Monday, May 11, 2015

Piñata Logic

Whenever I see a piñata at a birthday party (which is often), I feel a surge of excitement for the moment when a bunch of kids line up to beat the absolute living shit out of an effigy of Spongebob Squarepants, followed by a twinge of shame and guilt at my eager anticipation of piñata-bashing time

What intrigues me about piñatas is how they unveil the most carnal elements of human nature: pounding something to a pulp until food comes out, and then descending on the spoils like a pack of rabid vultures in a Darwinian battle for survival of the fittest. 

Watching a piñata-bashing in action is a sociological study in micro-aggression. You see the kids with prehistoric impulses--the ones whose eyes really light up when they grab that stick and who are more than willing to trample their peers for a mini-Snickers and a plastic dinosaur. Conversely, you see the kids who hang back, reluctant to pound a sweet little horsie in the face and risk a pummeling for six Jolly Ranchers. It usually breaks down along gender lines, with boys tending to be the more enthusiastic piñata smackers.

Like every thought I have, this observation is completely unoriginal. There's a website called "Down with Piñatas" dedicated to "ending pinata violence." It's full of statistics linking piñatas to sociopathy and psychopathy, and pleas to support laws banning piñatas. The website was allegedly started by a guy whose 4 year-old daughter whopped him upside the head with a baseball bat after having a piñata at her birthday party, and then went into counseling after she realized that blood came out of daddy's head instead of Starbursts.

It sounds so ridiculous that I still can't tell whether it's satire. It makes some intuitive sense I suppose, although this piñata-sociopath "link" sounds more like a case of post hoc ergo propter hoc to me. For those whose Latin is rusty, this is the logical fallacy that wrongly links cause and effect: the classic example being that just because a rooster crows when the sun rises, doesn't mean the rooster's crowing made the sun rise. 

I think it probably applies here: just because a future serial killer tortures a kitty-cat after going to a birthday party with a piñata doesn't mean the piñata turned the kid into Charles Manson. He was probably totally fucked before that, and will end up doing hard time in a Supermax prison with or without a piñata. 

My son had a piñata at his third birthday, and never for one second was I worried he would beat me in the face with a stick in the hopes that Skittles would come pouring out of my nose. (Mainly because he knows we already keep the Skittles in the upper cabinet). If the anti-piñata website story is true, I think this guy's daughter was maybe just really stupid and/or a future cast member of Orange Is the New Black, and that's the part of the story he's leaving out or doesn't want to consider.

When all is said and done, I see how a piñata could send a violent message, and I guess that's why there are these new-fangled piñatas where you just quietly pull a string to release the candy. Not surprisingly, this has ignited a debate among parents with nothing better to debate, with one side huffing and puffing that we're raising a generation of pussies who won't even be able to hammer a nail into a wall, and the other side breathlessly protesting that piñatas are violent and should be banned forever.

Personally, I think a piñata is pretty innocent, at least for the vast majority of kids who are not already pre-disposed to becoming the next Ted Bundy. We all have suppressed anger and we all like to pound something once in awhile. As I said in this post from December, "no matter how old you are, when you get really pissed off, there's nothing more satisfying than channeling your anger and frustration into the destruction of an inanimate object." "Inanimate," of course, being the operative word and concept that separates the healthy release of frustration and aggression from eating your next door neighbor's liver with fava beans and a nice Chianti.

If I'm being honest, I prefer to use my three whacks at a piñata to picture certain ex-boyfriends; any of the dozens of lawyers that I hate; and the Koch brothers. If I wasn't lazy and didn't suck ass at crafts, I'd probably make myself a piñata of all of them, fill it with Junior Mints and Valium, pour myself two shots of Jack Daniels, and throw myself a party of one.

Isaac attacking a piñata at his third birthday a year and a half ago.

Me, eagerly awaiting my turn to smack a unicorn really hard with a stick at a birthday party this weekend.

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