40. I am turning 40 in less than 7 days. I have always enjoyed my birthdays…CAKE! But seriously I never had issues when I hit “milestone” birthdays. I was always just trucking along. Until this one. 40. For some reason that number is causing me all kinds of angst. All kinds of self evaluation is happening over here. And for some reason when self evaluating I’m not going by my standards but instead by what society says I should have done. I have always sucked at following society rules so now measuring myself against them I am epically failing in my own head. 40 is fighting dirty and hitting me yucky.
A few friends were all “what are you going to do to celebrate” a few weeks ago and I was all “wear black and drink myself into oblivion” or “ignore it completely” or “go off alone in the woods and speak to no one”. And the biggest reason for that is I am once again playing the comparison game and it is upsetting me. A number of years ago I was madly in love with a man when he turned 40 and I threw him one hell of a party. I spent hundreds of dollars on an epic food menu, cooked for days, invited people from all the years of his life, made it special and thoughtful. It was a really great event where he felt really seen and valued.
No one loves me enough to throw me a 40th. I have no one in my life. That’s the truth. I am alone. I have a lot of friend and acquaintances but no one who thinks I’m special enough to throw me a damn party. So instead of celebrating I was planning on sulking.
But then I don’t get cake.
So I’ve decided I can throw my own damn party. I can spend MORE on MY 40th than I did on his. I am allowed to invite people myself. I am allowed to be extra if I want to be. I am allowed to be my own host for my own birthday party. I don’t need someone else to throw my party. I can throw my own.
I’ll be honest. I am still struggling with this. I chose to have my party at a not convenient location (but I chose it because I LOVE IT) on one of the limited summer weekends. Rational Paula knows everyone has busy lives and things that matter to them; that if they can’t make the time/effort to celebrate with me that doesn’t mean anything other than they aren’t available that day. Little kid Paula keeps singing “nobody likes me, everybody hate me, guess I’ll go eat worms” in my head. I may be turning 40 but there is still that stress of wondering who will come and to equate coming with caring when you throw a party. There is still that hurt when someone you considered “close” isn’t coming for reasons that are totally valid to them and totally invalid to you. I guess some things don’t change with age.
But here’s the thing with age: you do get wiser. No friendship will be irrevocably damaged if someone doesn’t come, rational Paula will prevail. Less focus will go to those who aren’t coming and way more focus will go to those who ARE going to be there. I care about who is making the effort and showing up on an inconvenient day I requested. I care a hell of a lot about sharing time with those people and enjoying every moment with those people. I feel lucky for those moments.
Here’s the other thing with age: disposable income! I hired a caterer. I don’t want to make my own party food. Spending a week in the kitchen before to make things with love doesn’t sound fun to me right now. So I instead am spending MORE on my party than I did on my ex-love’s and supporting a local small business that is just starting out. Living my values AND throwing myself a party! WINNING.
And I AM loved enough to have people throw me a party. Mom & Dad. My parents will co-host with me. At this point in my adult life that means letting my dad buy some beer for the party, for mom to order a cake, to and have them both there with my friends. And that is perfect. Remember when you were like in your teens and you didn’t want your parents in sight for your party? They were supposed to be house elves for the event? Well, at 40 I’m wiser again. In the 39 years and 359ish days I’ve been on this planet my parents have always been there and I love that for this milestone birthday we will be together.
So I’m throwing myself a damn birthday party. And I am going to enjoy it. I am going see myself and celebrate myself just life I did for someone else so many years ago. Because comparison doesn’t have a place here. This isn’t about what I did for anyone else or what I have in my life right now. This is about me. And I’m turning 40. CAKE!