Important Life Advice For Anyone Having A Big Birthday In The Pandemic

Em Unravelling

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Can I just say — who decided to coincide Covid-19 with me turning forty? Bad enough, surely, that my youngest daughter got a UTI just as I approached my 30th and I had to take her to A&E with a hangover. A worldwide crisis, I won’t lie, seems to be above and beyond.

Anyway. I had my big birthday last year. Yes, I turned forty. And as that day approached, I wallowed in childish self-pity for the following reasons:-

  1. I didn’t get to go to Boston, Ma. last April and watch my best friend run the Boston marathon. Let’s gloss for a minute over the fact that she was a lot more disappointed than I am, not least because she’s the one that achieved the qualifying marathon time (show-off) and had already done a lot of training before the race got postponed. No, let’s focus on the fact that I didn’t get to wander around all the Good Will Hunting locations and buy a Harvard hoodie for my daughter and eat loads of pizza and pasta “to be supportive”. Also, I was really excited about hearing the Boston accent because it’s one of my American faves.
  2. I didn’t get to go to Paris last April and watch my husband run the Paris marathon. Again, he put in a lot of training, and his feelings on the matter are doubtless stronger than mine, but they’re not the point here. What’s the point is that it was canceled and therefore there was zero opportunity for me to drink red wine in Montmartre or watch the football-jugglers near the Sacre-Coeur or go for a run along the Seine. Or hear French accents, see above. Or to take a photo of one of the green-and-gold subway signs looking all curlicued and foreign, from a natty angle, and put it on Instagram.
  3. I didn’t get to go on my big 40th birthday trip. We were all set to fly to San Francisco and get the Amtrak “California Zephyr” sleeper train to Chicago (I truly love a sleeper train, I was ecstatic) and then spend some time in Chicago and then fly to NYC before coming home. It was going to be amazing and now not only is it not happening but to add insult to injury, some of the airlines are only offering vouchers instead of refunds, and who knows when we’ll ever be able to fly again — especially since my countrymen seem to be blithely spreading Covid far and New Zealand wide — so WHAT USE ARE VOUCHERS? Plus. The Instagram point, as above. My poor feed, it’s never been so home-based and boring.
  4. The house is never empty anymore. Not even slightly empty. It always has the whole family in it, and I’m aware of them, all the time. Even when they’re in different rooms. Usually, because they’re bickering amongst themselves, or asking me for meals or snacks. Or, in my husband’s case, having loud guffawing phone conversations with people I’ve never heard of and saying phrases like “absolutely so, absolutely so”. (You’d be amazed how annoying this can become, and how quickly).
  5. None of the following things could happen to celebrate my brithday: drinks at the pub. Cocktails in a bar, in uncomfortable heels and lots of makeup. Meals at restaurants. Dancing in a sweaty nightclub. Spilling out of the sweaty nightclub into the dark summer-scented night, sweat drying on skin, questing for a polystyrene tray of chips. Going for brunch, indoors. Mooching around charity shops, buying books with coins. Going for coffee in a cafe with lots of plants and chairs upholstered with hessian sacks. Meeting friends, plural, anywhere with a roof.

The biggest one, though? The one that laughs in the face of all of the above and outweighs them heartily? Well. That’ll be the fact I couldn't have a proper birthday party. Who ever heard of turning forty without sending out a mass Facebook invitation for people to rock up for jugs of Aperol Spritz? What use, now, is the lovingly handcrafted Spotify birthday party playlist (much House of Pain and Backstreet Boys — you know the sort of thing)? What is the point of even having a house if I can’t wander through it the morning after, feeling deep regret and existential angst and picking bits of tissue-paper streamers and feather boas out of the sticky puddles of spilled Prosecco?

Anyway. If you’re in the same boat as I was last year, mourning the lack of a big birthday celebration, here’s my carefully considered advice. Right? We just won’t have a birthday this year, at all. Skip it entirely. Stay twenty-nine (grr, whoever YOU fresh-faced folk are), or thirty-nine, or forty-nine or fifty-nine, until the pandemic restrictions are lifted. Not only will this hopefully solve the party issue, but it has the added bonus of keeping us that little bit younger forever afterwards as well.

Genius, I think we can all agree. (But I’m still very gutted about that Amtrak trip).

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A lover of horizons, hills, and words. Likes to write about uncomfortable things because too many people steer round those parts of life.

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