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!