Today I turned 28.
It’s not a surprising age- one that sneaks up on you suddenly and shakes you by the shoulders, demanding attention or adulthood or something equally as responsible. No, 28 feels a lot like 27 just as 27 felt a lot like 26. I guess at this point in the age countdown you’re expected to just expect the expected: you will grow older and no one will really care, save a few amazing friends and family members. And that’s fine, because really- when was your birthday really THAT important to begin with? I feel like we reminisce and romanticize about our childhood birthdays in an attempt to control our past, segmenting it into this, that and the other. The further removed it is the happier we’re supposedly meant to have been, until memory no longer works and you’re just grasping at straws of that fourth birthday and the candles crowning your massive cake. Birthdays are relative. They’re exciting because we choose to make them exciting but more importantly we choose to remember them as having been exciting. Because if you can’t/don’t/won’t have an exciting birthday then what’s the point… right?
So I’m going to remember my birthdays, or at least attempt to remember the ones from the last decade. Considering it’s now officially ten years since I became a legal adult, lets reminisce over my nascent adulthood and collect any sort of threads that present themselves that might foreshadow the future rushing towards me:
2002: I spent the night of the 28th with my good friends from a summer spent at CalArts, Patrick, Chelsea and Vince, indulging in a Christopher Guest marathon. Whisked away by Patrick only hours before, my Mom green-lit the way for my truancy the following day (or at least my morning truancy, since I showed up for a 5th period Econ exam) and I got to appreciate a night of catching up, excellent laughs and droopy eyelids. The actual birthday was spent partially in class, partially at an improv game at College Park High School and partially at Melo’s Pizza with Laura & Betsy, later joined by Brett.
2003: With “Affairs of the Heart” closing the following day, my Saturday birthday was spent relaxing, cashing a paycheck, and preparing for the second to last performance of my first DVC mainstage production (AKA, a big f-ing deal?). The cast party afterwards quickly turned into a surprise birthday party, complete with roughly 25+ people in attendance, dancing and drinking till the wee hours of the night. I drank more than any 19 year old should and paid for it in the bathroom towards the end of the evening. We konked out around 4am and I awoke to do some cleaning some 4 or 5 hours later. John and I sat in the morning light discussing our coming summer and I remember thinking “thank you” over and over again.
2004: The leap year threw my birthday to Monday, so a dinner celebration took place the night before. During the day of the 28th I drove up to the summit of Mt. Diablo with Muscle Mike, the guy I’d semi-mistakenly made out with the night before. Dinner was in the city, at an Italian place chosen for its proximity to Powell St. BART and the guest list was made up of friends from my side of the Caldecott Tunnel and friends from the other side of the Caldecott Tunnel, a split derived from a recent break-up that ended as ambiguously as the relationship seemed to be. I went home with a bottle of rum that I promptly hid for emergencies.
2005: My 21st. Andrea and I watched the Notebook hours before we met folks at Artie’s to initiate my ascension into legal drinking. We sobbed in my bedroom and talked about the future over pizza. Drink after drink, picture after picture, smile after smile eventually found us drunkenly dancing at Walnut Creek’s one and only gay bar. We took over the place (literally and figuratively) and sped off after closing in Andrea’s blue mustang. Unlike my 19th, it never got sloppy (although it did lose it’s class several times).
2006: The day is a blur, most likely spent at work in Berkeley. Actually now I can remember our dinner at California Pizza Kitchen in downtown Walnut Creek. It was a long table with good friends, DVC derived but returned from various educational institutions for Spring Break and conveniently around for a little hurrah with me. We had pizza. We left for Berkeley to meet up with others (only Steven showed?) and had beer in Jupiters and cocktails in Beckett’s. I had a soul patch for some reason and I can remember idly smoking a cigarette as we walked down Shattuck, relishing the awkwardness of the moment in such a public place.
2007: Again the day is a blur- uneventful or legitimately non-existent, memory wise? The following week I was set to go on vacation with my then boyfriend, Colin, to San Diego- a joint birthday present meant to take supersede any real celebrations for either of us (although his birthday conveniently sat within our joint vacation). We met up with Brett & Rob at Pyramid Brewery for dinner and drinks. I remember there being a slight awkwardness. I gave Brett his painting, the one of the stained glass heart- started a year prior and finished in an emotional fit late one November night- and we tried to get stoned. I hate(d) that. Colin and I went home and continued that project until I couldn’t do anything but laugh vacantly and inhale peanuts. I didn’t feel like myself because I wasn’t. This was a bad birthday and it wasn’t anyone’s fault but my own.
