Wednesday, August 03, 2005

It’s my party and I'll cry if I want to…

It is a warm August morning in Seattle and I am wearing my prettiest pink dress with a frilly white apron that I put my hands in while I dance around the front gates to the house waiting for the first guest to arrive. It is my eighth birthday. My mom made three cakes to feed my 22 closest friends and spent the evening conspiring with my sisters to come up with fun party games to play. The guests arrive, scrubbed and dressed in their Sunday best- carrying big boxes with pretty bows. We play games, we eat cake, everyone tells me how pretty I look. Dad comes home and pats me on the head and says, “Happy Birthday Kiddo.” At dinner, mom serves me my favorite meal on a red plate that says “You are special today”. In a family of seven, this plate only comes out for me once a year.

My brothers and sisters give me cards and kiss my cheek and we eat more cake and they all sing Happy Birthday. And I feel special.

My mother leans into my father and whispers as I blow out the candles, “I hate birthdays”. I’m utterly confused. Birthday’s mean a party, attention… presents. I totally don’t get it.

This Saturday I will be 32, and I finally get it.

Yes, I am finally joining the ranks of grown ups everywhere that hate their birthdays.

I sit down to plan a birthday party for myself and the magic of being eight is completely gone. The anticipation of being appreciated and showered with attention just for existing on this special day, is replaced with fear. It’s not the fear of getting old, wrinkled and fighting with my ticking internal clock… it is the fear that no one will show up. It is the fear of another special day passing without being noticed. It is the expectation that you will be surrounded by people you love, and then the reality that you haven’t cultivated those sorts of relationships.

Two years ago, I threw a party for an ex-boyfriend. Everyone I invited showed up and really, deeply, truly cared about Mike. He had cultivated their relationships and they loved him for it. Everyone had good things to say about him and that is because he is a good person.

As I sit this week making a list of people I wanted to invite to my birthday party I made headings like “people from the gym”, “people from AA”, “People from the Hamptons”, “People from Work”, “People I met on Friendster”… But as I made the lists, I discovered there was only maybe one person from each category that I spoke to once every other week or really wanted to see.

I blame the pace of life. I blame them for not returning my enthusiasm for our newfound relationship. I blame cliques. I blame New York. But the only common denominator in all of these relationships is, me. My insecurity and isolationism that keeps me closed off from being a really good friend. My unrealistic fantasty to re-create a season of 'Sex and the City' with my own set of unique and colorful New York women. My interest in collecting a quantity of diverse friends over the quality of three good ones. My ability to spread myself like a paper thin pie crust over the Big Apple, covering no one person significantly and still leaving large gaps around the edges.

My only relief is that perhaps I am not failing in the relationship game-but rather, growing up.

Perhaps growing up means letting go of old ideas of friendships and relationships and accepting what you get. Perhaps my problem is the control I have willfully exerted over the process of meeting, making and maintaing friends. And perhaps the solution is to surrender and accept that there is something wonderful about the eclectic blend of friends I have in my life right now—my sisters, my friend from work, my international friend, my friend from the gym- Perhaps my vision of four friends brunching at Cafeteria is what was attractive when I was twenty but now I am 32.

This birthday, I will appreciate what my efforts have brought into my life.... whatever the form. I will use the next year to open up enough to let others in, pick up the phone and check in with those I love, return e-mails… and listen. And I won't wait for someone else to present my favorite meal on a red plate to feel special today.

I can eat off that plate every fucking day if I want!!

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posted by Pop Culture Casualty @ 8/03/2005 11:15:00 AM |

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