It’s My Party. I’ll Cry If I Want To.

My 50th birthday is the 15th of next month.


Nobody cares.

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.



Here’s why:

My father.

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:


  1. I’m turning 50 and that’s REALLY special.
  2. When my mom turned 50, John gave her a huge party, so there is family precedence.
  3. Read My Story page before you judge.
  4. It’s my party, and I’ll cry if I want to.


Love, Jennifer

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.)

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37 Responses to It’s My Party. I’ll Cry If I Want To.

  1. Pingback: I May Not be Much, But I’m All I Ever Think About. | Life After Tampons

  2. Kate Britt says:

    I hear you about your reasons. Personally, I love all-in-one events because I’m a recluse and I can only just put up with events anyway. My partner and I went on our very first cruise for a 3-reasons celebration — his 65th, my 60th, and our anniversary. I only wished there were 4 more things because we had 4 more days on that 7-day cruise! So we celebrated our lives for those other days.

    Think about the reasons you have this blog here. Getting through middle age in the most amazing way we can do it. Turning 50, yup, and any birthday gives us a chance to celebrate the “me” that we most amazingly are and have become. But girl, you’re going to have at least 50 more birthdays, so this one is truly not the biggie it’s traditionally been made out to be when people didn’t live so long.

    You’re amazing and you do truly deserve to celebrate the hatching of YOU. My challenge to you is this. Can you reframe your feelings about this whole 50th thing into something that, at long last, isn’t quite so hooked into the less good memories from your history? I’m just sayin’….

  3. Beth E says:

    It is your party, but the only tears necessary are ones of JOY for all the blessings you’ve experienced in these (almost) 50 years. My story is quite different – fabulous parents who made sure I knew I was completely loved… I left tampons behind because of breast cancer at 45… I’m a single, independent hard-working woman… and I threw my own party. Island-themed (because Hawaii 5-OH! was out of reach), 60+ friends and family packed into every square inch of my house, tons of food and laughter and hugs and affirmation. My excuse for hosting the celebration was to thank everyone for all they’ve meant to me in the past 50 years. Best. Night. Ever.
    We all have choices and I hope you won’t be miserable about a number and a party (or lack thereof)! Life is an adventure, and I’m making the most of every day. You can too!

    • Jennifer says:

      Hi, Beth. I love your idea, too. I’m feeling a lot better about going now knowing that you all (and Julie’s olives) are waiting for me when I get back. Thank you all for making this such a special time.

      Love, J

  4. Patty D says:

    We need to be “subtle as a heart attack” when it comes to our men in most instances…good/bad of it is they are in fact wired different than our wonderful female friends…they just don’t comprehend inuendos and subtleties. They prefer and require the direct approach. I know this sucks sometimes and we wish they would just “get it” but facts are facts…anywhoo…put on some Annie Lennox (“Sisters Are Doin’ It F/ Themselves”) or some Aretha, don the ‘ole FMP party pumps and celebrate you! Kudos to your girlfriends who are putting together a soiree for you. Here’s a book I highly recommend you and all other MoJo’s gift yourself with… it’s called “Queen for a Day” you can pick it up f/ around 5 bucks on Amazon. I’m attaching the link.
    here’s the description: “A refreshing take on ringing in another year of life, with inspiration for reclaiming the “happy” in birthday, in a perfect gift book for women of all ages”
    Birthday cards for women are often steeped in sarcasm, featuring dark jokes about the stereotypical “losses” associated with aging. Life coach Linda M. Sacha has devoted her career to helping clients dismiss the nay-saying and discover their strength and potential, at any age. With Queen for a Day, she offers a powerful yet beautifully simple collection of questions, exercises, checklists, and inspiring words designed to help all women relish every birthday.
    Her step-by-step approach invites readers to begin by acknowledging that a birthday should never be overlooked; no woman should feel guilty about setting aside one special day a year to remind herself of all that she has accomplished and all that she has to look forward to. Other steps include unlocking a vision of a perfect day-it could be spent with a boisterous group or in solitude-and creating a day in that image. Sacha also guides readers in reflecting on a “Personal New Year” through prompts that tap a well of hopes, dreams, and vitality.
    Queen for a Day celebrates womanhood in all its crowning glory, and makes the perfect gift for any woman’s birthday.” (Me’n’my posse aka “The Spoonheads” are all reaching the 50 mark so I’ve bought several copies of this book, including one for myself).
    Love’n’light <3

    • Jennifer says:

      Awesome. By the way everyone, I’m not depressed about this birthday, I’m so effing proud of myself. Look at what I created this year!! And now I have new friends, too. Thank you!

