Remembrance of Birthdays Past

 Today is my birthday. I’ve now had 45 of these. So I thought I’d reflect on the ones I can remember.

My friends throw me a surprise party—my first ever. But I am flying back from spring break in Dallas, and my father, who has a time management problem, gets me to the plane ten minutes too late. By the time I show up four hours later, no one is there. That’s because they are all drunk and hiding behind my shower curtain. Thank heavens I didn’t need to pee.

There is a picture of me on my back porch in Corpus Christi. I am chubby, with glasses and stringy hair and I am wearing some kind of misguided hippie tunic in white seersucker with strawberry appliqués on the collar. I am flanked by the twins—Laura and Lisa. Laura is my bestie at the time and Lisa barely tolerates my existence. By I have a Cher single, so there.  We have just eaten pizza and chocolate cake. In the middle of the night, I will come down with a stomach virus and refuse to eat pizza for two years. No such fatwa is issued for the cake.

I believe I am kidnapped by my BFF Eleanor and my guy BFF Richard. Or maybe that happened on Richard’s bday. Whatever it is, it’s fun. 

My college boyfriend breaks up with me.
I would have gone with a gift certificate myself.

I’m working at Penguin in NYC. A group of us trundles down to Cowgirl Hall of Fame as I need to be among my tribe for such a momentous birthday. I’m wearing a hideous black-and-white-checkered blazer with shoulder pads. It is a very fun time, except for the third margarita. Never order that third margarita. This is my free advice to you.

It is my first birthday since my father moved out of the house. My mother cooks my favorite, spaghetti. There are cupcakes, presents, photos. We smile and pretend nothing is different. 

I vaguely remember that it starts on Sixth Street in Austin, TX. There is a big, Gossip Girl-worthy fight amongst all the girls. And I spend the early hours taking a friend to the ER for food poisoning. Fun!

I get my driver’s license. Freedom is the grin on your face as you drive by yourself, radio blaring, for the very first time.

Mom makes me a carousel cake with animal crackers for the rides and straws for the poles. Thanks, Mom. I have the exact same haircut then that I have right now. Not sure what to think about that.

A rockin’ good time. We throw a bash at our apartment, and my friends roast me with glee. (Really, I’m delicious with glee. Much better than horseradish.)

I get my first period. Yeah. Happy f**king birthday to you, too.

I have a new baby. I am very, very tired. My husband asks me what I want for a present, and I say, “Sleep.”

My parents give me a choice of having a party or going to the symphony. I choose the symphony. Man, I’m weird. 

Barry and I share slices from Two Boots Pizza and save our pennies. In another month, we will fly to Italy to get married. Birthday Schmirthday.

I turn 39 in the air over the Atlantic, and when I touch down at Heathrow, the official stamps my passport and wishes me a happy birthday in a yummy accent. I am here to do research for a book I’m writing called A GREAT AND TERRIBLE BEAUTY, which takes place in England. At the British Library, I have to apply for a card/membership. “You can be a professional or a student,” the man helpfully tells me. “I trust you are a student?” Birthday wish granted. J

Road trip. New Orleans. My pal, Annie. Dancing in the street with an umbrella and a jazz band.

Road trip. New Orleans. My friends Laurie and Mary and a game of darts with various Scotsmen who hate Margaret Thatcher.

I have a costume party with only four people. That’s not a party. That’s a bizarre art exhibition. 

Barry takes me out to lunch. I am wearing a black wrap dress held together by the capricious physics of a snap. It is a dress I wear when I want to feel super foxy. We are ready to leave. As I make my way back from the restroom and through the restaurant, the eyes of everyone are upon me, and I think, “That’s right. I make 27 look goooood, people!” Cue wind machine and thumping bass line in my head. At the door, Barry stands, transfixed, his mouth hanging open. I am a golden god. And when I get close enough, he whispers urgently, “Your dress is wide open!”

Barry takes me out to lunch. I wear jeans.  I am older and wiser.
Or maybe just less stupid about wrap dresses. 🙂 








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