The end of this month will be my 33rd birthday. Thirty-three! Like the Smashing Pumpkins song!
I have found that, as I’ve gotten older, my expectations for birthdays have gotten lower. Which is a good thing, because you know that song, It’s My Party (and I’ll cry if I want to)?? That was every birthday for me, growing up.
There’s a photo from my twelfth(?) thirteenth(?) birthday that I can see clearly in my mind’s eye. I’ll spare you the image of me trying to awkwardly grow out my bangs (bad decision) and my “extra-large t-shirt” phase which lasted for a decade and only gradually ended in college (truth) to explain why this picture sticks out in my mind:
I’m posing behind my birthday cake, with a forced smile quavering across my lips, and my eyes are swollen and red from crying. Why was I crying, even? I was twelve (or thirteen). But even then, I think, the burden of getting older brought up all of my feelings.
Birthdays have a way of putting a spotlight on your life, drawing into focus all those questions like: what have I done? What am I doing? Am I happy?
I’ve had twenty-or-so birthdays since that one (woah). I mean, woah! In case you’re wondering, yes, it took me almost all of those years to “figure it out.” And by “it,” I mean “birthdays”.
I’ve stopped putting all of my hopes and dreams into the ever-increasing number of candles to blow out on the cake. There’s a lot of pressure on birthdays! Pressure to be FUN! To be MEANINGFUL! To have all of your dreams come true! To be sitting on the table cross-legged gazing into the eyes of the dreamy Jake Ryan who finally notices you after you have been secretly pining for him for so long…!
Well, I’m sure you don’t need me OR Molly Ringwald to tell you that birthdays don’t ever turn out the way you plan them to.
There’s really only ONE THING I can count on happening on my birthday, and that’s –well, besides getting older — okay, TWO THINGS…one, that I will get older and as a direct result, when I get carded buying alcohol I will forget my actual age and tell them I’m however old I am, minus one or two years, and the cashier will look at me like my ID is a fake. Because, in their mind, who forgets their age? But come on, people! It’s not like I’m the first one! If you’ve ever written a check with the previous year’s date in February you can’t say boo about this. It’s easy to forget the passage of time when it happens so FAST!
And the SECOND THING I can count on is that my dad will call me and sing and/or play The Beatles’ Birthday onto my voicemail.
HI DAD! THANKS FOR READING! LOOKING FORWARD TO THIS!
Thus, I have learned to keep my birthday expectations very low. I don’t ask for gifts. What I want is experiences. And I’ve decided I know exactly what I want for my birthday this year. For my birthday….
*drumroll kicks in*
….this year… *drumroll intensifies*
…all I want… *drummroll ends with a flourish of cymbals*
…. is to be handed a cold glass of champagne.
THAT’S IT. I want to be delightfully caught off-guard by a cold flute of sparkling Moët thrust in my direction.
“Oh!” I’ll gasp charmingly, with daintily posed hand over my heart. “Thank you!”, I will whisper breathily, as if I never expected to be granted such an honor. I’ll feign surprise if I have to! And look! It doesn’t even have to be expensive champagne!
The key here is, somebody else has to hand it to me. I DON’T WANT TO POUR IT MYSELF! That defeats the whole point! I am a classy ***older*** lady, and on my BIRTHDAY!, I demand to be treated as such!
*pants, sweats, catches her breath and continues*
I guess the idea came to me when I was on my most recent menstrual period; I started watching The Real Housewives of New York City. Everywhere these women went, they’d get handed a glass of champagne. Sitting in the hairdresser’s chair — CHAMPAGNE! Walking into an art gallery — CHAMPAGNE! Stepping out of a limo — CHAMPAGNE!
It’s like that Police song Every Breath You Take except instead of stalking her, he’s handing her champagne. Or handing her champagne in addition to stalking her.
I’m very impressionable. And when I saw these women swanning through life with a classy beverage in their hands, the image shot into my retinas like a harpoon and skewered something deep and primal within me. A desire to be fancy!
It’s a tingling I feel whenever I stroll up Madison Avenue, a tremor that awakened the first time I saw the movie Auntie Mame. Those grand old ladies who quaff cocktails and spit quick-witted jabs at the dull younger generation — that’s who I want to grow up to be.
I guess I’ve lowered my expectations, not just for birthdays to be perfect-as-planned, but for my own gradual aging process as well. I don’t have any “timelines” any more like I used to, the ones I’d wish upon those candles with. “Please please,” I’d say to myself, “By the end of this year, let my skin clear up!” Or the next year, “Let me finally get those boobs!” Or next year, “My first kiss!” And next year: “Clear skin? PS, STILL WAITING ON THOSE BOOBS.” And of course, I’d always end up in tears by the next birthday when these wishes would, invariably, go unfulfilled.
The things we want most in life don’t always happen on the timeline we want them to follow. I mean, who knows if those boobs will come in my 33rd year? (and if they do, THEY’RE LATE, so I expect interest paid as well). Who knows if I’ll make it to my 34th? If I’m ever going to grow up and be that sassy old broad with a glass of bubbly in her hand and saucy barbs on her lips, it’s going to have to be now. No time like the present.
Clock’s a-tickin’, gang. End of the month draws near. And this old-er lady could use a drink. Hint, hint.