  5. Cat says:

    You really made me laugh! I just turned 50 and wanted a party very badly. My husband (of 26 years) is not good at organizing and he feels bad about it. Because I was born on January 1st and we started organizing late, only 2 friends could come. And it was lovely…
    You’ll see, you hit 50 and suddenly you are basking in this new found wisdom.

    No, just kidding.
    Still plenty of opportunities to be silly and laugh about it!
    Take care, and don’t change a thing about yourself!

  6. Patti Winker says:

    Jennifer, your story breaks my heart. And, no… you can’t just put on your Big Girl Panties and shake it off. Your “core” issues are there, always. BUT, you definitely know how to find the joy in what you have. And, yes… you deserve a party of your liking. Turning 50 IS important.

    Maybe you should set that litany of celebrations aside for another time. Designate the cruise as “My Turning 50 Cruise” and everything else can WAIT. Tell your hubby that you’ll be planning something for Christmas-Anniversary-Valentines-GroundhogDay or whatever-day when you get back from your cruise. Because no matter what someone else thinks about what’s important and not important, only you know.

    Carry on! And Happy 50th Birthday. Now go put on your Little Girl Panties, have a good cry, have a GREAT laugh, and enjoy your birthday!

  7. BirdieGirl-Jennifer says:

    Jennifer, my 12th wedding anniversary is this Saturday, the 11th. In the past 12 years, my husband Jim and & I have traveled to, among others, Jamaica, British Columbia, Manitoba, Oregon, California, Green Turtle Cay (Bahamas), Maine….well you get the picture! And you know what? We still haven’t had our honeymoon. The day after we were married, it stormed and Jim plowed snow, as he let everyone that works for us schedule vacation that very week. We were just going to hunker down, stay home for a few days and let our kids and everyone else think we were gone, then take off for somewhere warm. We were looking forward to vacationing in our own home and enjoying our fireplace and jacuzzi and each other. Why he let everyone leave town then is beyond me, but in any case I grabbed a thermos and pillow and spent the night in the truck with him. I am STILL waiting for the honeymoon. Every trip we discuss whether it qualifies as a honeymoon. Of course, none do because they were not planned that way up-front. No matter how gorgeous the locale, if it wasn’t called a honeymoon when we left the house, then it does not qualify. Jim says he will plan something spectacular for us soon. I will let him do that, but actually (hope he doesn’t read this and think he’s off the hook), most days are a honeymoon!

  8. Nancy says:

    I’m turning 60 in July, and I have heard no ideas of any kind of celebration- and I am not married, so I don’t have a husband (or significant other at this time,) to be planning anything…. (boo hoo!?) These are “big” BD years, and for those of us who want to be celebrated – it is kind of sad (is for me anyway.) I am planning a road trip this year, and maybe I shouldn’t be telling my friends this so they know I still want to be celebrated?! Will have to think about that one.
    For women who are in their “life after tampoons,” and also childless and not currently married – life can be different. I have often thought I should start a blog for our “group.”
    Anyone else intersted??
    (Thanks for starting this blog!)

    • Jennifer says:

      I’m interested, Nancy. And when you’re big birthday comes, come back and tell us. Just look how everyone has been so kind to me today. You’re not alone, love. I’m here. Jennifer

  9. Nancy says:

    Opps, I was referring to the book “Queen of your Own Life.” Now I see this one is different. It looks wonderful – I think I will get it!

    • Jennifer says:

      Okay, next time I’m ordering books, that’s on my hit list. It will be my birthday gift from all of you. Plus Julie’s olives.

