Real Life at Home: Jennifer's Birthday Party Disaster

I've never been much for birthdays. My December birthday is usually lost amidst holiday parties and travel plans. For four years of college, I spent the day studying because it always fell during finals week. I've even come to accept the dreaded birthday/Christmas combo present, the bane of my childhood existence.

Last year, as my 30th birthday approached, I felt an increasing sense of dread. I knew I should do something to mark the occasion, but with my birthday angst, I was tempted to ignore it altogether. Finally, a week before the big day, I took a leap and sent out an evite. My boyfriend offered up his posh loft as the venue, and the RSVPs started rolling in.

I began to feel optimistic, excited even. After all, I was now an adult, an adult who would throw a sophisticated yet relaxed party. My guests would be wowed by my ease and grace as a hostess, by my melt-in-your-mouth appetizers and my pitch-perfect playlist. I would float around the golden party, refilling champagne flutes and collecting birthday wishes.

Cut to: the day of the party, noon. I sat on the kitchen island, bawling. The counter and floor were covered with flour, which was simply the last straw in a series of escalating disasters. Outside, it was pouring rain, which is a special kind of torture in Los Angeles where people are just not mentally or physically equipped for water falling from the sky. I had managed to alienate my entire support staff (my boyfriend) by picking a fight with him until he left the apartment. For ten minutes, I cried and thought about canceling.

Then I took a shower... and a nap. I made up with my boyfriend, who was so relieved I'd avoided a full-blown crack-up that he volunteered for liquor store duty. I went to the grocery where I...gasp...bought everything. I abandoned my artisanal, homemade aspirations and instead I bought a cake mix, brie and the fancy olives I never get for myself. I made the boxed cake and a pitcher of my "holiday cocktail" by mixing cranberry juice with champagne, throwing in some frozen raspberries from a bag. I lit a bunch of candles and called it a day.

I relinquished control; I realized that one party is not a reflection on the entire decade of my 30's. In the end, all my friends braved the rain and turned up. I even got compliments on my "homemade" cake, which I readily accepted. I finally relaxed and had fun, which allowed everyone else to have fun. And that is what everyone remembers about my party.

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