Dohl – More Pink than Hello Kitty and Her BFFs Drinking Cosmos at the Spa

baby niece's first bithday (dohl) - cake
Let me tell you what happens when you have a baby.

You lose your mind.

I am quite certain that losing your mind starts with labor. Since you are pushing hard enough to squeeze a watermelon through a garden hose, you can’t help but yank your brain from the spinal strap that’s holding onto it with a few tenuous cords. There’s something called “The Afterbirth” that comes slurping down the birth canal and plops its bloody pulpitude onto the delivery room floor right after the screaming baby. I think “The Afterbirth” has got to be that dislodged brain, but don’t quote me on that. It’s just a guess right now and I absolutely refuse to read What to Expect When You’re Expecting.

(As a side note, if I ever happen to get pregnant, I will be reading past blog entries to my stomach. How’s that for some navel gazing?!?!)

Somewhere in the midst of taking care of your baby, you accidentally fold your loose brain in with the burping towels, then shove the stack into the side pocket of your tokidoki diaper bag between a ziploc bag full of nipples (“nipple” is a horrible word) and a jar of pureed chicken and vegetables, which means you will never find your brain in that pocket because she’ll never eat pureed chicken and vegetables because have you ever seen pureed chicken and vegetables?!?! Don’t be deceived by the photo on the link. The stuff is not a pleasant yellowish orange color. It’s brown.

You’ve lost your mind. You might find it when she goes away to college.

I do not speak from first first-person experience. I don’t have a baby, and until I master dressing up an English Bulldog puppy named Queen Elizabeth in tiny pink sweaters and parading her around the Farmers’ Market while looking for our dinner because my puppy will eat organic too, I doubt I will have a baby. I am speaking from first person experience of watching my sister’s mind-loss unravel before my very eyes for the past year – exactly one year ago today. Today is my baby niece’s one year birthday and over the past weekend, we celebrated with a birthday party that alone is evidence enough that having a baby is actually a mental disorder.

For Korean people, the FBD (First Birthday) is a BFD (don’t make me spell it out), though I am not sure why. I thought the baby’s First 100 Days was supposed to be a big deal because back in the day, a lot of babies didn’t survive past 100 days. A baby who lives to see a hundred (days) is a reason to rejoice. Now, since pediatricians make a grip of money requiring new babies to come in every five minutes for a checkup, the 100 Days celebration is just a tradition that grandmothers use to throw a party and see their grandbabies.

The FBD is such a BFD for Koreans that it has its own name: “dohl.” Maybe it’s “doal” or “dole.” You know that an age year is a big deal when there is a party named for it. In most other cultures, the big celebratory years are later, like American Sweet Sixteen, Latin Quinceanera, and Jewish Bar Mitzvah. (Yes, I know the Bar Mitzvah is not technically a birthday party, but I am trying to make a point. Work with me.) In every other normal, logically-minded culture, families spend a lot of time and money, and a lot of money (not a typo) on a party with lots of gifts and a pair of mimes for entertainment for their kids who will remember the pain and embarrassment of everything that their family did for them to show them how much they love them, even if in your family “love”=shiny new 325 convertible (!) and in my family “love”=book (but it’s hard cover so that means we really love you, honey!). The point is, other cultures spend a lot of money, but at least your kid will remember it. Maybe she’ll appreciate it.

Korean people are not so bright. They go to all the effort, spend all that money, and it is wasted. Their kid will not appreciate it at the time, and in fact, will probably cry and scream her head off in front of 250 people, and most certainly not remember a single thing. All she will have is flickr photo set full of badly-lit pictures through which she’ll never clicklook because by the time she’s old enough to care to look at pictures of herself when she was one year old, flickr will have gone from beta to Betamax.

What does this mean? It means you should screw the Dohl, keep the money, and Photoshop some pictures of someone else’s first birthday and tell your kid that you spent $50,000 on a party for her but she just doesn’t remember.

