My daughter held her 9th birthday the other week. Every year I swear that we will have no more birthdays. Perhaps it’s the “uncaring male” in me or the fact that as a child, I wasn’t allowed to have parties after the age of 6.
We held a “High School Musical 2”-themed birthday party on premiere night. My daughter along with five of her buddies gathered about an hour and half before the TV movie started. I was ordered to prepare the pizza, slice the cake, pour the drinks and usher in our hired makeup artists for the evening.
“This is sweet,” an attendee gushed as the female “tweens” were getting their hair sprayed with what seemed like toxic paint. “If I wanted them to get spray-painted, I would’ve taken the girls over to I-85 and Jimmy Carter where a freelance graffiti artist would have done the job for free,” I remarked. “That’s not funny,” the attendee replied, as she coached the makeup artists who were literally transforming these young girls before my very eyes.
For the next hour, there was hair styling, crimping, applying and accessorizing. While it was nice to see that the girls were having a great time, I have to admit that for the first time in my daughter’s development, I felt a bit out of the loop. Indeed every dad goes through this period in his daughter’s life. As the saying goes, “I didn’t think it would come this fast.” It seems like yesterday that my then 2-year-old was knocking blocks off of my head in the gated front playroom to the soundtrack of The Wiggles. Flash forward seven short years later and she is sporting makeup (Note: just for the party), dancing (Note: like a 9-year-old, not like Britney Spears), and reciting every word to the “High School Musical 2” CD with a passion that I have never seen before. I doubt that I would put her in front of the “America’s Got Talent” folks.
“Is the world moving too fast? Am I not ‘protecting’ my child from Hollywood?” I queried myself as I was recording the event with my camcorder. I felt reassured that my daughter and her friends are well-grounded and well-behaved as they filed in for the traditional birthday proceedings which included the usual suspects: cake and ice cream. Their child innocence was on display as they sang “Happy Birthday” and gobbled up the massive frosted “High School Musical 2” cake. It doesn’t get more innocent than when a group of girls scream out to the Disney Channel countdown to the TV movie.
I must admit that the producers of the “High School Musical” franchise have a solid marketing scheme. From “High School Musical” DVDs, CDs, clothing and other branded items, it is guaranteed that “HSM” will be in many of this nation’s youngster’s lives for years to come. Just like so many hyped products before, “High School Musical” has crept into every nook and cranny of our lives. It’s pure marketing genius. As the creators’ wallets get fat, mine and many others have become lighter. It is admittedly the “American Way.” It wasn’t too long ago that my parents shelled out greenbacks for my Fonzie shirt and Jimmy Walker “Dyn-o-mite” socks.
But just like my parents, we keep all things in perspective and set limits as to how much HSM merchandise comes into the house. As with anything, “balance” is the key word here. Even though “High School Musical” is a big part of my child’s life, it is not overtaking it.
When the movie started, I joked that I needed a something to “take me away from all of the party madness” like a Calgon bath which was popular when I was a kid around her age. “What’s Calgon?” my daughter asked. “Oh, never mind, it’s just something that could help me relax, honey,” I replied. After sitting down with the girls to view the movie, I admit that somehow I became mesmerized with the acting, music, choreography and especially the scenery in “High School Musical 2.” It’s now two weeks later and I’m still singing Zac Ephron’s – er, Troy’s “Bet on It.”
As the girls said their goodnights after another round of dancing and screaming, I said to my daughter, “I’m glad I didn’t take that Calgon bath.” I’m not sure about conducting future parties on this scale, but I do know that I might just check out “High School Musical 2” live when it comes to town.