Orginally published in October 2014
What do you do
When the one who means the most to you
Is the one who didn’t show?
You should’ve been here.
And I would’ve been so happy.
You called me later,
And said, “I’m sorry, I didn’t make it,”
And I said, “I’m sorry too,”
And that was the moment I knew.
My birthday has always kind of been shit. At least the ones I can remember. Whenever I complain to my parents I’m told that I had this really great party one time when I was 4.
Last year was the worst of all – the day was pretty good by my standards until the end, when the one person who really should have been there just didn’t show up for some reason. I can take solace in the fact that at least THAT won’t happen again this year, but that changed something for me.
I always had low expectations but I trusted that people would be there if they could. I still felt like I was worth showing up for.
I had this tiara that I’d been breaking out every year on my birthday all throughout university. I wore it in inappropriate situations really obnoxiously. In class, at dinner, on the street, etc. I didn’t do it for attention, and to be quite honest people didn’t seem to notice or care – I did it to make myself feel special for once.
I was wearing it then, and when the clock struck midnight and I fully realized what had just happened, my first reaction was to take the stupid thing off, but I couldn’t just stop there. I had to break it into pieces Mean Girls style and hurtle them across the room into the garbage can. Because princesses don’t get stood up. I did. I was alone. I was not even worthy of a cheap plastic tiara.
It took me weeks to stop yelling at him about it and more weeks to stop crying about it and nearly a year to write about it, but apparently I’m still not over it. I’m over that particular event, sure, and I forgive him, but I have this fear now. I don’t just have low expectations, I’m actively dreading it.
I fear that no one’s going to be there; I fear that even if I KNOW that in advance, something bad will still happen and I’ll still cry and it will be yet another thing that I have to get over.
I don’t know why it’s such a big deal. Most people I know don’t give a shit about their birthdays. They also never spend it alone, because they have people who love them who will plan parties for them and force their presence upon them and what not, but they don’t give a shit.
I’ve always been told that nothing is about me, and when it is about me, it’s because I’ve done something wrong. I guess I like birthdays because by definition, they’re supposed to be the one day that actually IS about you. It angers me that I’m the last thing on people’s minds even on that one day.
That tiara. It probably cost me like $3 but it feels like all of my self-worth was in there. I feel like I should get a new one just to get that back, and to do something that makes me feel good and be ME, but the truth is that I still don’t feel like I deserve it. The girls who wear tiaras are the ones with boyfriends and friends by their side and a jam-packed social calendar. I’m not that girl. My calendar may be full, but it’s ALL work.
I feel this thing that I don’t really know what to call – it’s not a feeling that I have often. I realized this week that it’s shame. Embarrassment. I hate that this is my life, still. I wanted this type of thing to be in my past.
I’m turning 22 this week, and so far, I’m not having much luck, yet again. I can’t sit around in my apartment alone wearing a tiara, can I? That’s stupid. If being 22 is about being miserable and magical at the same time, then I am certainly NOT feeling 22. I’ve only got it half down, damn it.
I want nothing more than to dress up like hipsters (aka dress like myself, probably) and make fun of our exes and have breakfast at midnight and fall in love with strangers! But how do I make that happen?
My mom told me last year that birthdays are not your job. Birthdays are other people’s jobs. It’s your friends’, boyfriend’s, family’s job to plan parties for you and buy you presents and buy you tiaras. If they don’t, then you just don’t get those things. You’re not supposed to do them for yourself.
Of course, I live in the real world and realize that while that might be nice, sometimes that doesn’t happen, and if I actually followed that advice I would be guaranteed to have nothing. So I always try to take matters into my own hands, to no avail. It feels like I’m trying to convince people to hang out with me, begging. They’re supposed to want to. I shouldn’t even have to say anything at all. It’s not just the one day. It’s part of a larger problem.
But you know what? I’ve been waiting 2 years to dance around to “22” on my birthday – when that song came out, that was my first thought. I’m not going to let anyone else ruin that for me. Maybe you’re not supposed to do those kinds of things for or by yourself, but I’ve always made my own rules about the way I want to live my life, so why stop here?
Over the summer I learned to let go of my dream of building a life with the love of my life so far – by learning how to add “so far” to that statement and mean it. I let go of making the idea of finding a new best friend and partner and getting married the first thing on my mind. I will always want those things and they’re a huge part of who I am, but I’ve learned how to make the best of what I have.
Similarly, I will always want to be surrounded by people on important days like my birthday. I want to drive around singing in the car at midnight and catching up with my only link to my past, for old times’ sake. I’ll always believe important moments warrant important people whose words have 10x the weight to them thanks to years of experience. But I’ll still make the best of the day even if no one comes through.
All this time I’ve been thinking that the point was to find someone to crown me and reinstate my tiara-wearing capabilities, making me a princess again. Someone who thinks that I’m worth it. But that’s not the point. The point is that that person does not exist. I’ve been told that they’re out there somewhere, and maybe they are, but they don’t exist right now. Right now, the only person with the power to appoint me Princess is me. So if that’s something that I want to be, I’d better learn how to do that. I have to create that worth for myself, whether it’s ‘proper’ or not. I have to decide that I’m worth celebrating.
So, this Saturday you can find me really obnoxiously wearing a new tiara that I probably bought myself, playing Taylor Swift way too loudly and eating copious amounts of pizza and cake, dancing around with my roommate’s cat in my apartment. Maybe I’ll curl up with a good book or watch more Gossip Girl. Or maybe I’ll be driving way too fast down the streets of my hometown on my way to absolutely nowhere, singing in my car.
Because whether or not anyone else is there – I am delightful.