Today is my birthday. I have for as long as I can remember, loved my birthday –- even more so, my birthday parties. I vividly recall my first that I was in charge of, somewhat (in the third or fourth grade), my mom telling me I could invite a few friends from school -– after school that day, the entire class trailed behind me to our house as if I were the pied piper, followed by corduroy skirts, knee-socks and pigtails.
My mom always made elaborate cakes –- three layers with fresh cherries around the tiers and wildflowers in the center. There was always crepe paper swirled and crisscrossed, hanging from the ceiling like a happily confused double helix.
It was always about the gathering and the feel of warmth, a concentration of all that we can be at our best, most celebratory selves –- loud, boisterous, giggly, shoulder to shoulder, eyes alit, curious and engaged. Then, as now, I always feel a profound sense of sadness the day after my birthday parties. Perhaps even more so as an adult, oddly, as so much of how we interact with each other in this era is through the digital space.
I long for the mere glance of shared joy, the three-dimensional presence of hands and gestures, the sound of conversation from another room, the muss or primp of an individual hairdo, the bright, proud effort of a party outfit put together right.
But on I go, and at 45 years old, here are some things I know for sure.
1. Like most women, I have over the years, spent an inordinate amount of time thinking about my body. I have come to realize, very clearly and resolutely, that I cannot and will not spend any more time thinking about my body as it compares to the standard of beauty. Done. Not helpful, not useful. I’m not here for it. My body has served me well, for which I am grateful.
2. I have one child. It is what I/we can handle, what I/we can afford (living in New York City), and my son has made me more proud, more of who I am, more whole than anything or anyone on the planet.
3. My husband is awesome. He is. He kills it on the daily as a tenured college professor, brings it hard on the basketball court, runs marathons, is about the most morally, culturally conscious person I know, has a formidable vinyl collection and an admirable sneaker addiction. Plus he’s a really good dad. Marriage is challenging, and really, in some ways, super dumb, but my husband is an exceptional human being. So.
4. Friendships – their longevity, complexity, reality and inherent hard, hard work –- are everything.
6. I can truly say – after having worked for a myriad of high-profile folks throughout my career in media and journalism, in positions both excellent and not –- that working for Jane Pratt at xoJane has felt like the best fit job-wise I’ve had thus far.
7. Being adopted –- and all the issues therein –- has in many ways, defined who I am. It has battered and bruised and enlightened and strengthened me. What it has not done, however, is taken me out of this world. I am here, and I will remain here, despite the depths of consequence surrounding my adoption. When I was little and would talk with my mom about the pain I felt inside, way inside -– this odd, unfamiliar wound – she said, “Grow around it. Like a tree trunk grows around the place where someone has tried to cut it down.” I have since lived by that advice.
8. I give myself permission to care about race, how it is discussed, interpreted, and otherwise observed, for as many hours in the day, in my life, as feels productive. It is not my job to be conciliatory with others about the issue, and I reserve the right to maintain that race is the central narrative theme of American history and culture.
9. I am never going to be a famous actress.
10. I am never going to be rich.