Politics & Policy

Celebrating Hypocrisy

comments.gurdon@nationalreview.com

“As I was saying, can you please confirm that you are the NRO columnist who, in October, described children’s birthday parties as “the patent-leather boot of tyranny”?

#ad#”Well, I–”

“Speak up, please.”

“I’m sorry, it’s a little noisy here. We have 18 young–”

“In that column you exuded prune-faced disapproval of lavish parties for the younger set, did you not? You painted yourself as an opponent of festive bunting and loot bags, an enemy of magicians and petting zoos–”

“Enemy? I’m sure I never–”

“You implied it. Let me refresh your memory: ‘The tyranny of birthday parties, like Soviet totalitarianism, has its origins in utopian happy-think. The road to Chuck E. Cheese is paved with good intentions.’”

“Well, it is. Dreadful place.”

“So you admit it! Given your assertion that birthday parties are akin to Stalinism, or to hell, or both, I hope you will agree that logic dictates that such an enlightened person as yourself obviously would never throw a large, lavish birthday party for your–what’s that sound?”

“Nothing.”

“Is that– is someone singing?”

“I don’t think so.”

[There is a pause, in which small background voices can be clearly heard belting out “Happy Birthday to You.”]

“Oh, that singing.”

“Just as I thought. You’re just as soppy and spineless as the next mother. You complain about other people throwing extravagant parties for their birthday boys and girls, but when it comes to precious little–which precious is it this time?”

“Violet. She’s turning four.”

“–When it comes to precious little Violet, well, it’s all heart-shaped ham-and-cheese sandwiches, isn’t it? It’s all teapot centerpieces and strawberries and bowtie pasta and homemade madelines–”

“But I didn’t make the madelines.”

“–And sweet little thrift-store teacups filled with candy hearts as party favors? Mrs. Gurdon, you’re not fooling anyone with this whole ‘I hate children’s birthday parties’ shtick. Be honest: There’s candy-floss tulle and bubble-gum-colored tissue paper decorating your dining room at this very moment isn’t there?”

“Please, I can explain! It’s all perfectly innocent! My friend Shelly wants to start a business catering for birthday parties and offered to organize the food for Violet’s party as a kind of trial run, and I thought–”

“You thought. Let me quote again from your October column: ‘…The practice has grown up that parents must celebrate [birthdays] in ever more lavish ways, generally an hour’s drive from one’s house.’ Did you have a thought for others? Did you bother to consider how long it would take 18 families to drive to your house?

“Fourteen.”

“You said eighteen children before.”

“Four of them are mine.”

“–Fourteen families, then. And they bought presents, and wrapped them, and they drove through heavy traffic, and circled the block looking for a place to park, and handed their treasured three- and four-year-old cargo to you and what do you do? You whip their children into a frenzy with all this freeze-dancing, pass-the-parcel birthday nonsense, you fill them with sugar–”

“I haven’t!”

“–practically sending them into diabetic shock–”

“Listen, Molly made the cake and it’s nothing like those horrible sugary supermarket jobs. No child will go berserk from eating this cake.”

“What? No Thomas-the-Tank Engine motif in molded lard? No gobs of fatty pink icing in the shape of rosettes? Just what kind of– tell me this isn’t one of those health-giving, earth-food, Vermont-style vege-cakes. You know, with groats and bulgur wheat and unsulphured molasses and brewers’ yeast and cold-pressed organic sesame-seed oil?”

“Goodness, no. It’s full of butter and refined sugar and bleached flour, and the icing is made with cream cheese.”

“Whew.”

“The thing is, Molly wants to start her own business making cakes. She’s done up a little stack of hand-lettered business cards, and everything, and I thought that for the greater entrepreneurial good of Molly and Shelly, for the greater convenience of me, and for the greater birthday fun of Violet, who is after all a social person, that we could have a one-time blowout, invite her whole class, and–”

[There is another pause. In the background, children can be heard shrieking in a rhythmic fashion reminiscent of the fatal scenes in Lord of the Flies.]

“Uh-oh, I think they’ve got my husband! Yes, there’s his face–hello darling–oops, now it’s gone. He’s– he’s submerged under a seething wave of nursery-school children, like Gulliver–”

“You’re laughing. Of all the hypocritical…”

“Well, why not? Everyone’s having a lovely time, biffing about, and Violet is doing somersaults on the sofa and 17 other children are jumping on my husband, and I tell you what, hypocrisy is the closest anyone ever gets to perfection–”

[Here, abruptly, the dialogue ends.]

NR Staff — Members of the National Review editorial and operational teams are included under the umbrella “NR Staff.”

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