  10. Katrina says:

    And this is why I don’t usually read posts like this cause I get all knotted up inside and upset….I totally get what you mean about doubling things up doesn’t count (my mum is a christmas baby so that was drummed into me from a very young age…wrapping something in xmas paper and putting a birthday card on it is NOT okay) I do totally get it….but at the same time a little voice inside me is crying It’s not fair!!! My last birthday party that was thrown for me was my 21st (but it was really an engagement party for us so the one before that was my 8th birthday) I’ve never had a birthday party since then…no one has made me a cake to celebrate my day since my 8th birthday…presents from my kids or hubby….if I get one more box of chocolates I think I will scream….for me the big birthday was my 40th as everyone around here celebrates that as the big birthday….yep oh well….just once it would be nice for it to be about me…..okay enough of this pity party…..I do get what you mean and it makes perfect sense

    • Jennifer says:

      Oh, dear. I’m so sorry this touched a nerve. And I’m so very sorry that you didn’t get what you should have had. BUT, chop chop — you and me both, girlfriend, we’re going to make our own parties this year. And there is NO SHAME in that. None at all. Other people’s actions (or lack thereof) say WAY more about them than about us. When is your birthday, by the way? I want to mark it on my calendar and make sure I circle back to wish you every happiness.

      Now, go put that cake in the oven. And don’t forget the sprinkles. (Please sign up for updates if you haven’t already, love. We want you to stay in touch.) Jennifer

  11. Karen says:

    My sister taught me years ago if you want a good birthday organize it yourself, so every year except my 50th I have done so. Foolishly believing that something big might happen on my 50th,…… yeah right, should have organized that one tooooooo ……… lol. have a love birthday……xkc

    • Jennifer says:

      Now that I’ve had this wonderful day of love my wish is to plan the biggest party ever and invite all of you. And serve Julie’s olives which are now highly recommended by, I believe it was Kate.

  12. helen bogun says:

    i understand jennifer – and you have all the right in the whole world to feel like this.
    you are special (as everybody of us 🙂 ) and you deserve your party!

    with all the talk of being responsible for own joy and happiness etc. – which is also right and true – it is not the same if you have to create that party for yourself – neither should you buy your birthdaypresent by yourself.

    sure 50 is somewhat special – or not – most people say: you will get only once 10 or 20 or 50, but that applies for 19 and 47 and all the other years too.

    so yes celebrate it girl with all boom and bang that is available. make it a special day!
    it is your day!

    and everybody near to you should just think about it!

    love ya and will be thinking of ya!

  13. Diana Fredenburg says:

    Oh Jennifer…where are the cameras or the mic? My birthday is tomorrow so I know about the combo thingy and it stinks! It is like being a twin, ha ha. Birthdays have always been important to me too, but becasue I have always joked, well seriously lied about my age, people know it is a touchy subject. I really WANT a surprise party, doesn’t have to be the Marriot , and they can all lie about which birthday it is. You hit the nail on the head, as you do on many things. I don’t want to feel invisable. Don’t take it the wrong way, it is not like it gets forgotten, but I really do want something to mark these larger numbers. If I plan it myself it is just like planning for the kids graduation parties, or other events. I don’t want to do it myself…it is just not the same! You go buy some kick ass dancing shoes a new little dress and dance the night away on your birthday! Happy Birthday girl friend! Love and laughs always!

    • Jennifer says:

      Hi, Diana. Happy birthday beautiful you!!!! I love reading all the comments together. Some of us are like NOTICE ME and some of us are like, Whatever. AND, just to keep it confusing, it’s not the same from year to year.

      I told my girlfriend that I knew I could plan it myself, but here’s the thing — sometimes it just feels good to be LAUDED. (I hope I spelled that right. Kate, the editor from the UK will have to weight in on that for us.)

      Happy beautiful bday. I LAUD you!

  14. Georgia says:

    I turned 60 this past year and I told my closest female friend I had two choices. Go to the back of my closet with a bottle of tequila or do something wild and fun to show my mojo was still alive and kicking. As a divorced single woman sometimes your not sure if you have it or not anymore. And honestly there are times you could care less. But I digress….
    Girlfriends being girlfriends they can be more attuned to our needs then at times our men can be so she immediately started suggesting ideas…we tossed around trips to Bali, St Croix, Hawaii but finally decided we wanted to include other friends so we found this wonderful resort on the West Coast of Florida and booked 4 days of our own Eat Pray Love with champagne on a beach. People I loved came from near and far a small but special group. We laughed and sang and danced and starting this new chapter in my life became less about omg I am 60 and more about omg I am 60 and look at where I have been that has made me who I now am.
    The one thing I have learned about men…..they are too afraid of getting it wrong and are much happier with clear direction…otherwise they go to the do nothing it’s safer mode.
    Happy Birthday….now go show him your list.

