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It’s All Too Too Much

July 9, 2009

Ever get the feeling you’re Rip Van Winkle and have woken up in an alternate universe?  Yesterday I overheard a conversation between the grocery store seafood guy and a customer as they discussed seafood guy’s recent birthday party for his ten-year-old son.  I was floored when he reported that the birthday boy had received $800 in cash and gift cards.  Then I had to pick my chin up off the floor when he continued, “I told my kid, ‘I paid a thousand bucks for your birthday party and you got back almost as much.'”  (Serving up seafood at the local grocery store apparently pays a lot more than I thought.)

What is up with spending a THOUSAND dollars on a child’s birthday party?  Is it just me, or is anyone else out there horrified and appalled by such a ridiculous waste of money?  Am I just a tightwad curmudgeon worthy of my skinflint Scottish ancestry, or has society really gone off the one-upmanship deep end?  Would the boy have had as much fun had his party cost, say, five hundred dollars?  Would he even have noticed? 

It’s not uncommon – in fact, I would say it’s the norm – for my kids to attend parties at venues that charge three hundred dollars and up.  The first time we participated in a Pump it Up party, I thought, “Wow, what a great idea!” and grabbed a brochure.  I almost choked on my party pizza when I saw that packages started at three hundred fifty and allowed for 25 participants.  What happened to having your best buddies over for cake and ice cream and party games along the lines of pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey and scavenger hunts; or perhaps a skating or movie party for older kids? 

And don’t even get me started on goodie bags.  When I was a kid (oh boy, here we go…sorry about this, folks) just going to the party, playing the games, watching the birthday boy or girl open their presents, and eating cake and ice cream were fabulous enough to keep me hopping about with gleeful anticipation for days before the big event.  And if I should happen to be lucky enough to end up with one of the two or three prizes awarded to game winners, well, that was just the extra icing on the cake.  I still remember vividly the party I went to at age five where we all unabashedly danced the Hokey Pokey (okay, the lone tween looked like he’d rather be taking a cheese grater to the back of his knees) and then I won a stuffed Gumby doll by nailing a tail right smack dab in the middle of the donkey’s felt butt.  I didn’t walk home, I floated home, clutching Gumby to my chest and savoring the moment.  I was convinced life would never get any better than that.  (In some ways it did, but in others it didn’t…that’s the subject of another blog).

Now, as if the party itself isn’t worthy of a child’s time, everyone goes home with a “goodie” bag either full of candy (because surely no one got their fill of unhealthy, diabetes-producing, tooth-rotting, periodontal disease-promoting junk food already) or crappy little toys from the dollar store that fall apart and end up in the trash within an hour of returning home – usually resulting in a sugar-fueled tearful temper tantrum. 

Can’t we all just scale back a little?  Lower those ridiculous standards not only for the sake of our own pocketbooks but for everyone else, too? 

A thousand dollars for a child’s birthday party.  One. Thousand. Dollars.

I guess I’m still floored.

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