Archive for the ‘everyone knows it sucks to grow up’ Category

of birthdays past and present
February 9, 2011

I’ve always been into birthdays – specifically, um, mine. In middle school, I would start counting down with the new year, checking the days off in a makeshift timeline penciled into the last pages of my FWMS planner. There was a lot to look forward to back then: streamers on your locker, screams down the hallways, even, one year, a card, as Hallmark-y as they come, with the name of a boy I would probably still leave for Dave (just kidding! kind of…) printed in straight, deliberate cursive beneath the saccharin message. Said card was said to originate with My Crush, but it was delivered by My Friend, Caitlyn, and, to this day, I still believe she wrote it.

At least, 90% of me believes she wrote it – the other 10% is all, birthday spirit! Crazy-assed awesome things happen on birthdays! And they do, they really do – for me, at least. All through college, my three best high school friends would make their way up and down the Eastern seaboard to come see me in Philadelphia on the second weekend in February, and we would shop and eat and drink (twice illegally and twice legally) in the most wonderful fashion.

Senior year brought a situation so funny we’re still telling the story and glasses of champagne at what felt like a swanky place downtown (now my neighborhood bar) and a perfect brunch and an afternoon spent dozing in my ridiculously comfortable queen-sized bed, watching the best made-for-TV movie ever. But Junior year was possibly my favorite – aside from my parents and brothers and a few friends who were studying abroad, I felt like we crammed my whole world into a tiny Northern Liberties BYO, every single person that I loved gathered around a long table piled high with plates of tangled pasta. I was the happiest girl in the world that night, despite having an obviously gay boyfriend and spending the majority of the post 2 a.m. hours hanging out with a toilet. It was magical, and I mean that without any sarcasm whatsoever (to the chagrin of my increasingly sarcastic and cynical self.)

But now, I’m getting older, to the point where another year isn’t necessarily something to celebrate. I’m not ashamed or anxious about my age at all – I mean, how can I be, when people consistently think I’m 19? – I have no desire to slow down the clock, and yet…I understand that the days when I spent all January aching and waiting for February 12th are long gone. Looking back, I even see that the past 25 years of birthdays have been a little ridiculous. As the Sex & the City girls tell their friend looking to make her wedding into a week-long affair,  “You get a day, Charlotte.” And, in the same vein, I know I can’t expect the world to shut down in honor of the day I entered it. I’m ready to act my age and party maturely and make a toast to a new year and leave it at that.

That was my plan, at least. I figured last year was my last big hurrah, sleepover style, an homage to birthdays past in honor of twenty-five years of birthday excess. Next year, I’ll keep it small and simple, I vowed, while cleaning up the solo cups and picking at leftover cupcakes.

And here we are now, nearly at 26, and my plan is…well, was, coming to pass. I was keeping it small, planning to hang out with Dave, making no plans at all really, until one friend wanted to come down from New York. It snowballed from there – of course I’m coming! Meg said, as if there was never any doubt, even when she was injured and incapable of moving without crutches – and now I have a total of five of my BFFs overlapping this weekend, ready to drink some champagne and dine out in the city and maybe fit some shopping in too.

I’m the tiniest bit embarassed – who still does this? every year? – but mostly excited.

Like they say: you can take the girl out of middle school, but you can never really take the middle schooler out of the girl, now can you?

Boy becomes a man, man becomes a werewolf
March 24, 2010

So, I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sick of being greeted by all this melodrama and illness and – this is a technical term – ickyness every time I click on my homepage. I’m still not feeling super great physically, but I’m trying to turn a corner in terms of my attitude and outlook. By which I mean: let’s move on, shall we?

I think food might be a good place to start, considering it was pretty much the focus of my weekend. This isn’t a total aberration – as my dear friend Courtney once said, I’m pretty much a “food-centric person.” I like it. A lot. But the medicine that I tried (last reference to The Lame Mystery Illness, I promise) totally killed my appetite. So much so that I reached what I fondly refer to as my post-eating disorder weight: the weight I hit after I nixed the fat-free yogurt and saltines diet of my freshman year of high school, but before I started pairing a root beer float (real soda! real ice cream! the horror!) with pretty much every meal at the dining hall freshman year of college. Suffice it to say, without the wonders of daily crew practice and a 16-year-old’s metabolism, this feat was only accomplished due to the fact that I didn’t really eat food for 11 days. I just wasn’t interested in the stuff.

