We’re about to go to a birthday party. Specifically, a 40th birthday pot luck. The birthday girl has requested 40 of her favorite foods, from “church punch” (that awesome orange, green, or red Sherbet-and-50/50 combo some of us grew up with) and popcorn to bacon, coconut cake, and all points between. Dylan and I are taking Chinese roasted pork belly, which we’re getting quite good at making, if I do say. Last I saw, there are 79 people coming to this party. I don’t have 79 people I would want in with me in a room, not even for 40 of my favorite foods.
I talked to the birthday girl yesterday and told her that I too am coming up on the same milestone birthday and that we had it in common. Her eyes grew wide and she asked if I would really be turning 40 and when I said yes, she told me to shut up and get out. I am blessed I suppose, with good genes from my mom’s side. She looks 20 years younger than she is, and apparently I’m working on somewhere around 8-10. I attribute this youthful glow to marrying late, having no children, and wearing Han Solo t-shirts from time to time. Anyway, she said, “Ooh girl you better do something big!” and I smiled and shrugged. I don’t think that’ll happen, but I didn’t say that.
Last weekend, my best friend celebrated her 39th birthday in her true fashion which is to say, with about five different events. Finances was my main reason for attending only one, but if I’m very honest about it I will tell you that I have never been one for going crazy on anyone’s birthday. I like one, maybe two celebrations and it always happens that my day falls near a Bears game so it’s usually just getting everyone together to watch it at a bar or wherever, and celebrate in that way. The actual day itself totally depends on who’s up for what, and who’s doing the planning. This is where it gets a little difficult for me to explain my feelings here, but I will try.
After a certain point, birthdays are just days. I don’t need presents, I don’t need balloons or surprises or trips or anything big. Yet I look around at people who start talking about their birthday plans months in advance who ultimately manage to get like, 50 people out for the occasion and I think, I don’t get that many bodies… Not that I want that many, blah blah. So, if I want a lot of interest and a big turnout, does that mean I have to a) plan it myself or b) bombard everyone with it six weeks ahead of time? Both of those things are insanely irritating to all involved. And really, having a December birthday has been the suck for many years in a row. It either snows, ice storms, freezes, or everyone has Christmas parties to attend (let alone does not have money to spare for yet another event). I guess you could say that after the last decade or two of bumps in the road, I’ve lost hope of a blow out.
I’ve never had a surprise party and I’m not going to lie and tell you I never wanted one, but I am hard to surprise. I have bad luck historically with the men in my life who aren’t big birthday people (unless it came to their own, except for Dylan, those are sad stories for another day) and thus, don’t make a big deal about anyone’s (read: my) birthdays either. I also don’t want to make people think I expect them to spend a lot on me, something I become acutely aware of when friends have multiple, big-ticket-item parties.
This means my expectations and hopes have to sink pretty far to the floor in order not to be let down. This year, the Bears game is happening the day before the day itself, and the next day Dylan and I are going to get a messy seafood dinner at a place called The Angry Crab, just the two of us. It opens early and packs out, so we have to get there before anyone is off work, really. So we’ll be done eating by like, 6? Then what? I doubt he has anything planned and it’s on a Monday. Who’s going to want to do something given that restriction? Especially since the people I would want to hang out with, I’ll see the day before anyway. So does that mean that the night of my 40th birthday will be spent on the couch with the dog in my lap and my legs across Dylan’s? Very possibly. This is not a bad thing, I should not be disappointed for I am a very lucky lady in a lot of the most important ways. However, that dog/laps scenario is standard about five nights a week in our home. In my heart of hearts, I do want to do something special…I just don’t want to ask for it.
It looms large for me… it’s 40. Isn’t that a big deal? Shouldn’t someone in my life want to do something bigger with it? I mean, we are taking a trip to Tucson the following weekend but that’s more recon and an introduction to the desert for Dylan than a birthday trip for me. Should I want a surprise party or a giant 78-person pot luck? I don’t know, part of me does and that feeling is hard to put into words without sounding whiney, needy, and desperate for a party.
And there it is. Sometimes it amazes me how much feelings don’t change from junior high to old age.
I realized the other night why this doesn’t matter to me, even when the corner of my brain is forcing it to. I’ve had a huge year. No bigger year has ever existed. I don’t need a monumental birthday party, I may never need one again. Ok, maybe 50 is worth throwing some confetti at, but honestly from here on, I will be content to see the friends I love best in a small, casual setting. That’s all I require in my life. And it feels good to come to that realization.