WHATEVER HAPPENED TO PIN THE TAIL ON THE
25 July 2002
We get lots of free magazines in the office. I guess when you have a medical office,
magazine companies feel it's good PR to give you free copies, in the hope that a patient
may decide to subscribe.
I get to look through them before they go out for patient consumption, and for that
reason I end up reading magazines I might never, ever have thought of picking up.
Yesterday it was some high fashion magazine that I was thumbing through. (Actually, it was
not so much out of interest in the subject, but because some of those issues have featured
anorexic looking models and I felt it was not in the right image of the office to have
them on display, so I've refused to put them out. This issue, however, seemed OK.)
If I hadn't looked through the magazine, I never would have stumbled across an article
about birthday parties of the affluent children of New York. Talk about an eye-opener. I
normally lose interest in long articles, but this one so shocked me that I was hooked all
the way to the end.
I realize that the rich lead a life I can't begin to comprehend, but it's difficult for
me to find justification for the ridiculous extents to which the parties in this article
went and I'm wondering what we are teaching children by elaborate spending.
Thousands of dollars spent to hire clowns for a child's first birthday. One group of
kids went to a premiere private screening of a new movie and then had a private skating
party at Rockefeller Center. A magician is the favorite of the birthday set. His price
starts at $625 and can run as high as $1500 (now there's a real bit of sleight of
hand!). A young girl had a private party at RSVP, an exclusive club, complete with
"the surprise visit of an enormous Hello Kitty." One family held the one-year
birthday of their daughter in the ballroom of the Hotel Pierre and gave it a Mickey Mouse
theme. "I ended up buying giant Mickey and Minnies just because of the scale of the
room," the mother said. The invitations were stuffed animal with a card attached.
This is for a one year old!! Another group got a behind the scenes tour of the
penguin enclosure of the Central Park Zoo.
One family, when contemplating their daughter's 7th birthday party, decided they were
tired of the big parties and instead took her to Paris to celebrate her
One of the saddest things I read in the article was how the hostesses don't spend a lot
of money on adult food (for the parents), because most of the adults who accompanied the
children were nannies (and obviously one doesn't need to feed nannies, right?)
I just have to shake my head, and think back over the parties that we hosted for our
kids through the years. One of my brainstorms was the Painting Party for Ned's 3rd
birthday. We had a wooden back fence and gave the kids poster paints (easy to wash off, I
figured), and then filled a wasing pool, so when the kids finished painting the fence,
they could play in the wading pool and get all the paint off. (As an aside--poster paint
does NOT wash off wood...but it was still a fun party!)
There was a pirate party, when the kids were in nursery school. We borrowed the school
grounds for the day and bought the kids scarfs to tie around their heads while they ran
around pretending they were pirates. We stacked up a couple of boxes so the kids could
"walk the plank." I made a cake that looked like a pirate chest, frosted it with
chocolate, and stuck little chocolate gold coins in it.
There was the Star Trek Party for Tom one year. We played "pin the ears on
Spock" and I made a "tribble cake," which was a bunch of cupcakes frosted
in different colors and sprinkled with various textured sprinkles to look like tribble
When Jeri got older, I was taking cake decorating classes and had learned how to make
sugar eggs. She invited some friends in and all of them got to make sugar eggs. It was a
great success, though I swear I'm still wiping up the sugar from that one!
The point is, I think the kids had a great time at all of the parties. They didn't take
a huge amount of planning, they didn't cost very much and everybody had fun. And I
certainly didn't spend $1,500 for a magician to entertain the kids.
Not only that, but parents brought their kids--and often stayed through the
party. Nobody came with a nanny.
I guess it's nice to have money. But I think I have it better--I have fond memories and
don't have to cringe when I think about how much money I paid for a kid's birthday party
(especially not for a ONE YEAR OLD!)