Today's Not-So-Great-Depression has claimed a new victim: children's birthday party goody bags.
And good riddance, too.
I despise those little crinkly plastic bags full of $3-a-piece junk: the oddly fluorescent lizard made in China, the fake garnet ring with the finger-pinching gap in the back (isn't real garnet ugly enough?) or the ubiquitous rectangles of stickers, stickers, and more stickers.
Yes, it's all junk that gets lost or tossed into piles in kids' bedrooms. Junk that is nonetheless a costly burden and time-stealer for overwhelmed birthday party parents. (Not to appear cheap or thoughtless, such parent might stock up on items costing $15 per partygoer - all of which adds $150-plus to the $250 or more already paid for the birthday affair at a Penultimate Play Coliseum or a Princesses at Tea/Juice Party).
Not that I'm against party favors, per se. Or a killjoy. And I know everybody loves swag.
But since when do kids who go to other kids' birthday parties need to indulge their coveting of another's good fortune - and special day - by getting handfuls of little cheap plastic presents in little cheap plastic wrappers, which they tear open on the sugared-up drive home in the car (usually complaining about the color, carat, or character they got anyway)?
Children's Birthday Party Goody Bags, defined: the epitome of greed and consumerism gone awry, the worst of Christmas year-round, imbued with all the pressure of implied tradition and wasteful spending.
And I'm not alone. Lately, I've noticed more mothers and fathers standing up to the madness, going back to basics because of the worrisome economy and forgoing excess.
Let's spread a new tradition: At the party giver's door - after a good time for all and lots of birthday cake - just hand the young guests a lollipop, or a slender watercolor palette, or a single package of M&Ms or Crazy Bones, or even a round of applause and a hearty "Thank you for coming." And be done with it.
By the way, the day after I wrote the above plea, I almost tripped over a paper bag on the front stoop of our house. An anonymous, kindly neighbor - who I'm sure has no idea about my opinion on this matter - left an elaborate orange-and-black goody bag. A rather spooky apparition. Inside, an Internet-downloaded flier informed me:
"You have been BOO-ed!"
There were chain-letter style instructions, which included: 1) "Within the next two days, make two copies of this note and two more BOO signs. 2) Make two treat bags or BOO baskets." All to spread cheer.
Of course, no one would know that my kids are sick and cranky (i.e. lunatic) today, and that I can't even make it to the grocery store for essentials we've actually run out of: bread and peanut butter and toothpaste and toilet paper and Tito's Handmade Vodka. So, fashioning a creative goody bag full of Halloween candy (which I haven't bought yet, and which we'll be drowning in soon) isn't on the agenda.
Still, if I ignore the "Boos" tenets, will I be tempting a jinx?
While I appreciate the sweets and the gesture, no one could know that the only thing I fear more than Goody Bag Peer Pressure is Chain Letter Voodoo.
Joanne Cavanaugh Simpson, author of "Literature on Deadline," is a lecturer at The Johns Hopkins University Writing Seminars and Advanced Academic Programs. She blogs weekly at litdeadline.wordpress.com.