My 50th birthday is the 15th of next month.
Feel sorry for me.
When my mom turned 50, her Significant Other gave her a huge party at the brand new fancy-dancy Marriott near our house. There was music and amazing food and an open bar and everything. And everyone got all dressed up and it cost a fortune.
I’m getting nothing.
Okay, to be fair, by husband and I are going away. On a cruise.
But that was our combined Christmas/Wedding Anniversary gift to each other. Therefore, in the gift-giving accountancy conundrum that is not one of our best marital features, this ONE trip is ON THE BOOKS as FOUR gifts. His Christmas, my Christmas. His anniversary, my anniversary.
Okay, so the trip counts for four things. Don’t forget that this ONE thing is already FOUR things, because that is going to be a really important point.
So, when my husband asked me if I wanted to go on a cruise to celebrate these two combined events which account for FOUR things, I SAID, “Okay, but I don’t want it to count for my birthday and Valentine’s too.”
In other words, the trip is already FOUR things, but I wasn’t willing to make this ONE THING into SIX things. My husband is very literal, so it’s important to spell out how many combo things each ONE thing counts for.
So, to be clear, I added an edifying statement, “PLUS, my 50th birthday is really important to me. When Mom turned 50, John gave her a HUGE party at the Marriott and there was music and fancy food and open bar and everyone got all dressed up and it was really special.”
He already knew that story, but I felt it was worth repeating.
So now we come to the Big Girl Panties part: I know that it is my responsibility to take care of myself. Therefore, if it is my birthday and I want a party, I need to make arrangements for that myself. (I thought mentioning it would be enough, but it seems I need to go further.)
That idea makes me sad, because what I really want is to be important enough to be feted by the people I love. And I want them to think – in advance – about that and make that happen. In other words, I want to be remembered, I want to feel important, I don’t want to be an afterthought, etc.
To be fair, this is not all on my husband. We have only been married two years, I had 48 years of relationships before him. Maybe everyone is thinking the other one is going to do something. Plus, being acknowledged on my birthday has always been an overly important thing to me.
He was an alcoholic. He left when I was two. He never came back. He died when I was 11. I have two face-to-face memories of him. It would have been easy for him to be more present. He lived 15 minutes away. I guess he was busy. Drinking.
During those nine years between abandonment and death, I waited and waited and waited for him to want me. Every Christmas and birthday season I would secretly check the mail to see if a card was there. (You had to be secret because it’s worse if your shame is known to others in the household.)
At any rate, the cards, the calls, the acknowledgement never came. When he died it was a relief. I could no longer be rejected. Now it made sense why the acknowledgement never came.
That was a long time ago, and, since I’m turning 50 in a couple of weeks, I’m a big girl now and what my daddy did or didn’t do is kind of irrelevant. Except for this:
Since our earliest wounds were laid down when our brain was developing, they are likely to resurface when something in today’s world feels familiar. It is my responsibility to understand that, because that helps me gain perspective and proportion on what is happening in my life today.
My husband will throw me a party if I ask him to. I have to spell it out because HIS FATHER didn’t abandon him and he just isn’t thinking, “Oh my poor dear wife. I’ll bet she’s thinking I’m abandoning her too and I want to rush in and reassure her that I adore her by inviting everyone she’s ever known to the Marriott and serving mini-quiche to all of them.”
So, it’s my 50th birthday in a couple of weeks. My father is long since gone, and I get to put on my Big Girl Panties and be responsible for my own happiness, my own joy, my own celebration. Now that I think about it, I don’t really want a party anyway. I think I want to go away by myself for a couple of days and get right sized with my gratitude.
After the cruise. Which counts as FOUR things. And no, I don’t want jewelry. (Well, okay. I wouldn’t turn away those diamond studs I told you about. No tiny diamond chips, please. I’m 50. Not 13.) I think I want a party after all. When I get back from my Not Party weekend. By myself. To get grateful. But, when I get back from the cruise and the not party gratitude weekend by myself, I want a party. With all my friends. But not at the Marriott. That’s been done. I want a party somewhere else. Figure it out.
Oh, one more thing.
In case you’re thinking I’m really shallow and I should be grateful because my ONE thing gift that counts for FOUR things is still pretty special and I should think about all the war(s) and the starving children and global warming, here’s what I have to say to you:
- I’m turning 50 and that’s REALLY special.
- When my mom turned 50, John gave her a huge party, so there is family precedence.
- Read My Story page before you judge.
- It’s my party, and I’ll cry if I want to.
Photo: Flickr, will clayton
PostScript: I told two of my best friends about this piece. They’re giving me a party. (That means, dear husband, the diamond studs are still an open option. But they only count as ONE thing, even though I have two ears. Because Valentine’s Day is a different thing. And if my birthday were in August, you’d have to do something separate for each thing. I hate this combo gift shit. I’m not doing it again.)