Hakeem Olajuwan, Geena Davis, Grigori Rasputin, Jam Master Jay, Billy Ocean, Jack Nicklaus, Chritian Dior, Telly Sevales, Benny Hill, Steve Reeves, Wolfman Jack, Placido Domingo, Ritchie Havens, Robby Benson, Cat Power, Emma Bunton, Cristobal Balenciaga, Ethan Allen, and me!
What could I possibly have in common with any of these talented, famous people? Well, seeing as how this is my 'birthday month' post, I'm guessing you can figure it out. That's right, we all share a birthday! I wanted to talk about how I was able to celebrate this year, because it was kind of a big deal to me – it's always a big deal to me, really, as I don't generally go out of my way to be seen or even heard, for that matter, but one day out of the year, I do like to be the star. For someone who makes a habit of staying in the background, hiding in the shadows, and silencing my voice so that others (who may or may not have anything useful to say, but seem to need to shout over each other anyway) may be heard, it's not always easy to jump out in front of everyone and yell, “let's have a party for ME!” but I do it every year, with varying levels of success.
Last year, a bunch of people suggested I 'go to the local Women's March', which happened on the same day, but I have a love/hate relationship with that march, so there was no way I was doing that. I mean, it would have been nice to feel like I could join in the march, but there were too many issues that spat in the face of intersectional feminism for me to feel good about being a part of it, so I wasn't. I felt much the same this year, but even worse – the local organizers started an online group, to which I was added by an activist friend, and I was able to ask some questions about what would be taking place during the march, such as if there was going to be space made for people such as myself to feel safe and included. The answer was a resounding 'NO', even though their mission statement (which has since been changed) read thus: “Our mission is to provide a safe and accepting platform for supporters of equality to rally and march in promotion of civil rights for every human regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation, ethnicity, disability, religion or creed.” Now, I know that's what they believe they're supporting, but the truth is, they are too entrenched in their own privilege to see that they're not, and they staunchly refuse to hear anything telling them so. So? They kicked me out of their group – way to promote equality, people – and I'm done dealing with local activists on that particular 'pink' parade of proprietary pretense. I went dancing with some girlfriends, and had a blast, instead.
This year, after several online calls for celebrants to come join me for a fancy dinner or some-such, it became apparent that none of my most intimate friends could actually negotiate a fancy dinner due to finances, kids, and other random but important factors. So I set a date and time, and invited whoever was able to come out on a Friday evening for pizza, and alerted the closest pizza place that I would be arriving around 7pm, with a contingent of anywhere between 2 and 20 people. I was completely overwhelmed with love and appreciation that 20 people really and truly Showed Up. They even brought cake and brownies! And gifts! It blew me away. I sat at that table (we took over all but one in the small dining area) looking around at these dear people, some of whom hadn't spoken to each other for awhile due to some of the interpersonal issues we all face as parents, and felt Home with my Family. I had worked all day, rushed home to pick up my son, and didn't bother to change my clothes, brush my hair, put on make-up or jewelry, because I wanted to go straight there to get the pizzas ordered so food would be ready when guests arrived, and it didn't matter to anyone. We're not a fancy crowd like that, and it doesn't matter to any of us if you're in a ball gown or your pajamas when you come to the table, as long as you come to the table.
I felt truly and utterly blessed to be sitting in the middle of this group of folks – one grandpa, five mamas, four dads, four teens, five kids, and one toddler (and a fetus, even!). It moved me. It's a feeling that is going to sustain me all year long, if not throughout the rest of my life. My Tribe, my community, my group of intimates, my cronies, the parents of my son's besties, our homeschoolies...the people I hope I know for the rest of my life, that I get to grow old with, and see our children bring us the next generation. Will it be so? I hope against hope, because these are all people I've only known for four years or less, as all the rest of my 'friends' have fallen away (a few who would come are simply too far). Even still, these are our people, and I hold them oh so dear, like family. Better than family, in fact, because aside from my mom (with whom I have a rocky relationship that happens to be in an upswing right now), my 'family' has thrown me away. But this is not about them, it's about me – celebrating myself, and having people in my life who are willing to do that with me. It's amazing, and I haven't had it in a long time. I feel renewed by their being present for me, and I hope I can do the same for them.
I've had some amazing birthday parties in my life...I remember: a bunch of school-friends in sleeping bags on my parents' living room floor (my 10th?); my Sweet Sixteen; Mom taking my bestie and me to see Cats for my 17th; I spent my 19th throwing up in my dorm after an off-campus college party; a few friends and I went out to my favorite restaurant for my 21st, where I grandly ordered my first legal beer, which they wouldn't serve to me because I had forgotten my ID, though one of the local crack dealers generously offered me some free cocaine during my overnight shift at the local 24/7 store; seeing a favorite band for my 23rd; my boyfriend choosing to work a double shift, then party at the bar rather than come home for my 30th; getting my first Barbie for my 32nd, who happened to be wearing the same outfit as me when she came out of the box (that bitch!); finally getting an apartment after spending my entire pregnancy homeless for my 35th, as well as being taken out for Indian food; throwing a 'masquerade ball' for my 40th; the homemade chicken mole cooked by a friend for my 42nd; and this - my 49th, for which there was the pizza party, a 5-course Israeli dinner with my mother and son, a movie with my son and a dear friend of ours, and a Greek dinner with a new friend, which turned out to be the 'fancy' dinner I had originally envisioned, just much more intimate, which was perfect!
49 is the square of 7 (an auspicious number by many counts, times two!); the number of days of the Counting of the Omer in Judaism, which is the spiritual preparation and anticipation for the remembrance of the giving of the Torah between Passover and Shavuot; the number of days and nights Siddhartha Gautama spent meditating before attaining enlightenment and becoming Buddha. Some Indian Buddhists believe in the notion of the 'intermediate state' (between death and rebirth) as lasting "seven times seven days" at most; the name 'forty-niner' was applied to 'Gold Rushers', being derived from when they showed up, in 1849; In blues music lore, Robert Johnson 'sold his soul to the devil' at the junction of US Highway 49 and 61 in Clarksdale, Mississippi; Howlin' Wolf immortalized the road in the song “Highway 49,” by Big Joe Williams, with the lines “Long tall momma / She don’t pay me no mind / All she wanna do / Walk the Highway 49.”
It's going to be a Great trip around the Sun, and I look forward to sharing the journey!