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A Girl’s Birthday Party

April 22, 2010

My youngest daughter is having a birthday party soon, as she does every year. This is the first year that she will not be inviting her whole class. All past parties have been a mixture of boys and girls except last year’s. Last year she invited the whole class but only girls came. I have no problem with her not inviting the boys this year. Actually, I would not have had a problem with that if she started it sooner than now. She is not however inviting all the girls. I have a problem with this, not a big enough problem to mention it to her and discourage her from her current plans but enough that it is causing me to work through some tangle that I’ve failed to identify.

More like a problem that I need to work out for my mental satisfaction. I’ve always felt the dull blunt of exclusion. There was never luxury enough to feel a sharpness in exclusion. I don’t mean exclusion in the Hollywood movies sense of the word, the poor me the “mean and/or popular girls” have excluded me, because frankly, my environment/culture did not nourished mean and popular girls. Either because we were all in the same boat, as in, we were all just getting by or trying to appear as if we were getting by or because we all knew that one day we could be on top of the world just to be on the bottom the very next day. Granted there were always one or two nasty girls but they were not ostracized, but individualized. And of course she would not be forced to wear the shame of individualized behavior if she learned to change her ways, to remember where she came from and know that if she didn’t she would be left on her own when the shoe was on the other foot. It has been mostly white culture that has glamorized exclusion.

Often one was excluded out of empathy. Why bother burdening someone who would obviously be placed in a position of hardship in order to attend a party? Or one would self-exclude because of the possibility of revealing an otherwise hidden hardship/burden. And if the hardship was known and the person self-excluded it was not mentioned via a demand for an excuse or an apology for not attending. You simply did not attend and no one talked about it. That sense of empathetic community policing (what a horrid word) is certainly what I miss most since mass consumerist-assimilation has destroyed many communities. Or if one were not to call it consumerist-assimilation then I guess one could say I miss the practice of having one expressed practice by my peers for the greater [white] public’s appeasement and another expressed practice for the immediate [black] community. That dualism device is no longer used. Now, one can be in a space predominately occupied with black appearing people stereotypically dressed and behaving in a way that a white audience would utilize to denote blackness, and still feel a dominating air of whiteness with no feeling of reserved blackness for later rejuvenation.

But never you mind about that because I cannot pinpoint exactly who I could have this conversation with because I am talking about such a unique time and place and circumstances that have been overshadowed by other tropes that post-racial whites and blacks are more willingly ready to own and legitimize, that I feel that I may be limited to only having myself to grasp what is begging to be grasped in my understanding.

Nevertheless, regardless of whether it was self-exclusion or circumstantial exclusion I feel guilty about being an active proprietor of exclusion (I am talking about exclusion among girls only, as said already, I am not bother about excluding the boys). The child has a right not to invite whomever she does not want to. Girls who lie and say they made out with Justin Beiber are not invited, girls who cannot talk about anything but chasing boys at recess are not invited, girls who are ashamed of their shoe size and go on about my daughter’s shoe size are not invited, etc,. I am just having a problem imagining myself as one of those girls who may catch a whiff of invitations being passed out and finding out that none had my name on it.

On the other end of the pendulum, at this stage of development it is out of the question to recognize and then explore any reason why a girl would refuse to attend.

Regardless of how much effort it takes for me to fix my face and bite the what ifs off my tongue, I will not influence her decision. I do need to work it out though for my peace and a reassurance that I am not going soft.

  1. joankelly6000 permalink
    April 22, 2010 6:04 pm

    Oy, Kitty, birthday parties and exclusions and little girls…kills me. My niece had a party this past birthday and there was one little girl – really more of a toddler still – who was in their pre-school class (the whole class was invited with their parents), who nobody was really playing with or talking to. I was so distracted by it, I asked my brother how come no one likes her, and he said it’s not that they don’t, it’s that she’s a lot younger than the rest of them and there’s just sort of an age/play/language gap or something.

    It still was excruciating. I think I’m going to need to be in a self-induced emotional coma once my niece hits puberty. I just feel like there has to be a way for it not to be so hard, for adults to help it not be SO hard for kids, not that it could ever be easy…ugh. Anyway, thanks for this post.

    • April 22, 2010 6:59 pm

      Joan, I do believe your comment has helped me discovered why I am having a problem with this. It is not the exclusion in itself; it is how I am bothered that I am even bothered with acts of exclusion. Perhaps it is the socially conditioned desire to worry about everyone else that I am grappling with. It is a patriarchal demand after all. An aspect of femininity. Females are expected to worry about everyone else. I scream at the television when that stupid swiffer commercial comes on. When the woman puts her broom or mop in the garage the narrator says, “But don’t worry he will find someone else.” Well, I don’t give a fuck if “he” (an object) finds anyone else or not and I don’t appreciate how it is implied that it is “his” (a fucking object) comfort that is considered over mine.

      I think what has been throwing me off is, we are talking about girls. However, all girls or not, and even though they need looking out for in the greater sense of the world, it is my daughter first and foremost who has to take care of herself. To make herself satisfied.

      So at least I did have the sense not to add my two cent, thus risk conditioning her as I’ve been and in the process I’ve contribute to my deprogramming.

  2. April 22, 2010 7:05 pm

    Well off rip my issue is that there are girls being excluded and remembering being said excluded girl. On the one hand, I would exclude girls from my circle/party (we could have sleep overs by the time we were teens so think 14ish) who were sexually intimate or interested in sexual intimacy with boys because I didn’t belong and didn’t want my party to turn into this who is screwin whom fest. On the other hand, we would also exclude girls or be excluded based on lack of funds etc. People can be so mean about that.

    Seems like u have quite a bit going through your mind, Kitty. When my niece is old enough to have friends/parties I only hope that the boys are never invited. I freak out whenever males are near her, all of em.

    Joan, let’s do the coma thing together honey! Lol

  3. atheistwoman permalink
    April 22, 2010 8:01 pm

    Kitty this post made laugh (in a painful way that self-knowledge/identification with someone’s awkwardness can ). My mother and I used to be so catty about this stuff , even when I was in kindergarten. Oh we cannot invite so and so because they are best friends with so and so and if we invite them we must invite this other person!

    Yes, on the one hand, there is the exclusion issue and they are all little girls, and there is the pain of being the older person watching this happen to children. But on the other, it is her party, and she can cry if she wants to, etc.

    I hear you on feeling there are also patriarchal dynamics going on. There is the (Christian?) value thing where it is absolute sin to be exclusionary in any way as a woman. The expectation that one must like/be liked/ be nice to every single person on the planet is a cruel one. Frankly I think it is exhausting, because no one is ever going to like everyone, and no one has the emotional reserves to put up the front of liking all the hated/pitied/unlikeable ones*. And most people, unless they are very gullible, will see it at some point for the patronizing sham it is.

    *I am certain that there is this expectation placed on women so that we will never reject men.

  4. April 23, 2010 2:51 am

    I’m glad you brought this up, Kitty. It is absolutely critical that girls learn to take care of themselves first. All girls. You’re right that your daughter should take care of her own needs, and if her needs require that she not be around the boy-crazy girls, etc., then, well, one should hope that the boy-crazy girls will eventually learn to take care of their own needs as well (instead of taking care of boys’ needs and pretending as if they are their own).

    There is too much scrounging and scraping to salvage *some* aspect of femininity that might have value, and usually women who are on such a wild goose chase end up settling on femininity’s mandates for “getting along” or “caring for others” as evidence that “See! Femininity is GOOD!!!” Only a brainwashed individual could ever think such masochistic inclinations are good.

    The expectation that one must like/be liked/ be nice to every single person on the planet is a cruel one.


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