I told you that I didn't plan anything for my birthday this year, which is pretty much the norm for me. I don't keep track of time and think the emphasis on this calendar we have is funnyhaha and funnystrange. Same goes for the emphasis on age and birthdays -- though the idea of celebrating that someone was born into this world is a lovely sentiment.
So as my birthday approached this year, I had a lot of people asking me what I was going to do for it (friends, my mom, my company, and an especial thank you to Tyler for doing his very best to get me to focus on it for the three months or so prior). I defied them all and was grateful for distractions like Sandy ("I have had no internet or phone service to be able to invite anyone. Sorry! Plus how could we think about birthdays during this conveniently-timed natural disaster? Maybe next year!") and excuses like my bed-bugs ("How can I celebrate my birthday in style when all my clothes are in plastic garbage bags? Oh darn, I guess I'll have to just do something REALLY low-key this year!").
This is how it became, conveniently, the night before my 50th birthday and all I knew was that I was going to be over at the house of one of my longest-term friends (Michael Stipe) and that another friend I have known almost-equally long, Julie Panebianco, was going to be there cooking something deeeeelicious (that I was going to pretend to help with by cutting up a scallion or carrot, as I do; I love helping -- the kitchen is just not my comfort zone -- it gives me anxiety because I so do not understand it -- sorry).
And this is when I went a little bit crazy and deduced from LOADS of evidence that everyone I've ever known was throwing me the biggest surprise party of my life to celebrate my half-century in this specific body.
I was even so sure that it was a BIG suprise party that people had flown in from all over the world for it, which, if you read way way between the lines, is completely apparent from this text from my lovely friend Courteney on the day of my Big Big Bday Surprise:
And my boyfriend, who had clearly flown in from California for it, attempted to throw me off track by sending me this on what would be morning in his time zone (clever!):
I've been thrown big surprise parties before. My engagement party was an incredible surprise. As was my 40th birthday, when I was 9 months pregnant and came home to a house filled with friends and family and mere acquaintances (and proceeded to go to my room and lie down through it). This would have to top even that one, right? Of course it would.
Now imagine Michael Stipe, who pretty much cannot tell a lie if his life depends on it (opting instead to just say nothing if there's a secret he can't reveal), calling me to say, FOR NO GOOD REASON, at 6:30 pm: "Can you come over at 7:15 instead of 7? Or even make it 7:15-7:30?"Charlotte was at that point in on the secret with me and we laughed about who was probably late to the surprise party, causing them to delay my arrival. Courtney Love for sure. And Jimmy (Fallon) we knew was hurrying to get there with his big present in hand and hide in time for our entrance. Plus, poor mom and step-dad, stuck in traffic driving up from Maryland.
Courtney did almost give it away when I texted the night before to see if she wanted to stop by (right? I mean, RIGHT? duh, it's so obvious):
So Char and I got dressed up, painted hearts on our cheeks for my thousands of admirers to admire, and headed over. When we got there, we looked in the windows for the (Mylar, no doubt, spelling out my name with a big 50 next to it) balloons that would be filling the place.
I called Michael to say I'd be there in one minute (so that everyone could hide already) and we listened as he shushed all of the people crowding in.
Charlotte and I were giddy with excitement. We walked in and it was just what I had asked for: a super-lowkey birthday with my friends Julie and Michael and a couple of other people who would have stopped by on any regular night, only this night happened to be my FIFTIETH. Wonderful, quiet, fun, delicious, interesting, beautiful, sweet and perfect. Besides the moment when Charlotte started loudly playing duck-duck-goose with all of us and someone told her to shut up and I cried -- but you can't have everything.
Hey, if you read this, can you do me a favor and say "hi" in the comments so that I don't experience the added embarrassment of having a story with no comments on it? I thank you from the bottom of my old old heart.