Tuesday, September 14, 2010

I Hate My Birthday

I will be 49 tomorrow. There are no special plans.

When I was a kid, our birthdays were low key: cake and a can of Hawaiian Punch with our cousins, possibly pin the tail on the donkey if we were lucky. My dad took me out for surf and turf once in my early teens, just the two of us.

I turned 18 shortly after arriving for my freshman year at Colgate, and some friends from the dorm suggested we get dressed up and have cocktails at the Colgate Inn. I could henceforth drink legally. I think I was also thrown in the lake, in keeping with school tradition.

In my 20s, I liked giving myself parties. Keggers, usually. People I had never seen before plus my friends, and possibly my brother, drank beer in the backyard of my building on Sullivan Street. One year I got really fancy and half-ironically rented a Knights of Columbus Hall. A friend in the art department of Footwear News, where I worked as a writer, pasted up the Xeroxed invitation. We used a cheesecake photo taken by another work friend. I wore an off-the-shoulder black Lycra dress and stiffly moussed 80's hair, gazing to the the left like Susanna Hoffs of The Bangles. The invitation said: "It's My Party and I'll Cry if You Don't Come."

I continued on this path through my thirties. I think it was my 37th when I had friends meet me at Windows on the World. My 40th was four days after 9/11. The burning smell permeated the air of our apartment on Washington Square, and a party would have been inappropriate. But it's not like I had plans anyway. Drawing attention to my birthday no longer seemed cute or funny, just sad.

Each year since, I have had two opposite urges on my birthday: I would like to get in bed and pretend it isn't happening, yet I wish fervently that a parade and fireworks would be organized in my honor.

Tomorrow, I have a writing deadline and a dermatologist's appointment. Woo-hoo!


  1. I don't celebrate birthdays, but on my 30th I had to get out of town. I started stressing about turning 30 at 27. Now, at 38, that seems beyond ridiculous. But on my 30th birthday I was 4000 miles from home, sipping a bad margarita in Mexico with a new friend, wearing a t-shirt at the end of December. It was as different from normal life in Ohio as I could get, and it was awesome.

  2. Your 49th birthday is a good time to start planning a 50th party. I looked around at my life at 49 and decided that I was drifting slightly from sight for many of my dearest friends. I had this pretty new daughter, my first, and I was so wrapped up in her and my lovely wife I could hardly find time for many old friends.

    I noticed that I could always add more love to life, but only time and inattention could diminish it. And there's something about turning fifty - you can't pretend youth gracefully over fifty, though we still treasure any evidence of it we have left. My extended adolescence was finally over, which I had also thought at forty, but with less equanimity.

    I felt very cool about turning fifty. But I have a lot of older friends, and older family, and turning fifty means getting that much closer to never seeing them again. I thought to myself, I'll never have such a good excuse for doing a knock-down, blow out, everybody's gotta come party again until they put my ass in the ground, and when they do that a lot of the people I love most won't be here any more, including me.

    So I did a huge party so I could have all of the people I love the most in the world in one room, one more time. Now I'm back to normal family birthday parties, but I'm so glad I did that one huge party. Maybe I'll have another one someday, but that one was very good for me and mine.

  3. Ooohhh, you stole my idea for a post.
    I always have seriously conflicted birthday feelings. About nine people in my family have birthdays within one month, so I always felt like an afterthought. I think I cried every year between 15 and 35. And it passes over to being resentful and ambivalent about making parties for my daughter.
    I think the movie screening two years ago was the only time I really invited people to do something special. Last year I was very gratified to go to see "G Force" and have hot dogs at Rutt's Hut.
    This year it was too f'in' hot to go outside, so we sat inside and listened to the band rehearse, which was actually very enjoyable, and went to their gig in the evening.
    How do you feel about karaoke? That's my next idea.

  4. at least get a cake for gods sakes

  5. Just 24 hours younger than you, and ... me too, always hated my birthday. This year I'm taking the kids to hear our fave new artist, Janelle Monae (she's performing at Terminal 5 with Of Montreal this weekend)!

  6. Happy BIrthday :) Whether you are feeling the party or not - hope you've had a great day :)

  7. Christina, happy belated birthday! I was a senior at Colgate when you were named EIC at ELLEgirl and I was so dazzled and inspired by all your successes--I felt like you were living the dream I'd had since I realized, as a kid, that working at a teen magazine was a Real Job. I've enjoyed following your career and keeping up with your blog since then, and I continue to find you cool and savvy and thought-provoking. So, thank you for inspiring me. (I work at a teen mag now too!)

  8. Elisa's post is awesome. I toast you both!

  9. I was just thinking today about what to do for my birthday. I am early mid-thirites. But I still want to have some drinks with friends, maybe horrible singing, and some dense chocolate cake!