Yesterday was my birthday. For the past few years I have pretty much ignored it because the day never met expectations. Here’s what I mean by that. When you are little you look forward to whatever kind of celebration you know there is going to be. All through elementary school I looked forward to my birthday because it was also Janice Davidson’s birthday, and her mother always made special cookies or a cake. Then when I got older, and Janice was no longer a close pal , my other friends always did something memorable. On my seventeenth birthday Andy Hurwitz, Joyce and Pam threw me a surprise party and even though it was the day John Kennedy was killed-- as kids we paused only for a moment of sorrow and then moved on to having fun. After high school there were only certain birthdays that were worth celebrating. Since you could drink in NY at eighteen, that was worth a toast. For the same reason twenty one was also a day to lift a glass. Having a sixties mentality, thirty meant you were over the hill. But thirty five was the turning point in celebrations for me. My business partners gifted me a spa day including beauty salon. It was a disaster. Bad haircut, allergic reaction to the cream they used for my facial, and the masseuse was a beginner. Talk about disappointed expectations. After that I kind of stopped wanting to celebrate—it wasn’t that I hated getting old it was just that, as I said, never as terrific as I wanted it to be.
Anyway on the occasion of my birthday and after reflecting about life (as most people do on their special day), I thought I’d share some memories. Actually, as you might have guessed, I don't remember the my birth very well. But I have heard the story from my mother on any number of occasions. It goes something like this:
"Daddy took me to the hospital and wouldn't leave me until I went into the labor room." By modern standards this meant that my father dropped my mother at the hospital and then was forced to desert her because some prehistoric rule declared that being with your husband during labor was unsanitary. This rule also gave the sperm donor an excuse not to share in the beauty of the birth.... and the screaming and yelling with which it was inevitably accompanied. Enough editorializing. I'm sure my father wanted to be there. Or at least I’m sure he would have been there if it were possible.
The story goes on, (as told by my mother), " You were a beautiful baby"
(you and I both know there are no beautiful babies except my grandson. At best new
born babies look like mushrooms growing in the grass after a bad lawn mowing) "You looked just like your daddy, In fact the doctor drew a mustache on your lip, Daddy had a mustache, and you looked just like him." I always liked the beautiful baby part of the
story but the mustache part has caused me no end of agony throughout my life. It was said, specifically by my father's mother, no less than three hundred thousand quadrillion times before she died that my father was very pleased when I was born
and no matter what I heard to the contrary that he was not disappointed that I was not a boy. (I might add here that I was not disappointed either). After these brief conversations with my grandmother, my father would take me off to the side and
continuously reassure me that despite my despicable behavior for a great portion of my young and not so young life, he never once regretted my being a girl. But you can well imagine the effect it has on a clever and impressionable youth to hear from ones own
grandmother-- a real blood relative, not just by marriage-- that there was even the slightest degree of disappointment about your sexual make-up. It can be a bit disconcerting-and probably cause irreparable damage. Back to the mustache part, which has been a constant source of pain throughout my life.
Like many persons of the Semitic race, and although I am not dark skinned, the hair on my body is somewhat dark. The first time I noticed the hair on my face I was fourteen years old and on my way to my first big dance. My brother, (Jeff) who is six years my junior and to whom I did not speak until he emerged as a person on his eighteenth birthday, looked at me and -- pointing a finger-- said that I looked very nice and if I didn't have a mustache I would look like a girl. I thought I would die. I
was never going to be seen in public again. I explained to my mother that I would take all my meals in my room, I would have to have a tutor if she expected me to be educated, and she should absolutely count out ever having a grandchild unless some man was
willing to marry a woman with a paper bag over her head.
My mother, who was always the voice of reason, assured me that the mustache condition was not fatal, that there were ways to remedy it, and if I didn't stop carrying on like a lunatic she would beat me to a pulp. Thus I began to bleach...and for the most part I stopped carrying on, but not without knowing in my heart of hearts that if THEY had not painted that mustache on me in the hospital, I never would have suffered one moment of concern about my appearance or my hormones. In fact. if it were not for just a few other things like that having impacted on my life I would be a normal person today.
All these incidents are connected, and so you see, I come by birthday dread honestly. Let’s pause here for another anyway; my cousin Ro says “consider the alternative”, and Soozie says, “glass half full” and they are right, so I’ve decided to do a total turnabout and look at that day with good humor. Additionally, I had a great birthday which started with Jordan calling at 6am because she forgot I was on the west coast, Seth calling to chat, good wishes from friends and family and ending with dinner with Jeff and Els. I guess it was because I had no expectations, we had a delicious dinner, good conversation and the whole evening was really fun. So I say, if you live long enough it is possible to change and now I can’t wait for next year. We’re just sayin...Iris