Growing up, my parents always threw me themed birthday parties at home. I had the option of holding the parties elsewhere—one year I think I had a birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese—but then the one-fewer-than-your-age guests rule no longer applied (because of the expense) and, in that case, I could never have invited all of my friends! So I usually chose to have my parties at home where, every year, my parents arranged all of the games, food, and favors around a single theme. Some of the themes were really creative: I remember having a unicorn theme, a detective theme, and a backwards birthday party theme, just to name a few.
Eventually, though, I no longer wanted to be just a guest at my own party; I wanted to be the host, too. I think it was my 12th birthday when I came up with my own first party theme: a Barbie Birthday party! Now, this couldn't just be any ordinary Barbie party. We wouldn’t just be playing pin-the-boob-on-the-Barbie and eating pink frosted cake—not with my tireless imagination and penchant for making things as complicated as possible! In my dreamed-up game world, the guests’ Barbies would compete by selling and shopping for Barbie clothes, a bit like Mall Maddness, Life, and Sim City all rolled into one. Add Barbie dolls, fake Monopoly money, a house turned into a Barbie neighborhood via paper signs and cardboard placards, and a Dairy Queen ice cream cake (my signature! Never went a year without it at home), and you have my birthday party.
This party turned out to be such a hit that I continued to host my own parties every year after that. A few were more memorable than others; the ones that come to mind are Gameshows, Candy, Favorite Things, Camping, and—perhaps my most creative—Survivor. They finally culminated in my last and most “adult” party: my 18th Dinner Party, for which I (with the help of a few family members, of course) dragged our dining room table into our living room, dressed it in our finest linen table cloth and china, cooked a four course meal (complete with endive salad and chocolate cake for dessert!), and fed twelve of my closest friends, after which we played cards—just like “real adults.”
Ironically, that was the most “adult” way I ever celebrated my birthday. My 21st birthday was completely anticlimactic—I arrived in England about two weeks beforehand, making me of legal drinking age the moment I stepped foot on British soil. Furthermore, since I had only been in the country two weeks, I knew almost no one; thus, I ended up tagging along with two Singaporean girls I had just met to a church service they were attending. (By a stroke of luck, one of them suggested that we go out for dinner afterwards, where they treated me because it was my birthday. And believe it or not, the one who suggested we celebrate my birthday by going out to dinner is, today, one of my closest friends!)
I have no idea what happened to my 22nd birthday, so clearly that one is lost for good. My 23rd birthday was the first one I spent in NYC. I barely knew anyone in the city, so my dear cousin K___ took me out to eat my first Ethiopian food. I suppose this was a very “adult” way to spend a birthday, but again, I didn’t do much (or anything, really) to actually put together a celebration. Therefore, I decided that this year, since I now actually have friends all in one location with whom I would like to celebrate, I would try to arrange a real birthday celebration for my 24th birthday.
Four weeks before the designated date, I began researching various seafood restaurants that looked enticing, with the help of yelp.com, New York Times, and recommendations from friends and colleagues. Three weeks beforehand, I set out on a venue-finding expedition. In one Saturday, I visited six different seafood-restaurants (alas, I only looked at the décor and picked up a menu at each location; I did not taste the food). At the end of the day, I decided upon Lure—by far the most impressive façade of the bunch.
Alas, in spite of all my planning, it was not to be. I sent out an Evite two weeks ahead of time and even managed to get 7 affirmative replies. (Which, out of 23, was actually a very good turnout.) Unfortunately, those 7 gradually dwindled to 5, which shrank to 3, which eventually petered out to 2 latecomers and R___(who, since he was visiting me from Boston, would have to come with me wherever I was going anyway).
I guess this is what happens when you get “older” and live in the busiest city in the world: the people who live there get busy and don’t have time even half of the commitments they make. In the end, this turned out to be a blessing in disguise, because I severely underestimated how exhausting the process of moving from my apartment from Queens to my apartment in Jersey City would be. (Which, of course, being my ambitious self, I had scheduled to take place on the very same day.) However, it did not lessen my disappointment in the fact that I missed out on yet another birthday “celebration” surrounded by friends. But I guess this is what “real” grown up birthdays are all about: you go out to brunch or lunch or dinner and let someone else pay for it and call it a celebration. And you mark down another year past, and a few weeks later throw out all those birthday cards (except the best ones, like the ones that say: “where’s the party at?—Don’t end sentences in prepositions!—Where’s the party at…bitch?” Those you put on your bulletin board for posterity).
For next year, though, I have the best idea: I’m going to go with a Christmas theme. Buy everyone else presents….