Baby A already has quite an impressive vocabulary. Mr T and I find it therapeutic to lie in bed at the end of a long day and list all the words she understands, patting ourselves on the back that our daughter knows to point to her belly button when prompted. And yet, despite her understanding of “mama”, “daddy”, “book” and “balloon”, I’m pretty sure she has no clue what I’m going on about when I studiously inform her that her first birthday is just around the corner and we’re going to have the best party ever and it will be all about her. The blank look she gives me, which almost always dissolves into a torrent of tears and an expression of abject horror as soon as I launch into my exuberant rendition of the birthday song, indicates that perhaps I shouldn’t be going overboard in planning for her party.
Too late. I don’t do things in moderation. Her Dictatorship’s first birthday will be no exception.
Now, no matter how much Mr T might beg – no matter how trusting he is, or non-judgemental, or supportive of my every whim – there are some things I won’t ever share with my husband, secrets that I’m taking to my grave. One is how much I weigh; I’d rather eat live centipedes than get on a scale in front of him. Another is how much I spend dying my roots and on hair treatments – a guy who spends Dh25 on a haircut, which includes a head massage, will never understand how much a girl is willing to pay for the possibility of shiny, silky tresses.
Here’s another secret I’m adding to the padlocked trove of guilt nestled in my mind: how much money I’ve already spent on this “no big deal” party.
That didn’t stop Mr T from launching a full-scale interrogation when I came home one day with three large bags of party decorations. As I admired the bright pink and lime green melamine bowls I had bought in the exact shade of colours I had chosen for Her Dictatorship’s party “theme”, based, of course, on her birthday outfit (that I had purchased, obviously, before she was even born), he dared to sniff at me, reeking of disapproval.
“You actually bought these? Are we going to keep these bowls after the party? This one’s green,” he informed me. He rifled through the six pom-poms, two large birthday banners, 40-plus pink birthday hats decorated with the number “1”, five large balloons yet to be filled with helium and a teetering tower of pink paper plates and lime-green cutlery, as I tried to hide the rest of my loot. Then he asked the one question I’ve been avoiding all week: “Wait, so all this isn’t included in the cost of booking the party’s venue?” Because, of course, I had booked an actual party venue.
At least he can’t give me grief about how much I’m going to pay the caterer; she’s a friend. And I already made him buy Baby A’s birthday present – a tiny, pink, polka-dot armchair – two weeks before party planning commenced, so he’d think it was completely unrelated.
As long as I keep reminding myself to destroy the receipts, I think my secret should be safe. And if Mr T will be appeased by my admitting that this over-the-top party is really for me, to feed my need to celebrate my clueless, almost-one-year-old, then fine, I’ll do it. As long as he admits that he’s just as excited as I am – I know all about that new pink shirt he wants to wear to the party.
Hala Khalaf is the deputy Arts&Life editor at The National