How To Throw a Birthday Party Like It's 1989

by Elizabeth Broadbent
yellowsarah / iStock

You’re too cool for that bull. You wanna do it up retro. You’ve got the urge to throw it back. It’s your kid’s birthday, and this year you’re gonna party like it’s 1989. Maybe you’re a nostalgic hipster millennial who wants to wallow in said nostalgia. You do you, dude.

But for the rest of us, back to the futurin’ for our kid’s party isn’t some twee choice on par with mountain-man beards and clear-framed glasses. This is about the dough, yo. Because by the time you add up the Paw Patrol-themed fondant cake, catered food, craft alcohol, specially selected flatware and plates, lavish decorations, gift bags that involve actual fucking gifts, the bouncy houses/game truck/pony rides/mobile farm/magician/fairy face painter/all of the above, your credit card is crying like a little bitch.

As well it should. And that’s why it’s time for a retro throwback birthday.

1. The party must take place at either your house or somewhere free.

There are pros and cons to both. If it’s at your house, you have to clean before and after. This is a royal bitch and since we’re going retro, a maid is not an option. You have to draft your children into an army of clean machines, and we all know how likely that is to happen. On the other hand, if you have the party somewhere free, you have to drag allthethings to the venue, set up said venue, deal with such animal life as bugs and ants and the nonexistent wasps children are always shrieking about until someone gets stung. Then post-party, you have to break everything down, draaaaaaaaag it back to your car, and pack it up, unpack it, and put it away. Pick your poison, bitches.

The cake must be homemade or grocery-store-bought.

I can bake. From scratch. Because I am a fucking ninja. Everyone is not a fucking ninja, and for them, I recommend Betty Crocker, which you can pretend is from scratch and no one will ever fucking know. Buy those icing pens at Target and scrawl “Happy Birthday Jayyyyden” over the top of the cake. Boom, done. If you’re feeling fancy, go to the grocery store. Your kid will be fucking thrilled to select a cake from their line-up of hideous, food-dyed, sugar-bomb confections. Your credit card will not weep for the future.

The food must be minimal.

You have to have a fucking cheese ball. No retro party is complete without a cheese ball and your guests will devour it like ravenous wolves. Then you need chips — like two kinds, probably regular and BBQ. Maybe some Doritos because in the deep heart of every American lies a Dorito-worshiper waiting to break out like the Kool-Aid Man. And speaking of Kool-Aid, you can serve that too. Plus, in most of the country, sodas. Coke and Diet Coke and Sprite, or Pepsi and Diet Pepsi and Sierra Mist, whatever your family’s soda persuasion. We live in the South, so we just make a giant-ass carafe of sweet tea, a smaller carafe of unsweet tea for the diabetics (we are legion down in Dixie), and plenty of ice. Also, you will need a veggie tray and a cheese tray. You are cheap and will cut these up yourself, bitch, because this is retro-style.

The serveware should not match shit.

Did my sister’s Teenage Mutant Ninja whatthefuckever birthday party come with matching plates and cups and spoons and a tablecloth? No. No, it did not. Because these things are an exorbitant rip-off that your child will barely notice and your guests will throw away as soon as they snarf up that cheeseball. Go to Target/Walmart/the grocery store. Buy paper cups, plates, and a plastic tablecloth. (Hell, skip the tablecloth.) If they are in the same color family, feel like a hero.

Activities shall include the guests playing with each other.

Don’t organize that shit. Haven’t you read all about how kids need unstructured play? If you’re at a park, bring some balls. Other than that, the little demons have swings to swing on and sticks to whap each other. If they’re at your house, turn them loose outside. Or let them wreak havoc in a playroom. Other than that, you have adult company and cheap beer. Enjoy it.

Gift bags are actually goodie bags and are dumb as fuck.

You should not drop money on plastic shit that will just annoy every other mom. Go for the things we used to get like pencils, candy, and maybe a bouncy ball. You just hosted a party. You do not need to pay the people who came there, even if they did bring your kid the latest miniature Ninjago kicking machine or Midnight Passion Barbie.

Kick your guests out at the appropriate end time.

Look, they don’t want to be here all damned day on their weekend, and you don’t want them sticking around and pontificating about some obscure political point. So put an end time on the invite and stick to it.

Send the kiddies home, non-themed goodie bags a-flapping in breeze. Parents will consider this the best birthday party they’ve been to in years. There’s no hovering. There’s no sense that they, now, need to top this party or risk showing the world that they don’t actually love their offspring. They got to drink beer in the middle of the afternoon (and okay, wine if you’re into that, and I’m into that. So wine is acceptable, especially with a cheeseball, but only if it’s cheap wine, preferably from a box). Adult conversation was had, kids ran around endlessly and worked off that sugar, and will now pass out in the car. You just made the rest of the day easier, retro birthday hero.

Except for that fucking bouncy ball.