Tuesday, May 26, 2009

40th Birthday Gumptionista

I’ve been single as long as I can remember. Whenever I am involved with someone, it never seems to be around Christmas, Valentine’s Day, or my birthday. Funny how that works out! I was the last to turn 40 out of my closest girlfriends, so I had already attended their surprise 40th’s at country clubs, fancy restaurants, or their beautiful homes. When I turned 40 in July of 2007, I wasn’t sure how I was going to approach it. There were a lot of things I wanted to get done, which I knew were not going to happen in the 6 months leading up to my birthday (get married, lose 50 lbs, run a marathon, write a novel, start a business, etc.). Approaching 40 made me not only think about what I hadn’t accomplished, but also what I had accomplished. I worked in the entertainment industry in my 20’s, became a business professional in my 30’s, I finally finished my last semester of college and graduated from my old school, the University of Rhode Island at 38, and walked in my graduation. I even threw myself a graduation party at my parent’s house, just as I would have done had I graduated 16 years earlier. I’ve lived a really good life, with or without that special someone. I define who I am; no one else can define you.

After all of this reflection, I decided to throw myself a big 40th birthday party. No, I didn’t have a boyfriend or husband to throw me a party at the country club, but since I was throwing the party for myself, I did have control over how, when, and where it was going to be planned. So what if I didn’t have someone else throw me a party? So what if I wasn’t married or involved with someone at 40? I was honoring me, who I had become at 40, and celebrating that. My party was held at the Elks Lodge across the street from my apartment. I made my invitations from scratch, and included an old picture of me at my 5th birthday party. I planted an idea in my sister’s head…why not e-mail the invite list and ask them to send a note about how they know me and our experiences together. It was not about my friends telling me how wonderful I was, but it was about them reminiscing about old stories, and how and why we are in each other’s lives. I wanted this book as a keepsake. Luckily, my sister did put the book together, and it was the best gift I could’ve ever received. I still pick it up and read it from time to time. My Dad, who is a very proud, manly man, even sent in an unforgettable note. As tough as I am, I am also very sentimental, and it was an unbelievable gift.

I have about 10 close girlfriends, whom I’ve known for 20 years. We are all part of the same group and celebrate our birthdays together. I don’t know how it worked out this way, but our birthdays all fall on a different month. We decided to celebrate with just our small group every month by a potluck brunch or Saturday night wine and cheese, and celebrate the bigger birthdays (21, 30, 40) with a bang. As my 40th was approaching, I decided that I would register at Crate and Barrel and Amazon. I knew that my friends and family would buy me a nice gift for this special birthday, so why not get something that I wanted? I figured I might never get married, so it was finally my chance to register. I’ve been to everyone’s showers, bachelorettes, weddings, baby showers, kid’s birthday parties, and bar mitzvah’s. It was my turn. Ask and you shall receive. It was a great party, and I got some wonderful gifts from the registry. It’s too bad that as 50 comes in a mere 8 years, I might be registering again!

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