The Big Red Button.



I need a nap. 

It’s only 9:10am and I’m totally exhausted.  Not because I didn’t get some quality sleep last night.  No problem there.  Not because I got up at the crack of dawn.  I didn’t. 

I’m totally tapped out because I just spent the past hour or so putting together a Paperless Post invite for my 8 year-old’s birthday party this weekend.  Typically, my wife Hilary has always handled outbound invites like this one.  It appeared so facile, Norman Rockwellian, sweet, when all I had to do was open my copy of the polished emailed invite. 

But now I’ve seen the guts of it, and it ain’t pretty.

First there’s the what the “card” should look like.  I write “card,” because this is all digital now.  No need to kill any trees.  Or more accurately, no need to use any trees that someone else killed.  No need to shuffle down to the Post Office to scrounge up a roll of stamps, even though those auto-stick stamps are WAY better than the older versions with the stale Doublemint “flavor.” 

And of course, we had already decided on a theme. 

What, you say you don’t choose a proper theme for your child’s birthday party?? You say you don’t think your parents even threw you a “party” for all of your own childhood birthdays?? 

Welp, times have changed, and there must be a birthday party.  Every year.  And it damn well better be meaningful.  And impressive. Consider renting a clown or bounce house.  And not some shitty clown and shitty bounce house — the painted, arched eyebrows better be crisp, and the house better not have any duct tape over bloated seams.  What kind of parent are you?? 

This year’s theme (sound of crisp manilla envelope holding major award on stiff card inside, ripping via pointer finger, me wearing black tie standing at the dais) is baseball.  Fortunately for us, a school family friend has just recently opened up a new batting cage facility in the Presidio.  It’s called Batter’s Box SF.  And I believe young Master Everett’s birthday party at said facility with be the first birthday party at said facility.  How ’bout me?  You can keep your clown and bounce house.  We don’t need no stinking clown and bounce house!  At least not this year. 

So we have ourselves a theme.

Fortunately, the theme limits the Paperless Post digital card options.  Otherwise, given that I am given to distraction, I would have been pouring over a few hundred cards in search of the perfect font.  I choose a baseball-looking card, seems reasonable. 

Then comes the grammar and syntax part.  Exhausting.  I went with the default “Fenway” font for the card.  Looked good, but was so frilly.  I’d say 50% chance that I spelled Everett’s first name wrong or our last name wrong.  I’m not sure; I just can’t tell whether that is an “L” or an “i.”  Hopefully our guests will suffer from vision worse than mine, or maybe they won’t suffer from font-obsession if their vision is good. 

Then comes the invite list.  Stressful.  I have to navigate some written rules and some unwritten rules to make sure that I don’t offend (a) Everett’s school, (b) Everett’s friends, (c) Everett’s friends’ parents, (d) my wife, (e) Everett’s basketball team, (f) said batting cages facility, and (g) my own very tenuous sensibilities.  Because I am the world’s best dad, I made sure to have Everett feel involved and engaged in the invite process.  So this morning I had him hand write a list of his invitees.  The list is awesome.  I would love to post a photo of it, but I would be offending at least three of the potentially offended groups above.  His little list is so cute, quaint, Norman Rockwellian (again).

And totally incomplete.  An absolute land mine had I latched onto only that list.  I can’t even imagine the full parade of horribles that would have transpired had I not scrutinized the hell out of his list. 

Instead, I cross-checked, spell-checked, classroom-checked, YMCA hoops team roster-checked, school website-checked, school family directory-checked.  I don’t think I crammed so much research into writing term papers in undergrad. I am not kidding.  Like I said, totally exhausting.  But I managed to come up with a seemingly bulletproof, offensive-proof list.  I think.  I hope. 

My anxiety reached a crescendo when it came to actually having to click on the “SEND NOW TO ALL GUESTS” button.  The button is bright red.  The font actually seems a little more prominent than any other copy on the Paperless Post website.  I felt like I was faced with hitting the proverbial BIG RED BUTTON launching a nuclear attack.  Felt like JFK mulling over a short list of options during the heat of the Cuban Missile Crisis.  At least he had Bobby.  I wish I could show my birthday party invite “preview” and my draft list of invitees to Bobby.  No Bobby for me. 

So here I am.  My right hand is shaking as I try to guide its forefinger to make the “click” on the touchpad.  My vision blurs, heart pounding and pushing blood now with a new squirt or 3 of adrenaline.  I use my left hand, grabbing the wrist of my right, trying desperately to steady my button-pushing finger.  And out of the corner of my eye, you better believe I am very aware of the “delete” button.  Don’t look at it directly.  Ah, shit I just looked at it.  Don’t look at it!  Don’t…Look…At…It!  Must…push…red…BUTTON!

You get the picture.

The (right) button was pushed, I pulled myself back together, and now I sit in fear of an imminent RSVP with a comment about how I misspelled my son’s name or otherwise truly screwed up royally.  The odds of this whole thing not descending into an exercise in complete, catastrophic failure?  Mmmm, 9%.  But I am in too deep at this point. 

Besides, Everett’s actual birthday was in December, so we’ve already messed it up.  Nowhere to go but up!

Thanks for reading.


  1. And now you see why we didn’t throw many “friend” birthday parties for you. Didn’t have to invite entire classroom because of your summer birthday, but still had to deal with neighbor issues, invite the kids you played with, leave out the kid you hid from when he rang our bell? Planning a kid’s birthday party is not for the weak of heart nor for the economy minded. Have fun!

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