Everyone knows I adore my nephew. He turned 4 yesterday and today is his big birthday celebration. The theme is Cars from an ostensibly famous Disney movie. I don't know, I haven't seen the movie nor have I read about it in the trades. So I asked my sister (his mother) if kids are going to come dressed as cars. She said no. I thought to myself, what kind of booty theme party is this? Well, actually, I think I said it out loud. Regardless, Christopher and I were excited all day. We love birthdays. I teased him all day that it was really my birthday and my party and my cake and my gifts and my guests. He didn't believe me and responded that the guests are "my people." He also insisted that it's a 4 year old birthday party and surmised that I'm 13. He's a smart kid.
My excitement soon dissipated when the children and parents arrived. The once tranquil suburban San Jose home turned into a 1950's mental institution. I couldn't help but to transfigure myself from a normally outgoing party person into a quiet observer of a scientific social experiment. Let me attempt to explain:
(1) The four-year olds are the schizophrenics. They chase each other around, yell for no reason, and expect others to satiate their demands at once... or they will show you how crazy they really are. They tend to hundle in groups and when they do, they are extremely dangerous.
(2) The two-year olds are the sociopaths. They prefer to play alone and hardly notice each other... until one of them wants the toy of the other and then the blood match is on!! Having no ability to share, they will cry, scream, hit, kick and bite your hand off if you interfere with their primal interests. They look super cute, but I wouldn't trust them.
(3) The parents are the staff. Some are administrators, so they just sit around and complain (likely due to incompetence), and sometimes entertain the patients. These are usually the fathers. The others are the nurses. They feed, clean, and comfort the patients. These are usually the mothers. Both are overworked, understaffed and completely consumed. They often engage in shop talk.
(4) I am the hot Ph.D student who occasionally visits and studies the institution as part of a thesis. Everyone is cordial to the student, but no one can really relate to her. She can't relate to them either. So instead of engaging in trite small talk with the staff, or in a wacky incomprehensible conversation with the patients, she chooses to sit alone with her laptop and pretends to work on her thesis.
Unlike a true mental institution, however, there is no psychiatric medication available at a four-year old birthday party. Curses.