Author of 14 teen novels and many LA Times articles and stuff like that.
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Thursday, January 19, 2012
(Dear Dears, can't write right now, so am running a b'day op-ed from the LA Times (with a few tiny edits) from last year. If you feel that's cheating, feel free to skip it and just send CASH!)
Every year about this time I start to squirm, watching my birthday lumber forth. I'm glad not to be dead. And even though my birthdays come way more often than they used to, and their numbers are surreal, I'm content to keep aging. That's not the problem.
The dilemma is what to do with the damn thing.
That is, after I've checked my newspaper horoscope, gleaning pertinent wisdom for the year ahead. Then, to my computer, where my b'day alert will have magically appeared on the screens of every one of my nine-hundred and forty-million close, personal Facebook friends.
But the chore of pressing the refresh button and typing my heartfelt "Thanks!" over and over will only dispatch a fraction of the day. If I'd planned better, I might be able to eat my way across town gorging on free birthday meals, but I've neglected to sign up for any.
It's the puzzling birthday life cycle at work.
As a little girl, when birthdays seemed eons apart, I'd recover from the disappointment of one less-than-magnificent birthday in time to get giddy in anticipation of the next. But I slowly learned that happiness didn't come in a box, no matter how promising the bow.
The next phase in my birthday evolution was wanting it to be an event. A big, crowded, noisy, inebriated celebration of my fabulousness by classmates, co-workers, strangers in bars…
After that, I just wanted my boyfriend/husband to do something romantic, which led to the next phase — kids.
During the chaos of planning and cleaning up, physically and emotionally, from my children's birthdays (the jumping houses, reptile sleepovers, chicken pox), my own birthday wishes ran from wanting a chance to shower alone in peace to fruitlessly begging the kids not to fight for the entire day, and maybe clean their rooms.
Years later, my wish was that I not have to bail them out or talk them down on my birthday.
My mom, in her 80s, keeps her birthdays quiet so the Evil Eye won't notice she's still alive. The only gift she requests each year is that my dad get rid of something from the basement.
My dad is pleased if the kids call, but I suspect his dearest birthday wishes are to see another birthday — and not to have to part with anything from the basement.
My mother-in-law still wants something sparkly for her birthday to make her friends jealous. My husband likes to hike to the top of things. My brother wants to smoke a cigar indoors. My kids just want money.
I turned 50 a few years back, right in the middle of my daughter's chemotherapy treatments for Hodgkin's lymphoma. Until her diagnosis, I'd been dithering about maybe having a party for myself, since 50 seemed like such a big deal. Ha! Life and its shifting expectations.
And that brings us to now. My babies have grown, survived and flown. I no longer have to feign interest in blowing out candles or hearing the birthday dirge. I don't need or want anything you can wrap; I can shower unmolested whenever I wish; and I already eat plenty of cake.