In case you don’t remember, I went a little mental before my birthday last year. I was having this meltdown because I felt like many of my best friends were gone, and I was trying to have the PERFECT Peter Pan party. I was freaking out I didn’t have Danielle to do my flowers, Nicole to make me cocktails, and you should have seen the panic I had over the melting mascarpone frosting on my strawberry cupcakes! If you missed that mess, consider yourself lucky.
See, I sort of lost sight of what was actually important as I’m wont to do. I often get so wrapped up in perfection that I take all of the pleasure out of the process. I have always loved my birthday, but not for the reasons you might think. It’s not about people celebrating me. It’s about having all of the people I love in one place.
This year I caught myself complicating matters again. I was devising a plan that involved ocean kayaking, a beach potluck, and a Sunday brunch at Shutters. I was trying to pick out the perfect Paperless Post invite for the occasion and realized I couldn’t even explain the weekend without multiple invites, linking it all to eventbrite, etc.
When your party is too complicated for Paperless Post?
It’s a problem.
So, I put a pin in the plan and put everything on hold until something less complicated inspired me. Saturday I was feeling like I needed a change of scenery so I headed down to the South Bay. I’m trying to write something that has been hard to make sense of because it comes to me in pieces. I knew I was trying too hard to force it, so I figured I’d head to the beach and wander without a plan. I decided to let life unfold and just inspire me.
And that’s when I had this lovely, magical day. I started taking pictures of things that moved me.
Like chalk drawings.
I wandered all of the way up to Manhattan from Hermosa taking photos and thinking. I even got a pic of the original Beverly Hills, 90210 beach pad.
The wandering continued for a long time until I came upon an absolutely massive house that caught my eye. It wasn’t the size of it I loved so much as the lines — and the stone work.
I had to keep backing up to get the entire house in the frame. I kicked off my flip flops and kept taking steps backward, trying to get it to fit.
I heard a voice behind me say, “Sure, take a picture of my house.”
“It has such great lines!” I replied excitedly without looking back. I got the shot and finally turned to face a group of men sitting on towels and drinking beer. One of them brought his phone over and asked me to take a picture of the group for his daughter. “She’s in New Hampshire this weekend. I want to send her a picture of the guys.”
“That’s sweet,” I said as he handed me his iPhone.
I took a few photos and they invited me to sit with them. They offered me a beer — and a chair. It was draped in a navy and yellow striped towel with the name, “Caitlin” embroidered on it.
“I’ll be Caitlin today,” I said as I sat down.
“That’s my daughter’s towel,” the man with the iPhone told me.
“Yesterday I was Meghan.” I said as I took a sip of my Pilsner Urquell.
We talked for a long time about architecture, writing, economics, my complicated feelings about Ayn Rand, and everything else. “Meghan, what do you do?” One asked. “My name’s not really Meghan,” I said. “It’s actually Anika.” This led to jokes about how I didn’t look like an “Anika.”
“My mom wanted to name me Meghan,” I explained. “I use it at coffee shops when I don’t feel like spelling my name. I actually went by Ana for a while in college because I got sick of being different. Then I realized I wasn’t me without a weird name, so I went back.'”
See, in some ways I am Meghan. She wears Ralph Lauren, serves on the advisory committee for a sorority, and she likes pearls. She wants to sell real estate and join a country club. And in others, I’m Anika. She goes to Furthur concerts, studies Ayurveda, and has been know to lay on the floor listening to Purple Rain on repeat while trying to write really gut-wrenching stuff. I mean, I have had my nose pierced since I was 19 and I still can’t decide if it’s really ME or not. I’ll take it out for years at a time and then just put it back in for no reason.
At my 25th birthday party, one of my more sensitive and artistic friends from college was taking in the chaos all around. There were former football player/frat boys doing shots from an ice luge and a super drunk reality TV personality eating dip straight out of the bowl with her hands. He turned to me and asked, “How can you be friends with people like that and someone like me?”
I shrugged, but he continued.
“I mean, who are you more yourself with?”
“I’m myself with everyone,” I replied.
It’s true. I am. And as I make my birthday list this year, I’m thinking about the great diversity among my friends. The only thing some of them have in common is me.
What they also share, what I can say without a doubt, is that they are all people who have done what they said they were going to do more often than not. People who listened. People who cared. People who stepped up for me when I needed it. People for whom I have done the same.
So, I’m going to bring them together this year for whatever unfolds. I’m getting a hotel room in Hermosa and inviting everyone to come down and hang out when they can. My friends with kids can bring them in the afternoon. My single friends can come later and hit up a few pier bars with me. Anyone who doesn’t feel safe to drive can crash on my floor. It’s going to be SIMPLE.
That doesn’t mean I haven’t created a Pinterest Board for my birthday. I mean, I’m still ME.
And I love my friends. For who THEY are.
By the way? That big house did not belong to the guys. Some billionaire owns it, and it’s sitting empty in the wake of his divorce. It makes me really sad it isn’t filled with fun-loving people coming together for a really good time.