The shit hit the fan on Sunday – two days after I decided I needed to get off those meds, stat. By some strange (glorious?) twist of fate, the point at which the drugs got out of my system coincided exactly with the tasting for Dave’s brother’s bar mitzvah.

Now, for you non-Jews out there, referencing a “tasting” probably conjures up images of Molly and Jason feeding each other tiny, tidy bites of different flavored wedding cakes, right? Think again. Jewish special occasions are all about food: specifically quantity, though quality helps too. Those jokes about Jewish grandmothers grabbing rolls off the buffet line and stashing them in their pocketbooks? 100% Real. That urban legend about Jewish grandfathers (er, me) staking out the door where the servers come out? Less legend, more true.

So that’s your base-line bar mitzvah. But Dave’s parents took it up a notch for this one, at which we will celebrate the baby of the family’s coming of age. They ditched the Original Tacky NJ Catering Hall, where food surely flowed aplenty at all three other kid’s parties, to the New Tacky NJ Catering Hall, where it’s a fucking avalanche of grub. And I do mean that literally. This place has branded itself as a palace of gluttony. Dessert alone is going to send these kids into a diabetic coma: cotton candy machine, bowls of full-sized chocolate bars, a Viennese table (translation for the non-Jews/Italians: massive table, covered in desserts, rolled out to much fanfare on the dance floor.)

But dessert was not our mission – or at least not our main mission – when we headed over to the New Tacky NJ Catering Hall on Sunday. We were charged with helping Dave’s parents pick the adult’s menu, specifically the entrees. Of which there were six. SIX. They brought us six full-sized portions of salmon, chicken and beef dishes: some fried, some topped with cheese, spinach and cream, others dusted with a Thai chili marinade; all, unfailingly, super rich and heavy. Oh, and that was after the cold appetizers, hot appetizers (egg rolls! scallops! things made out of phyllo dough!) and Caesar salad, but before the chocolate mousse for dessert. And, let me repeat this: all full-sized portions.

The staff was ready and waiting with styrofoam takeout containers, but I was not going to let this catering hall best me. After starting out strong with the appetizers and salad, I took down at least three full entrees worth of fish and meat, even polishing off the chocolate mousse – which wasn’t very good, but no matter. When it was all over, I leaned my spoon against the empty dish in triumph and reclined in my chair like it was Passover. (Show off.)

The place itself was about as Jersey as it gets: fake pillars, fake waterfalls, fake fountains designed to look like they were imported from Rome (they weren’t.) Ballrooms with themes like “France,” “Italy” and “New York.” (So exotic!) The effect was such that I felt the need to turn to Dave and say something to the extent of, “Babe, I totally feel like we’re in Italy!” As a native of the state, he failed to find the setting as funny as I did.

And the truth is, it’s really nothing to make fun of. Despite all my criticism, I’m sure it’s pretty cool from the perspective of a thirteen-year-old, who is what this night is all about anyway. His friends will get to run around the whole bottom floor of the place with no parents in sight. The fake windows and disco balls dotting the ballroom light up any color you choose – in his case, it will be blue and silver, obviously, as the soiree is Yankees-themed. It’s pretty much your classic bar mitzvah venue, exactly what comes to mind when you think of “New Jersey” and “coming of age.”

Although, to be honest, I don’t think it would have flown with this girl. She’s always been a bit more…particular.

wedding season
March 10, 2010

You probably didn’t think it could get much more dangerous than that Anthro + puppies thing, did you?

But you thought wrong. Because I am going to be … wait for it … an honorary bridesmaid.

Yeah, at first I wasn’t really sure what that is either. When my friend Katherine – who got engaged shortly after I wrote this manifesto about my love/hate (or, let’s be honest, love/love) relationship with all things wedding – gave me the job offer last Friday I was all, of course! Thank you! That’s so sweet! Now what the f does it mean?

