Birthdays are funny things. When you’re younger you can’t wait for the next one because it means you’re that much closer to being grown up, getting your driver’s license, moving out of the family home. As you get older, you’re not so keen for the time to pass quite so quickly. Instead of wanting to look and seem more mature than your years, you start to move in the other direction. From hair colour and beauty creams to more drastic measures, very few of us want to look like we deserve that many candles on our cake.
My best friend Lynne and I recently celebrated two major milestone birthdays. I turned 40 on September 10th, and she turned 50 on the 18th. We had already planned a Mediterranean cruise (which we will be enjoying when this Observer hits your doorstep) and as that had involved a lot of preparation, the last thing on our minds was how we would celebrate on our actual days. The arguments began in August. Should we go to a restaurant? Indoors? Outdoors? The pros and cons flew back and forth and by the end of the month we were no closer to solving the problem. In the end, kicking and screaming, I let Lynne have her way in that we would have a party at the house on the 18th (giving us a scant amount of time to remove half of our earthly belongings so there was enough seating space) and I got my way – brunch at the Ritz on the 13th. In the meantime my sister-in-law Danni, her voice shrouded in mystery, was asking us to keep the 11th free. Fade to the theme of Mission Impossible…
As we entered the month of September I kept forgetting that 40 was looming. I was busy at work and was also trying to visit the gym as much as possible to remove a few more pounds before our trip. I finally got around to emailing friends about brunch, but got barely any responses. After the second day of trickling replies my Certification in Hassling kicked in, and I began to call people. Sarah was my first stop and she sounded nervous and skittish. “Sure we’re coming,” she squeaked – her voice trailing off at the end and she excused herself quickly from the phone, muttering something about a rush of customers. The next was my roommate Dermott. “You’re a definite for brunch, right?” I queried, as he furtively looked left and right and finally ended with a vague “Yeah…of course.” What was going on here? What kind of friends were these? I had been with them through thick and thin (kind of) and now none of them seemed even vaguely interested in my plans. As I sat there privately reckoning that this was turning into a pretty cheap birthday for me, I suddenly had a phone call from Carol, who is always called in when frank truthfulness is needed.
“Vicki, stop calling people. Plans have been made, and I’m not telling you anything more than that, but something is being organised for you both for the 11th and I know you are a control freak, but you just need to stop emailing and calling friends because they are calling me in turn, all worried, not knowing what to say, and I can’t take it any more.”
After that I shut up. Besides, it meant cancelling the party at the house on the 18th and I was all over that like white on rice. I didn’t have to clean? I didn’t have to organize food? I didn’t have to buy stock in OFF spray? Hot dog!!
September 11th began bright and early with an eye-catching photograph of myself grinning back at me from Page 8 of the Caymanian Compass. For those of you who saw it, yes, those were balloons. My dear friend Lynne had submitted a snap from years ago taken when I was on my way to perform a singing telegram – I remember it well because the enhancements kept hitting the steering wheel, so she had to drive me. But I digress…
Our instructions for that evening were to dress in a semi-formal fashion and be ready for pickup at 6.30. There was a knock at the door, and we opened it to a dapper young man in a suit and cap guiding us to a waiting limousine with friends and family inside. Once we got past the treacherous reversal out of our narrow lane, it was smooth sailing. We were graced with Champagne, wee appetizers and a personalized song written by my sister who was stuck in Toronto – I began to feel guilty about my earlier petulance concerning my uncaring compadres.
7 Restaurant at the Ritz was bedecked with balloons, confetti and all our friends. It was an amazing night, culminating in a cake courtesy of my parents that reminded one of a wedding cake. As Lynne and I grabbed the knife to cut it, it briefly occurred to me how much we looked like a couple – maybe that’s why the men kept their distance? After all, it couldn’t be my loud, overbearing personality. No. It couldn’t be.
Over the next week we respectively saw our 30s and 40s out with a bang, and I still got to do brunch on the 20th. I’m sure the Ritz staff were breathing a quiet sigh of relief that this marked the end of the birthday celebrations.
It is wonderful to be in your teens and early twenties celebrating your birthday, but there is something to be said for being a little older and wiser (take that with a pinch of salt.) These days we are sharing Jennifer Aniston, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Christie Brinkley’s generation – not a bad place to be. Looking back on our get-togethers this September I realise how fortunate I am to have friends that have known me for so long. I don’t know if I mean fortunate that they know me so well, or fortunate that we’re still friends as they suffer in that knowledge, but there is honestly nothing better than spending hours in the company of those you love who want to do nothing else but celebrate the magnificence of you.
Yeah, I can still handle a few more birthdays…