There we were, seated on benches across from each other. Strangers sizing each other up. I smiled in her direction. Not a smile that drags out the crow's feet and comes from your heart. A smile of acknowledgement - yes, we are here in the same room for the same reason. Seven For All Mankind jeans? Check. Sparkly tank top? Check. Jaunty pony tail? Just enough make up to hide the signs of sleep deprivation - yet not too much to look like you're trying too hard? Check and check. I'm ready. I walk over, thrust my open hand out and say "Hi! I'm Lena's mom! How do you guys know the birthday girl?"
I have entered the seventh circle of hell. And I have gone willingly.
Sure, I could have taken the easy way out. I mean, it's simple to decline an child's birthday party e-vite. You don't even need to look the person in the eye and make up some lame ass excuse as to why you're not able to attend. You just point and click - "Oh, so sorry! Cannot attend. I have a life that does not include your torture chamber!!! Bahahahaha!!!" And then surf away without a single click back. But, yet I never do. Apparently I enjoy suffering.
Birthday parties are a child's rite of passage. My daughter has been planning her 6th, 7th and 8th birthday celebrations since the day after she turned 5. However, these days it's so much more than a simple gathering to celebrate the arrival of another year in a child's life. It's become Keeping Up With The Kardashians: Kid's Edition. Nowadays kid's birthday parties include: limos, petting zoos, ponies, bouncy houses, and the Flying Walendas. Maroon 5 was supposed to show up but they were delayed in Munich. Long gone are the days when a really special birthday is celebrated at Ground Round and it's so cool because you can watch a movie while you eat cake and popcorn!!! People are taking out second and third mortgages to pay for these parties. $5,000 for a 2nd birthday party? Have you lost your freakin mind????? The birthday child won't even remember it! And what the hell do you have to ante up for a big birthday like 16, 18, or 21? "Here's your Ferrari, honey. Please come drive by us once and a while, where we can now afford to live; in our van down by the river."
We arrived at the latest soiree and Lena runs off with a group of tiny people to hurl themselves through miles of giant inflatable awesomeness. I look down and there's this blonde, sticky, crying thing suction cupped to my leg. I keep asking "Who brought the whiny kid?" but no one steps forward to claim her. It turns out that I brought the whiny kid. Dammit.
There I stand, swathed in a giant crying lanyard while herds of pink screaming pony tails run amok. And, like with every kids birthday party, delusional me thinks to myself - I love this mom. She likes me. Therefore she must like people like me. We will all have one giant love fest and sing kumbaya with my kindred spirits! Testing out this theory, I sit next to a cute mom. After a few minutes of awkward polite talk, I excuse myself to go "check on my daughter." Fail. Attempt #2: Stand next to a couple of women who clearly know each other. They smile and acknowledge my proximity but make no effort to include me in the conversation. Fail. So I just stand there like a birthday party pariah. Every party needs one. Maybe that's my lot in life at children's parties?
Normally, I force myself on people. I am funny! You will like me!!! But, at these parties, I just don't feel like making the required amount of effort. There's not a great ROI - I mean, I probably won't see them again until next year's party when they totally ignore me. So, I just smile like a crazed psychopath while my toddler entertains herself by yanking down the collar of my shirt. You know, so it becomes "that kind of party" and I can stand out even more like a sore thumb with the whiny appendage. Yay, me!
7,200 excruciating seconds later it's time to go. Cake has been consumed. Children are properly exhausted combined with sugar overload - which means we are on the cusp of apocalyptic meltdowns x25. My little remora has decided that she is finally "weady" to go bounce on all the rides (which are now deflated because the party is wrapping up). Hooray! Two screaming kids to drag into the car! And, we only have 5 more days until the next kid in Lena's class turns six! Yippee!
Is it a bad idea to bring a box of wine with a straw? It's like a giant juice box for moms, right? Maybe then people will talk to me - since I brought the booze. "Hey, I bet if you're nice to the crazy lady she'll give you a whack off her wine box."
"Happy birthday kid. Don't grow up too fast...this is a glimpse your future....teetotaling at a kids birthday party by yourself...Whee...."