I Got Your Present RIGHT HERE!

16 Jun 2010 by Dear Bad Dad, No Comments »

Dear Bad Dad,

Our little Lucretia was just invited to her classmate Goneril’s birthday party at Funtastic Voyage Fun Land of Fun.  The invitation said “Please, no presents.”

Should we still bring a present?

Seeking guidance,


Rockville Centre, NY

Dear David,

Here’s what I started to write to you:

“Invitation says ‘No presents.’ You show up with bupkis.  Now where’s my remote?”

But then I got to thinking, because if nothing else, Dear Bad Dad is a deep thinker.  For instance, did you know that George Orwell’s classic Animal Farm is more than just a story about animals on a farm?  It’s about TALKING animals on a farm.

My thought was: “Subtext. S-to-the-U-to-the-B-to-the-T-E-X-T.  Like how your microwave’s instructions say, “Do not dry your pet in the oven”?  The subtext of that screams out: “Some Rhodes Scholar rejected the traditional towel-dry method and instead popped Fifi into the ol’ Amalgamated Electric Nuke-O-Wave 6000.”   Since this is a family program, I’ll dispense with the description of the result, other than to say: There are messes that even the Sham-Wow can’t clean up.

So when an invitation reads “No presents, please,” it  carries several messages from the hosting parents:

“We are unspeakably well-off.  Young Goneril has SO much due to our generosity and wealth that you couldn’t POSSIBLY get anything even remotely amusing to her.  We don’t want your so-called ‘gift’ to sully any of her walk-in toy closets.”

“Much as God tested Abraham by demanding the sacrifice of his only son Isaac, so shall we test you.  Abraham, knife in hand, didn’t think twice about homicide because it was His will, even though  society would frown.  Will YOU stand against social convention and bring our daughter that magnificently wrapped Bratz Dolls Combination Tramp Stamp Maker and Home STD Test Kit … even though We told you not to?

“Our lives are small and petty.  These passive-aggressive games we play are our only pleasure.  And we gladly pass down these shenanigans to our spawn.  Just wait till our Goneril and your whatever-her-name-is are interested in the same boy.  Our child will DESTROY yours.  See you at drop-off!”

You have been put in an impossible situation, Y.M.  And there’s no Kobiyashi Maru sleight-of-hand to spring you from this one.  In other words …


Let’s say you show up with a present for Lucretia.  If you’re the only one who did so, you’re an asshole.

Yet if other parents also got her presents, you’re not off the hook.  Because they’re better friends with the hosts, they all play this little passive-aggressive game together, they all understand the level of presents which are expected, and your falls short.  FAR short.

To put it in terms you’ll understand: you’re an asshole.


Or, you show up empty-handed.  Now you’re the child-hating cheapskate who made the birthday girl cry.  Congratulations, asshole!

If you’re lucky, not too many of the other parents will notice your lack of a supplicant’s trip to the gift dais which looks like the under-the-Christmas-tree spread at the Sultan of Brunei’s place.  And I don’t want to hear it from the PC crowd that the Sultan is a Muslim and that we should not just assume everyone celebrates Christmas.  Everyone does.  It’s just that sometimes it’s called “Chanukah” or “Ramadan” or “Independence Day.”

In other words … now say it with me …





[Dear Bad Dad note: I took The Boy and The Girl to a party where the whole presents issue was actually handled exceedingly well: every child was asked to bring a wrapped present, and all the kids at the party got to pick from the ensuing pile.  The Boy got an Easy Bake Oven.  And for the less-than-enlightened cretins who think that toy might turn him gay, let me set you straight – First, who gives a damn if it did, you homophobic turd?  Second, and more importantly, he’s happy, he’s occupied, and I get mini brownies made for me whenever I want.]

My advice?  Blow off the party.

The next time you see Goneril’s parents, tell them how badly you all felt about missing the event and that you’re mailing something later that day.

Then don’t send anything.

They did say “No presents,” right?

Game Over.

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