There is only one princess in the Disney tales, one girl who gets to be exalted. Princesses may confide in a sympathetic mouse or teacup, but they do not have girlfriends. God forbid Snow White should give Sleeping Beauty a little support.
I am weird and I admit it.
Fortunately I have friends who don’t object to my weirdness.
The weirdest thing I’ve ever done – and my nearest and dearest may wish to contest this, but it’s the first thing that comes to mind – is to attend a party wearing a jester’s hat (red and yellow motley, with bells on) and while there, embark on a fly-killing spree.
Yes, I am the Death of Flies (also Ants, Fleas, and Other Parasitical Insects).
I make up for the Caped Gooseberry’s extreme pacifism by wreaking wholesale slaughter on the pestilential creatures whenever they cross my path.
The party in question was held at a house that seems to be regarded by flies as the paradise of paradises: warm, airy, and with lots of high ceilings where people can’t get at you with fly swats.
Over the course of the evening, with the assistance of a rolled-up newspaper, I managed to kill over a hundred flies. And how did my friends react? Being, as they are, such excellent and eccentric-friendly people, they pointed out the flies I had missed (or rather, hadn’t seen yet) – particularly if conveniently resting on someone else – and raised a ragged cheer when I hit the century.
There are two lessons to be drawn from this:
1) why hide your weirdness? if you aren’t the kind of person who likes to make small talk with strangers at a party, do something else to make it a memorable evening.
2) choose your friends carefully. Friends who accept you as you are are worth their weight in gold.
What, I hear you ask, is a mathom? (If I hear you asking what a party is, you need to get out more.)
Tolkien explains in his prologue to The Fellowship of the Ring: “…anything that Hobbits had no immediate use for, but were unwilling to throw away, they called a mathom. Their dwellings were apt to become rather crowded with mathoms, and many of the presents that passed from hand to hand were of that sort.”
I am not advocating that we refuse to receive gifts – that would be churlish – but using one’s birthday as an opportunity for generosity is a) very hobbity and b) a good way of redressing the balance of items in one’s home.
Besides, gifts, as previously mentioned, are a joy to receive. Particularly if, like me, you have friends and family who support the pruning scheme and therefore give you a) consumables and/or b) things you really want. Of course, you can’t choose your family, particularly your family of origin. I got lucky. (We shall draw the veil of charity over the time they got mistaken for a troupe of Russian folk singers.)
Anyway, back to the hobbits. Having lately had a birthday, I decided to try out the idea of a mathom party. The general reaction was a) what is a mathom? followed by b) what a good idea! Thus encouraged, I proceeded to put aside suitable items from the purge (see what below if interested). I also invited people to bring their own mathoms along if they liked: after all, one hobbit’s mathom is another hobbit’s treasure.
The day before the party, I put ribbons and bows round the items. This serves two purposes: it makes the mathoms seem more gifty, since you can’t wrap them unless you want a lucky-mathom-dip-party; and it draws a convenient distinction between the mathoms and such possessions as you actually want to keep. (Make sure no-one you are attached to is in any way done up with a ribbon.) Have a few extra ribbons on hand if people are bringing their own mathoms.
And of course, you must have food and drink. Nothing hobbity can be done without food and drink, and, preferably, music. Our party was much improved by the concurrent baking of The World’s Best Peanut-Butter and Chocolate Cookies (both gluten-free and dairy-free, if you use suitable chocolate) – recipe in this book, though not under that well-deserved title.
As for what mathoms I pruned (did you think I had forgotten this month’s list?) there were: a duvet cover, a set of steak knives, a casserole dish, a cake-slice, a set of salad-servers, a small assortment of collectable stamps, a CD, a book of famous last words, and a box of games.
At the end of the party, any mathoms unclaimed are then donated to a charity of your choice. It may pay to tell your guests this as it can be peculiarly hard to persuade people that you really do want them to take things off you for your birthday. Promising to cart it all off to charity convinces people that you are not secretly longing to be left with the lot.
Oh, and one more hint for the success of your party: try to avoid being born during (or shortly before) exam week. Exams are very un-hobbity and may affect turnout.