I’m still not 100% sure, but it appears as though the title of “honorary bridesmaid” entitles me to the best of both worlds. I get to go to the bridal luncheon and the rehearsal dinner and of course the bachelorette party, but I don’t have to plunk down a wad of cash for an unflattering dress I’ll never wear again. Sign me up. All the fun with none of the responsibilities!

(Except to help her decide whether to order her gown in champagne or ivory. A task I take very seriously, obviously.)

While I’ve had lots of acquaintances get engaged and even married, Katherine is the first of my close friends to have a ring on her left hand, the first one to call me – squealing – right after it happened. I’m so, so happy for her,  but I have to admit, it’s a teensy bit strange for me to think about the fact that she’s going to have a new last name four months from now. Especially since I was with her when she met her husband-t0-be. During an adult kickball game. Yes, actually.

But she’s getting hitched, whether I’m ready for it or not. Come July, Dave and I will be making the 10.5 hour drive down to Lake Junaluska, North Carolina, where we’ll meet Katherine’s Extremely Southern Mother and drink sweet tea and pretend like we don’t actually live together (in sin) and maybe even hit up Dollywood, because, yes, Lake Junaluska is far closer to Tennessee than UNC. And, most importantly, I’ll get to spend some time with Katherine, before all the guests and madness descend, before she stops being the silly, semi-awkward KJ I met 2.5 years ago and starts being someone’s wife.

Best of all, I can do it all in the dress of my choice.

Curly Sue
March 8, 2010

The first time Amruta came to my parents’ house in Connecticut, she was fascinated by my seventh grade school portrait.

It sits in a large frame in our family room – a blown-up, close-up snapshot of me in all my 13-year-old glory. My eyebrows are bushy. My skin is pale, nearly translucent, dotted here and there with a stray pimple, made all the more obvious by my inept use of a CVS concealer stick. The rubber bands on my braces match my striped Old Navy cardigan (not a coincidence – I’ve always been completely committed to outfit coordination, no exceptions for orthodonture.)

Most notable though, is my hair: dark, pouffy, frizzy, evidence of the lifelong battle I had just begun to wage against my curls.

Age 6. Apparently OK with my locks.

A few months after seventh grade picture day, my friend Bridget tweezed my eyebrows for my bat mitzvah. Then the braces came off. I learned how to correctly use a blowdryer; I learned how to correctly use Jergens Natural Glow moisturizer. I sacrificed my sixteenth birthday present in the name of auburn highlights, and I discovered the wide world of flat ironing – in Amruta’s freshman dorm room, actually.

Age 20. Addicted to the flat iron. Also, a little chubby - but that's neither here nor there.

And that’s how I looked when Amruta first saw my seventh grade portrait, the summer after our sophomore year of college: skin a little tanner than it should have been, hair a little lighter than it should have been and nary a curl in sight. So I guess it wasn’t so surprising that she was struck by the picture.

“You look so…Jewish,” she said. I think some Holocaust jokes were made; maybe the nickname Rifka was thrown out there. I laughed it off.

But it actually was a pretty significant thing for me, a pretty big part of who I was. As long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to be different, to look different – and that meant lighter, straighter hair. I remember falling asleep as a little kid, twisting a lock around my finger, convinced that if I could just make it a little softer and smoother, I’d wake up blonde.

It’s totally weird, I know. But to me, my hair represented all the things that separated me from most of the people in my school and my town: my religion. My parents. My looks.

Most of this was completely perception – after all, we’re right next to Westport, it’s not totally devoid of Jews. And while African American women often find their hair style of choice to be infused with political undertones, my curls definitely didn’t carry the same weight, weren’t as tied to my ethnicity. Still, I somehow came up with this image of what was right and pretty and perfect and it definitely didn’t have room for ringlets.

So I straightened it. Nearly every day, for nine years.

I wish I could say that one day I woke up and was all, I’m going to embrace who I am and make peace with my body and my genetics and stop wasting hours in front of a mirror with a round brush. But it didn’t really go down like that.

What happened was that my hair started getting damaged, looking flat. My highlights started getting expensive.