    • Jennifer says:

      I LOVED the Eat, Pray, Love — themed birthday party idea. Thank you SO MUCH for taking time to lay it all out, too. I could feel your joy on the beach with your friends. And, you’re right — with girlfriends it’s all about Shared Triumph! Jennifer

  15. Jen(ny) says:

    Hi Jen…I just turned 50 as well Jan 5. My life is not yet “after tampons” (unfortunately) and I have been reading your “Get Your Mojo” back (saved to desktop as, and trying to go thru all your posts, etc. It looks like we have very much in common, and while I’m at the ocean this weekend relaxing, will most likely respond in “book” fashion as I am very long winded…lol… Enjoy your cruise and welcome to the “fifty is nifty” crowd!!! Love, (another) Jen

    • Jennifer says:

      Happy birthday, love. I hope you have a wonderful time at the beach and I look forward to hearing your thoughts about “what’s next” for you. Blessings, J

  16. Cece says:

    I just stumbled upon this and had to comment – I “celebrated” my 50th in October on a cruise. A couple of months before the trip my fiancé said, “what do you want to do for your birthday? I’m not really into planning parties”. Now to be fair, he use to be a fabulous gift giver. We’ve been together 16 years now, and he’s gotten a bit lazy. I agreed to a cruise, and he said “go ahead and book whatever you want”. I didn’t realize that meant paying for it too, which I did.
    So I did not get a present, because the cruise was my present, which I paid for. Oh, and halfway through the ten day cruise I broke my foot. Geesh.
    Here’s how I’m looking at it: I’m still in my 50th year, so technically I can still celebrate this milestone. My youngest child (and the only girl) will be graduating from high school this spring. So, I’m planning another trip, a girls trip, to celebrate our special year together. Can you guess who will be footing (yes, that’s a pun in reference to the broken foot) the bill?

    • Jennifer says:

      What I love about your comment is that you didn’t “pussyfoot” around the truth! Ha. And happy beautiful Birthday reprise. I’m glad you’re here, Cece. Jen

  17. Michelle says:

    So glad I found this. Tomorrow is my 50th and my family just couldn’t get their act together to do something special. ( my older kids were home from college on spring break last week which would have been the perfect time -if you were thinking about it. But not so much as a cupcake.) My dad died at 49 so this milestone was on my mind for months, so it was a big deal for me. While I can’t promise that I will stop breaking down into tears anytime soon, I will take the advice to plan something for myself soon. (And it will be a loooong time before I plan another party for anyone else!!! 😉

    • Jennifer says:

      This makes me so sad. I’m sending the biggest virtual cupcake you can imagine. I like that you are planning your own celebration. That’s a “better” decision when many would tell you it was your “right” to be “bitter.” Good for you, and happy happy birthday. Want to call me later so I can sing you Happy Birthday? If so, email me:

      • Michelle says:

        Thank you so much for the good thoughts. My 5th grade students surprised me with cupcakes and sang happy birthday to me first period this morning. Who could have a bad day after that?

  18. Pamela Berk says:

    Just found your blog and I don’t know if this is still an active thread.

    My 50th birthday was this past Monday Aug 11 – the day we lost Robin Williams – as if I wasn’t sad enough – no one threw me a 50th surprise party. I mean I’m not totally shocked as I don’t have a spouse or kids BUT I thought my few best friends or sister would surprise me. (Pathetic?) In fact I was so sure someone would throw a party that I would even dress up on the weekends – in case of a party. I feel stupid but I guess this is life huh? Upward and onward ! Next time, I guess I do my own party.

    Thanks for letting me vent.

    • Jennifer says:

      First of all, happy birthday, Gorgeous. And, YES, I believe you are right. The next time you could plan your own party. In fact, it’s not too late for this time. Why not through yourself a belated festive event.

      Love, Jen

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