Iranian fairy tales don’t end with “and they lived happily ever after.” Instead, as the happy heroine and hero of the fable get married after killing giants, battling evil step-mothers etc, the stories typically end “and they partied for seven days and seven nights.” Meanwhile, the bad guys- the wicked step-mother and step-sister, have their hair tied to the tail of a wild horse, which is then let loose in the desert beyond the town. That is the equivalent of Snow White’s step-mother being forced to danced in red-hot shoes until she dies in front of the blissful newly-weds, which is what happens in the unpasteurized, un-Disneyfied version.
Anyway, these days are the days of the princess`s birthday. I say days, because it feels we have been involved in this birthday for much more than seven days and seven nights. Since -when- mid August? late July? the princess has been talking about her birthday: who she will invite, what she will wear, presents, decorations, treat bags, making my head spin and the world appear a menacing, dark place full of screaming little girls in pink frilly dresses eating cake and spilling pop on my beautiful Persian carpets, while the golden boy tries to pull their hair and punch them.
Last month, we were in a stationary shop, and the princess fell in love with a big, beautiful wooden easel- the kind which artists use to prop up their works. She was consumed with the desire to posses, and I struck what seemed to be a very clever bargain with her: I would buy her the easel ($80, if you please) as a very expensive birthday gift, and in return, no birthday parties. On the night of the birthday itself, we would dine at a fancy restaurant. The princess agreed, the easel was bought, and everyone was happy.
However, less than a week after, the birthday-party pressure group was revitalized. Just a small birthday, only five people. Only four. Only three. Only two. Just a cake, no supper. Just an ordinary playdate, except could we have cake instead of milk and cookies? Just a playdate, only with four people instead of one. Ok, just one person, but then can we have decorations and treat bags?
Then, she caught sight of the Halloween costume of her dreams, full of black lace and purple satin, with sparkly lights in the skirt and black cats in the bodice. The dress. The world became the dress. She wanted the dress. No birthday parties, no talk about the birthday parties, if only she could have the dress. Another bargain was struck, and dress came home. There was no talk of a birthday party for about two hours.
Then, the phone calls began. Little girls who talked to me with the assurance of an elderly government officer. ”So what time is the princess’s birthday tomorrow? Have you invited so-and-so? I have their phone number, if you need it.”
Now, we are going shopping. To buy cake and snacks and decorations and treat bags. It is the princess’s birthday, this afternoon.