore reference seems inappropriate when we're talking about kiddies...

Okay then, let's just say we don't do a whole lot of entertaining. And I really hate to have people watch me while I'm fumbling around like an idiot.

I actually said to one group of kids, while putting Doritos on a plate for them: "Here kids, have some unnaturally-colored snack food!"

The Cake:

Pre-party photo -- I'm afraid that if I look at the pictures from the actual party I'll be back in the fetal position again. And it's really hard to type all curled up like that.

After "Happy Birthday" was sung (cha-cha-cha version) I brought the cake to the serving table and, with my back to the children, proceeded to dole it out onto paper plates as quickly as I could.

Evidently, my "quickly" was not fast enough for little darlings.

Suddenly all urchins began to chant in unison: Cake! Cake! Cake!...as they banged their fists on the table.

Cake! Cake! Cake!

Now, if this had happened with my children at home, I could have turned around, smiled a creepy half-smile and intoned, "You do realize I'm holding a very, very large knife..." And that would have been the end of the chanting.

However, in a suburban bowling alley, threatening 7-year-olds with butcher knives is discouraged.

And it pretty much guarantees no-one will ever R.S.V.P. again.

So I soldiered on, pretending not to hear:

Cake! Cake! Cake!

As their cries echoed through the room, the situation began to take on a decidedly surreal quality -- and I don't mean this in the good surreal way, like bizarre in a way that's interesting or humorous.

I mean surreal in an "Am I really here, or is just the most realistic nightmare of my life?" way.

At any moment I expected to find myself spinning, hurtling down the vortex of a black spiral.

Seriously, I was just one "Cake!" away from running out of the room and never returning.

It was all very Kafkaesque. Or Felliniesque? Or even Mel Brooks-esque? Some esque was involved, of that much I'm sure.

Everything after that is kinda a blur. I do know that there were no police involved, so I guess no humans or animals were harmed in the making of this party.

Actually, I do remember getting a good deal of praise from the adults about the cake. Evidently, it was pretty tasty, even though my anxiety during the chanting had reduced several pieces to crumbly rubble.

After it was all over, my husband noted that my cake-making skills could be our ticket to suburban assimilation. (Okay, he didn't use the word assimilation. But that's what he meant.)

It figures that my only way to connect with the natives would involve a pound of butter and a whole lot of empty calories.


At September 21, 2006 2:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ditto, Gearing up for yet another party myself. I'll try to fit it in between all the school fundraisers. I must say your cake looked almost store bought. If you have a summer birthday might I suggest the blue jello water filled swimming pool surrounded by a bevy of Polly Pocket bathing beauties. Use mini marshmallows and tooth picks to create line lanes. Jelly rings for lifesavers. Voila! I especially enjoyed your architect analogy, as I have just filed for divorce from a middle-aged architect! By the way in his office they are "interns" not "assistants". That makes the visuals soooooo much better.

At September 21, 2006 3:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, I forgot, talk about assimilation. My twelve year old has requested a MALL scavenger hunt for her birthday party. Haven't been? No worries, that's something you need not fret about until your girls are at least 10. That leaves some time for further assimilation...

At September 22, 2006 4:42 PM, Blogger Cyn said...

I'm not quite up to the rank of Jello-wrangler at this point. I didn't even know jello came in blue!

But a few years back my daughter had a Hawaiian party (back in the good old days when parties were at home for just relatives) and we used Happy Meal Lilo and Stitch characters on surf-boards to decorate the cake. (I think this was before Polly Pocket moved into town because she's certainly always ready for a beach party.)

Anyway, I found these colored flakes (gelatin?)to shake on top of icing to simulate water. Man, I'm feeling a bit pathetic admitting going to so much trouble. But that's what happens to your brain on kids. (Hmm, now I'm hungry for a fried egg.) (Um, like "This is your brain on drugs" Get it?)

Mall scavenger hunt? Aaaaah! Come to think of it, I like the idea. Easier to run off and hide from the other parents that way.


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