Ask Mr. Manners

 

(This Dave Barry column was originally published Sunday, April 28, 1985.)

TODAY'S ETIQUETTE QUESTION IS: I feel there is not enough suffering in my life, and would like to hold a birthday party for my preschool child at home. What is the etiquette involved?

ANSWER: This is really not much different from most other social situations, except that of course if you mishandle it, you will probably scar your child emotionally for life. Fortunately, the etiquette involved is fairly straightforward, requiring, as is so often the case with etiquette, no more than common sense, sensitivity to the feelings of others, and some means for getting fudge sauce out of your draperies.

CHOOSING A PARTY THEME: This is an area where you may be as creative as you wish, letting your imagination run riot, limited only by the fact that the theme must consist of a copyrighted licensed character featured on a half-hour television cartoon show with at least 26 minutes of advertising for colorful breakfast substances manufactured by pouring liquid sugar into molds shaped like copyrighted licensed characters.

Appropriate themes for little girls include: The Smurfs; Strawberry Shortcake; The Snorks; Rainbow Brite; The Care Bears; The Concern Pigs; The Dweebs; Wee Whiny Winky; Bingo the Leech; The Pustule People; and The Smarm Worms. Appropriate themes for little boys include: He-Man; G.I. Joe; The A-Team; The Transformers; The Destroyers; The Eye Eaters; The Limb Whackers; The Fascist Youth Corps; and Testosterone Bob's Hurt Patrol.

Whatever theme you select, it should appear on all your official party plates, cups, napkins, favors, centerpieces and, above all, invitations, so that your child will receive as gifts at least eight exact duplicates of each licensed toy he or she already owns.

THE GUEST LIST: You must of course invite every child in your child's preschool class, including the one that a professional child psychologist would describe as "tending to engage in 'acting out' behavior patterns, " but which you personally, as a layperson, would describe as "a total snot." You must also invite all the neighborhood children, and any other child who has ever invited your child to a party. In fact, to avoid inadvertently leaving a child out and thus scarring him or her emotionally for life, it is best to invite every child of preschool age in your immediate Zip code.

Do not be concerned that the parents of these children will be suspicious because you, apparently a stranger, are inviting their children to a party. Although parents of preschoolers ordinarily watch their children like hawks, they think nothing of dropping them off for birthday parties at the homes of people they know virtually nothing about, on the assumption that the children are somehow vaguely connected. On any given Saturday morning, you could select any neighborhood in America at random and drive around until you found a preschool birthday party reaching critical mass -- look for a dog attempting to hurl itself out of a picture window -- and you could just drop your child off, and nobody would ask any questions. When you returned two hours later, your child would be wearing a geeky hat and have cake smeared in his hair just like all the other children. Very short runaway teen-agers have been known to survive this way for months.

THE MENU: The menu should feature something that is simple, fun and nutritious, yet easy for small children to throw. I have obtained good results using chicken nuggets. For my son's fourth birthday party a few months ago, I purchased, at a bulk rate, nearly 300 nuggets for 17 children, and we have since located almost all of them. I'm talking about the nuggets.

Smart Serving Suggestion: If you're running behind schedule, you may say yourself some time on the ice-cream course by bypassing the children and rubbing the fudge sauce directly into the draperies.

THE OPENING OF THE GIFTS: The birthday child should open the gifts in the presence of the guests, and should graciously acknowledge each one by asking in a petulant voice if there are any more. You should of course keep careful track of who gave your child what ("Jason -- He-Man Road Ripper; Jennifer -- He- Man Road Ripper; Chris -- He-Man Road Ripper" etc.)

ENTERTAINMENT: In addition to having traditional party games such as "Let's See What Happens When You Put a He-Man Road Ripper in the Commode, " you may want to consider hiring professional entertainment. This will usually consist of a community college drama student who Really Loves Kids and who has started a business where he dresses up as a clown and shows up at your child's party with helium balloons and magic tricks and puppets. This will of course terrify most of the children to the point where they are scarred emotionally for life. Some of them will have to climb into your lap before they can even work up the courage to wet their pants.

SAYING GOODBYE: As the parents return, hand each one a child who is clutching a licensed-character bag containing an assortment of broken party favors, including at least one "paddle ball" game manufactured by a Third World nation company that, to spare children the trouble, has a policy of breaking the rubber band right at the factory. Do not concern yourself overmuch with whether the children and the parents match up in exactly the same way as when they arrived; if there are any errors, you can sort everything out at whatever random birthday party you all attend the following week.

(c) 1985, Dave Barry
This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws. Electronic or print reproduction, adaptation, or distribution without permission is prohibited. Ordinary links to this column at http://www.miamiherald.com may be posted or distributed without written permission.

Read more Dave Barry stories from the Miami Herald

  • Heaven (Hell) on Earth

    So what's it gonna be: Tranquil beauty and cows in the coffee fields? Or surprise-a-minute excitement and bodies under motel beds?

  • All fired up for the Fourth

    This year, why not hold an old-fashioned Fourth of July Picnic? Food poisoning is one good reason. After a few hours in the sun, ordinary potato salad can develop bacteria the size of raccoons. But don't let the threat of agonizingly painful death prevent you from celebrating the birth of our nation, just as Americans have been doing ever since that historic first July Fourth when our Founding Fathers - George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Bob Dole and Tony Bennett - landed on Plymouth Rock.

  • Why sports is a drag

    Mankind's yearning to engage in sports is older than recorded history, dating back to the time, millions of years ago, when the first primitive man picked up a crude club and a round rock, tossed the rock into the air, and whomped the club into the sloping forehead of the first primitive umpire. What inner force drove this first athlete? Your guess is as good as mine.

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category