I don’t know if it’s just me, but every single time I officially turn a year older, I am filled with this conflicting emotional cocktail of doom. I am joyful, incredibly depressed, utterly anxiety-ridden. I am a hyperactive sphere of energy, yet also a simmering pot of self-indulgence. Boo-hoo, I am getting older. My five gray hairs are immediately more pronounced, my metabolism hits an all-time low, I begin to count the things I have yet to accomplish or experience (I have never been to Beijing, for instance, nor have I scuba-dived with sharks) and I still foolishly expect the world to revolve around me just this one day because it’s my birthday. How maddening. Is it just me? Someone out there please tell me it isn’t so!
I used to adore my birthday and be wholesomely excited for it every single year, like most kids with relatively normal childhoods. This was the day I had my three or four girlfriends over; my mom would order Dominos pizza, an ice-cream cake from Dairy Queen and any kind of potato chip of my choosing with its appropriate marriage to French onion dip. She even humored me by purchasing a HAPPY BIRTHDAY banner from Party City on my 9th birthday, which brought me to hysterics because I thought that was just so neat. A banner Scotch-taped to the wall? Just for me? Because I’m the birthday girl? YES. My parents, not entirely introduced to American birthday party culture, left me to do the birthday party planning and I would create an agenda filled to the brim with swimming in the neighborhood pool, water balloon throwing, movie watching and best of all, present opening. Usually right before cutting the cake and blowing out candles, I would gather everyone around a heap of loudly wrapped boxes and bags and opened them one by one, announcing who had given me what and why I loved it so. I was in attention heaven. It was my birthday and I was the coolest girl in the room with the birthday banner and salty chip dip.
Then came the 6th grade. I turned 12 that year and begged my mom to a have a sleepover, which was very frowned upon by the Russians.My mother had no idea what to do with a group of tween girls in their pajamas who chose to sleep on the floor. She fiercely vacuumed the night before in confusion and disgust. Ultimately, she caved. I chose Bring it On, even though it was rated PG-13 and totally had a thousand sexual innuendos which I wouldn’t understand until high school. I gathered my group of friends around the TV, offered a bowl of Pop Secret and pressed play. Suddenly, my best friend Colleen exclaimed, “There’s nudity in this. I’m not going to watch it. I don’t think any of you should, either.”
Where this sudden rebellion and vehement dictatorship came from, I had no idea. I was shocked. Colleen liked to boss me around on a daily basis, but I thought it was understood that today was my day to shine brightly.
“There is seriously no nudity, guys. I swear!” I cried, trying to persuade Colleen and now pretty pious Rachael, who was slowly standing up and quietly looking down at her Hello Kitty pajamas.
“This movie is inappropriate for us, Gina. We’ll just be in the other room reading,” Colleen said in an appalled manner, as though I had just turned on a porno, and she took Rachael with her by the hand. I was left with the remaining two girls who either believed me, or really wanted to see someone naked.