About 2 weeks ago I decided “hey, I think I’ll turn forty.” The timing worked out really well, what with it being almost exactly forty years after the day I was born, and so I went with my instincts. My gut. And I did it. I turned 40. About ten years ago I tried out turning thirty and it worked out really, really well – one of my favorite birthdays ever - so this “forty” thing seemed like a no-brainer. And in the grand scheme of things turning 40 went just fine.
But just fine.
Ten years ago I had a similar urge and went off and turned 30. And my thirtieth birthday was AWESOME! I had streamers and hats and noisemakers. I brought out every ridiculous kid party thing I could think of, including gift baggies and cupcakes and piñatas for all ages. (I briefly considered filling the grown-up piñata with tiny liquor bottles and condoms, but I at the time I neither drank nor did the other thing, so that idea didn’t really work. Besides with, given how hard you gotta slam modern day piñatas the idea of slimy condoms smelling of tequila just didn’t seem to say “celebration!!” It more said spring break in Texas, or possibly Mario Lopez’s bachelor party, so… What was I talking about? Oh, right! Awesome party!) I enjoyed pretty much all of my thirties, and I honestly think part of that successful decade was due to starting it off RIGHT.
Jump ahead to this year. Things have changed some, not the least of which is the Tastic family tradition now of combining all the birthdays in a given month into one big Birthtastic Bash. This is both smart and also frankly necessary, given that the majority of baby-having women in our family seem to have their baby-making sexy-times in the same few months, thereby grouping most of our birthdays as well. Starting in March and running through July there’s a clump of birthdays each month and if we hadn’t corralled them together like so many unruly ponies we’d have had to dedicate every weekend to a birthday all spring and summer long! Whew! So clump them we do, and it works pretty well. Except for when one of the birthdayers has a milestone.
For my fortieth several things happened that kind of impacted the wonderous quality of my birthday. The first is probably the most embarrassing of all: I forgot it was coming.
Don’t misunderstand: I knew I’d be having a birthday. That’s been pretty dang consistent for the last forty or so years, so at this point I just assume that I’ll have one each spring at some point. But honestly I hadn’t really taken stock and noticed that the birthday coming up was a big one until I’d already been screwing up the year spot on checks for a few weeks or a month. (side rant: I hate it when the year changes by a whole decade! At least for the last 9 years I could get as far as “200” before I had to do the math in my head! I’ve been writing “200” and then scribbling out that second zero for months! Not cool, change! Not cool!)
By the time I had properly considered the impending fancy birthday I knew there wasn’t really time to do anything special. I didn’t want to complicate the April birthdays and have to shun my normal birthday partners. I’d not saved up any funds for a fancy-schmancy shindig. And now that I’m living really far away from everyone the planning involved was more complicated by a factor of frosting, mylar balloons and party tiaras, so meh. And that was kind of the feeling I realized I was having about the whole thing: meh. Meh to complex, long-distance planning. Meh to scheduling two parties in April. Meh to figuring out what was sufficiently fancy enough to announce “Femtastic didn’t die for a whole 52 weeks AGAIN!!!”
So I didn’t do nothing.
When I decided to bag the milestone thing I honestly felt fine about it. I was even proud of how not selfish I was being! “Look at me!” I would say when I observed my non-shallow, non-self involved behavior. “Look how grown-up I’m seeming! I could even go buy a house or learn how to use grout! I’m EVER so mature! Tra la la!” (this is, I’m sure, something only the most mature people can get away with saying. If you’re not mature try saying it. See? Doesn’t that just seem weird? Because you’re NOT mature. Riiiiiight…) I tra la la’d my way right up to my perfectly fine and dandy birthday party, which would have been excellent and all such things on any other year 8 years past or the next 9 to come.
But in my head I just kept thinking “this is your fortieth birthday party. And it’s not nearly shiny enough.”
The voices in my head are terrible, tacky, gray and itchy things that say the things I certainly know I shouldn’t ever say out loud. Things like “ok, but really that’s just a weird looking baby.” or “Patchouli is just nasty smelling and I don’t care how earthy you are, nobody should wear it!” or “yes, man-who-is-so-incredibly-overweight-that-he-drives-a-scooter-around-the-Safeway, I AM looking at the five boxes of Pudding Pops in your cart!” They have no sense of shame or decorum. They think that the rest of the world should have to pay attention to speed limits, but that I’m just that much better a driver, and that comb-overs on men and facial hair on women should just be universally mocked. Publically. I would never go anywhere with the voices in my head because they would embarrass me so badly I’d have to never return to that place. Ever. EVER. So I know better than to ever listen to them.
But this time they weren’t wrong.
And this was nobody’s fault but mine! I should have put in the time! The money! The energy! I should have taken the necessary steps to look back on my fortieth birthday party with as much enthusiasm as I do my thirtieth! I shouldn’t have “meh’d” out!
Let me be very clear here: my birthday party was lovely. I like sharing it with the folks in my family who have April birthdays. I got cool things. I got flowers from my wonderful English Sweety! I ate my body weight in amazing, gourmet cupcakes and cheese puffs and things and such! For my thirty ninth or forty first birthday this would have been a super-excellent birthday! But what I’m here to make sure the rest of you guys learn from my foolishness is this:
Milestone birthdays are important. They are those things that you can only ever do on certain times. They are special events that everybody gets but not everybody appreciates. Nobody would ever begrudge you making a big deal on a milestone birthday, and how often is complete and total selfishness SANCTIONED by our society? Answer: Oscar night, your wedding day and your milestone birthdays. So do NOT let them slip by. Celebrate them. Be sure you look back on all of your big days with a massive, poop-eating grin on your face. You won’t regret it if you do, but you will regret it if you don’t.
I await comments about your favorite birthday celebrations. Hit me, my peoples!