So I decided to lay off the styling a bit.

I still can’t really handle leaving my hair totally curly. But I’m ok with wavy now, with letting it almost entirely air dry, especially in the cold, dry winter weather. I’ve retired my flat iron. I haven’t colored my hair in nine months. And I’ve started to realize: hey, this is what I’m supposed to look like. There’s a reason my hair is this color, this texture. It’s me. There’s no point in fighting it anymore.

Over it.
March 3, 2010

So, I haven’t told you about my weekend yet, huh? About how I played beer pong and listened to Lil’ Wayne and OD’ed on sour watermelon candy in the backseat of Dave’s parents’ Accord?

If that’s not reverting, I don’t know what is.

Yeah, I still have a little anxiety about That Awful Birthday. But I actually had a lot of fun playing college senior/honorary member of Dave’s family for the weekend.

There was some car ride interrogation: “Rachel, if David got a residency in New York, how easily could you transfer to [Big, Prestigious Paper my media company owns]?” aka “Don’t even think about taking our son somewhere that would prohibit him for coming home for Sunday night dinner.”

There were no less than three trips to Wegman’s, Dave’s family’s grocery store/restaurant/entertainment venue of choice.

There was a hilarious episode involving Dave’s freshman sister and her freshman friend, who insisted she could get them into a bar with just their Cornell IDs, simply by dropping the name ‘Arturo’ at the door. Um, yeah. FAIL.

There was some quality time with Christie Lee. There was a lot of really gross, gray slushy snow. There was a lot of Natty Light.

You know what there wasn’t?

Nostalgia. Urges to send drunken text message to cell phone numbers I should have forgotten by now. Ghosts of ex-boyfriends past.

It surprised me, actually. I spent a fair amount of time up at Cornell during my freshman year of college, visiting That Kid. And I completely expected to be bombarded by the memories – that frat house where I lost my fleece and engaged in questionable behavior in order to score Mardis Gras beads, the quad where we (probably mistakenly) decided to give the relationship another go after a month-long “break” (in name only.) But the memories, the nostalgia, the ache for the days before I gained the Freshman 15 25 – they never came. I felt nothing the whole weekend – save gratitude that I didn’t have to spend four years in Ithaca. (It’s called a safety school for a reason, people.)*

It was slightly disorienting, to be honest. I was so used to being so affected by him, even long after we ended the relationship (which again, took a lot longer in practice than in name.) Years after my feelings for him had disappeared, the littlest things – a random Facebook message, a Journey song blasting at a bar – continued to throw me for a loop. I’m the queen of overanalysis, of rumination, of Not Letting Things Go. So I kind of thought it would just always be that way. I mean, I really was over him, I was just kind of…haunted.

Who knew all it would take to make the ghosts go away was a trip to upstate New York?

*Harsh, I know. Get over it.

Taking a stand
February 27, 2010

The way I see it, there are two ways to deal with this whole quarter-century thing.

I could sit here in my apartment, staring (horrified) at my gray hairs, examining those creepy little wrinkles that have begun to develop on my forehead, thinking about the fact that one beer at dinner basically did me in for the night. I could sift through my old Facebook photos, marveling at the tube tops I wore and the shots I took and…my god, did we really chase Bankers Club vodka with celery sticks? I thought that was an urban legend.

I could pine for the days when my best friends were one floor away, instead of across the globe, when I could wear my rings on any which finger I chose without fear someone might make a (completely incorrect!) assumption about my marital status.

Or I could spend the weekend partying with a bunch of college seniors in upstate New York.

Look, I know it might not be the healthiest approach. I know I’ve talked a lot of shit about Cornell in my day (in my defense: it’s extremely appealing to make fun of the only Ivy League school that’s worse than your own, plus my ex-boyfriend went there and I mean have you seen Ithaca?) I know sleeping on the floor of Dave’s brother’s room in some gross, all-boys Collegetown house is going to suck and and that our inevitable late night trip to something called “The Grease Truck” is probably a bad idea and that I could barely get down something called a birthday cake shot last weekend.

But it’s just one night. And those tube tops are way too cute to retire already.