2008: Perhaps in overcompensation for the previous year’s terrible birthday or because it conveniently came up on a Saturday once more, I organized a gathering in the city with a strict upscale dress code. Suits, dinner jackets and ties were mandatory and a gaggle of friends gratefully humored my need for whimsy. Casey and I had been together for 5 months and it made for an enjoyable evening out, despite the expense. He baked me a cake with blackberries the night prior which we then ate over the course of the weekend. The night ended in the Cinch, a Polk St. favorite, laughing over nothing and appreciating a velvet painting of a man being gently raped by a maned African lion. Aimless and unpredictable, the evening felt productive in a static sense- happy and forced at the same time, again due to no one’s fault but my own.
2009: 25- my first birthday spent no longer living in the East Bay and one enjoyed with literally 25 people at Cha Cha Cha’s in the Mission. I’d just returned from a vacation back east, visiting Jason & Murdock in Boston and North Carolina, and spent the entire day with James- a guy I’d met and remet and instantly found an attraction to. We made luxurious breakfast foods, meandered into the city, lounged in Dolores Park (my first time) and enjoyed one another’s company before celebrating what turned into probably my best birthday in recent memory. Friends from all over, past and present, made the trip out for tapas and sangria and we took advantage of our separate room to really have a grand ole time. I- well yeah, I don’t think I can say much else aside from how seriously excellent my 25th birthday was and still is in my memory.
2010: A desire to partake in an intimate hike, a small group of friends forging ahead into the “wilderness”, spurred another weekend celebration into Point Reyes National Seashore in pursuit of a beach waterfall. The hike was met with incredible weather and the 10 or so miles there and back made for excellent catch up time. Lunch on the beach, staring off into the Pacific, surrounded by the people I cared about most… well that’s saying something. Afterwards James and I drove to Bolinas and stayed with his sister Emily and her family in their gorgeous rental. I remember wildflowers and dappled sunlight, morning fog and cool breezes. Northern California at its finest and in perfect collision with my birthday.
2011: I got a haircut. I remember that clearly. I walked through London Fields, I think for the first time by myself, to get freshly shorn at Good Ole Days. The stylist and I talked about my coming trip to Barcelona with James the following week and she wished me a happy day. The two of us wandered down towards Goodge Street for dinner at Ping Pong’s, a dimsum restaurant conveniently across the street from the One Tun Pub- the sight of my SOAS Pub Quiz team’s first extracurricular quiz win. Lianne and Paul met up with us there and adopted James while my classmates and I got a little too into the quiz. A free bottle of wine shared 10 ways felt like triumph and the tube (bus?) ride home reminded me that in 9 years time I’d gone from Walnut Creek to London on the strength of my wits, my words, my spirit.
Today’s been spent waking up late; having coffee in bed; opening a thoughtful present from my partner, James; making french toast and smearing it with apricot jam and cut up pears; wandering to the Bullring meat market for fresh rabbit and vegetables for dinner; coming home for an early afternoon bath and the first beer of the day (after lunch, naturally); listening to current musical obsessions like Geographer and Grimes and the Go Team!; talking about future plans with James, in the coming months and year; lounging in the sun- both at home and in the Peace Park nearby where we drank beer and played UNO absent mindedly and sun giddy; coming home so I could write these very words while James prepared what I’m sure will be one epically fantastic birthday dinner. As birthday’s go, today has been a great one. Relaxed and comfortably, confidently assured of easygoing pleasures. Spending the day with my guy? Probably the best present I could ask for.
So in a decade’s time, when I’m 38 and staring back at the second stage of my adulthood, I hope I’m able to remember as clearly what it’s felt like to age in the way I have. Learning from my past is the sole task I charge myself with each and every day and if I’m still doing that in ten year’s time then I’ll consider that a real triumph unto itself. So here’s to ten more.
Now where’s my next drink…