Luke Niebler

Party-sites.

Luke Niebler
Party-sites.

My daughter's third birthday is coming soon, and since the new thing is sending out website-generated invitations, I have noticed that it is becoming common to include the child's interests, clothes/shoe size, etc. in the invitation.

I'm uncomfortable about including this information because I feel a child should be grateful for anything he or she receives as a gift. Am I too old-fashioned or is this tacky? If it is acceptable these days, what's a good way to provide a child's wish list without sounding expectant of anything?

 In the Greek tradition, a guest could occupy two positions: as an equal with implied reciprocity, or as a sort of hanger-on (often someone from a lower social class). This second type of guest, called the parasitos, freely indulged at the table despite his or her inability to return the favor; often the parasitos was expected to entertain or tell engaging stories to his host, but still had a tenuous position in the household. We have incorporated this word into English as “parasite,” an organism that lives by siphoning off nutrition or other valuable commodities from a host organism. However, Michel Serres has repositioned the parasite—the uninvited or unreciprocal guest—as the pivotal role that allows communication to take place within a post-Kantian framework. As we live our decentered lives, the parasite occupies the third space, allowing for the establishment of relationships and the possibility of exchange.

Viewed from this perspective, it is your daughter who occupies the position of parasite, not your guests. She—unable to occupy a socially valid position—relies on you for all of her bodily and emotional needs. However, would you be able to invite these people over and display your wealth without the excuse of her accidental birth? Indeed, no one is truly bringing gifts for her; she is an idiot child with no sense of value. The guests will be bringing presents in order to prove their own worth to you. Your daughter is simply a weak medium of transmission, adding static and confusion to the message.

 

Send your guests a list of gifts that you would like to receive, and I would suggest that you include The Parasite by Michel Serres. Your daughter may play in the boxes.

Question Source: Dear Prudence