In my apartment, birthdays are extravagant affairs. You can expect anywhere between 30 and 100 people to show up. The agenda is simple: get drunk, get drunker, play drinking games, drink. The more the merrier, since more people = more booze, which makes for more hilarity and crazy pictures and stories for the next day. Plus, you might get laid. Open invitations are issued, and friends-of-friends think nothing of showing up with three of their own friends. It's all a little overwhelming for an introvert, and i usually stay long enough to get a buzz before disappearing to my own bedroom, or my boyfriend's apartment, or a deserted corner of the porch.
I don't really do birthday parties for myself. When i was younger, my mom helped me organize and plan parties; i remember an American Girl Doll party complete with tea and games. She suggested people for me to invite, hoping both to make other girls feel included and, i think, to get me out of my shell a little. But as i grew older and more autonomous (and more socially anxious), i invited fewer and fewer people and became less and less enthusiastic about the prospect of a party with me as the main focus. My best friends and i got together for a party at least once a month, and there were never more than six people involved. Because the parties were regular and rotated in location, and because they were organized around the Orange and Blu Kidz Club (a whole series of blog posts there), no one person was ever the center of attention. These were fun, and made the transition to birthday time easy: i invited the same group of people, hosted everyone at my house, and the only difference between that and our normal monthly meetings was that everyone brought me a gift.
My last real party was when i was fifteen. I had expanded the group slightly, and although there were no guests that i hadn't known for at least five years, i was painfully anxious and uncomfortable for the whole evening. The planning and preparation was exhausting, even for such a simple party, and the things i wanted to do were drastically different from the things other girls my age enjoyed, leaving me with an awkward choice to make: please myself and bore everyone else, or turn my own birthday party into a party for other people and leave myself sad and bored and slightly resentful? I settled on a compromise that mostly worked, but that was the last time i had any enthusiasm for a birthday party, and the events of my 21st birthday cemented those feelings pretty firmly.
But this year, i decided i was ready for another party-type thing. My initial thought was to schedule it somewhere away from my house, so that when i was ready for everyone to go away i could just go home. So i picked a restaurant (Mr. Bartley's Burger Cottage; visit if you're ever in Boston!), sketched out a preliminary guest list, and picked a date. Then i got ambitious.
We will be going to Bartley's, and then perhaps we will shop for books (the Harvard bookstore is right next to Bartley's; have i mentioned how much i love Boston?), and then back to my house for Cards Against Humanity. There are a few people that i invited out of obligation, but most of them are unable to come. I created a Facebook event for it and made it closed and invite only to keep it manageable, and then started sending out invites.
I was astonished to realize that there are now more than ten people that i really want to spend an evening with. In fact, there are more than fifteen people that i would like to invite, but some of them live too far away to attend. It is astonishing to me to realize that i like that many people enough to want to spend an evening with them in my home. I never anticipated being that sociable, even in high school, when i so desperately wanted to be different than i was. I never thought i could worry about finding enough seats for everyone in my apartment. I never imagined being sad that more than five people lived too far to invite, while simultaneously being glad that two-thirds of my best-loved ones would attend.
I guess what i'm saying is, this level of personal growth combined with the staggering number of good friends is such a wonderful gift already, and y'all damn well better give me something pretty anyway. It's my birthday, bitches.