It also means that my sister and brother-in-law are beautifully insane.

baby's first birthday, Korean dohl
in case you didn’t know, it’s a girl!

My baby niece’s first birthday party was already in the seed stages of planning the minute she was born. The invitations required a formal RSVP. My sister had to do walk-throughs of venues before finally securing a location – the grand ballroom of a hotel in Los Angeles. They did food tastings with a caterer and it showed. The catering company served up everything from a fancy salad with sliced strawberries in it to sushi (Korean gim-bahp and Japanese sushi) to galbee and jahp-chae. Nothing could ever compare to the little old ladies who cook all the food for a giant Korean church picnic, but this came close.

baby's first birthday, Korean dohl - birthday cake
i looove wedding birthday cake
baby's first birthday, Korean dohl - balloon centerpieces
babies love balloons. until they pop

My sister ordered a cake – not just a half-sheet birthday cake with plastic Dora the Explorer accessories anchored into buttercream frosting, but A Cake. It was a multi-tiered, fondant-covered tribute to all things perfectly pretty in pink-and-white. There was a seating arrangement. One of their friends (wo)manned the guestbook at the front to gather addresses from the 200 guests and number the gifts. An emcee directed our collective attention to a slideshow, games, and a whole “program” that involved determining the baby’s future based on what she randomly picked up from a pile of objects all representing different things like wealth, health, intelligence, etc. I am positive that my brother-in-law trained her to pick up the hundred dollar bills before the party. They hired an event planner who softly barked orders into an invisible headset, a centerpiece-maker who also decorated the head table, a photographer, but they gave up on a videographer at the end. There were gift bags for kids and parting party favors for the guests. They all got tiny boxes full of the dduk from the displays (Korean rice cakes traditionally served at this sort of event).

It sounds frighteningly like…

baby's first birthday, Korean dohl - table decorations
it’s still in my fridge
baby's first birthday, Korean dohl - dduk
dduk, dduk, goose

A wedding.

I have been to my fair share of weddings – sometimes as a tangerine-clad maid, sometimes as a practically-anonymous guest, and sometimes as a pseudo-crasher. However, no matter how blushing the bride was, how moving the ceremony was, how grand the reception was, how positively, absolutely elegantly InStyle the wedding was, the spectacle of my niece’s birthday puts them all to shame.

If ever I get married, I’m having a birthday party.

And if ever I plan to lose my mind, remind me to adopt.

** a year ago today, the forecast: chili today at real chili, milwaukee **

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  • Anonymous

    Hi, I just saw your post. The birthday cake is so beautiful!! Do you mind if I ask you where your sister got the cake? Please e-mail me and let me know:

    Thank you so much!

  • sarah

    MaddyAnne! I just asked my sister, and she said she got it from Hansen’s in Beverly Hills, which certainly sounds right – they do make beautiful cakes, and in fact I think they did both my sisters’ wedding cakes, too!

    here’s the website: hansen’s cakes

    good luck getting a cake! let us all know how it turns out for you!

  • sarah

    MaddyAnne! I just asked my sister, and she said she got it from Hansen’s in Beverly Hills, which certainly sounds right – they do make beautiful cakes, and in fact I think they did both my sisters’ wedding cakes, too!

    here’s the website: hansen’s cakes

    good luck getting a cake! let us all know how it turns out for you!

  • Anonymous

    Hi, the balloons are sooo adorable! Sorry to ask but do you know where your sister got the decorations? Thank you!

  • Anonymous

    i think the whole point of this post is not to help you all find the perfect balloon cake. wake up.


  • suzi finer

    …it is from Hansen’s (310-273-3759) but it is not covered in fondant, rather in perfectly smooth butter creme frosting. wanna see more? check out the blog (hansencakes dot com)
    : )

  • Esther Kim (My Bride Story)

    I just came across your blog and I am cracking over your post here… I couldn’t agree more on this post! Why would Koreans spend so much $$ if their kids can’t even remember??? This always bothered me for some reason. anyways, I thoroughly enjoyed it!!! :)

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