Happy Birthday to Me

I turned 30 yesterday and I must say it was pretty damn bittersweet. Not that I care about turning 30, really… I think I will only get handsomer, and gain authority, maybe even a little respect.

30 actually feels like a new beginning, but the rough part is the thing that’s ending, or has ended, with Cait. It actually looked like we were going to work it out as recently as last week, but we had one atrocious night— St. Patrick’s Day, when the plan had been to do something totally UN-Irish, there was instead too much drinking and bad behavior on both our parts; in fact, VERY Irish— that, for her, symbolized a lot of reasons why we are simply not compatible. (For me too, in a way, though I was not prepared to give up hope.)

It’s not so simple for me, but even in the midst of my sadness over her decision, there is some sense of relief. That I won’t be emotionally jerked around anymore. That I can do things I want to do without worrying about her approval— go to school, write a novel, take a glassblowing class.

Of course it’s tough on me that she doesn’t even want to see me, but I guess that’s the way it goes when someone wants to make a breakup real. I really wanted to talk things out, but she thinks talking will only make things worse. Not sure that’s true, or that this philosophy will help her in future relationships, but maybe I’m holding onto something that isn’t there anymore. There’s no way that’s good for me. And I’m #1 in my book.

I must be #1 in Lei and Nems’ book too, because they treated me with kindness uncommon last night. I cabbed down to Lei’s place after my rehearsal for the plays I’m working on this weekend (The 52nd Street Project’s semi-annual Playmaking extravaganza— ten plays by ten year-olds, produced by adults) finished up.

I was greeted at the door with a Brandy Alexander, and then was presented with a small, elegantly wrapped gift with a card from both of them. I opened it up and it was a box of Ginger Green Tea.

While I enjoyed some with the Bananas Foster Nems made— blew out my own candles before remembering to make a wish, so I blew out theirs as well while making two good ones— I got a text mesage from Cait: “happy birthday i hope to buy you a drink or two this time next year in the meantime know i wish you everything good.”

“Not my favorite birthday message ever,” I said to Lei.

“What is your favorite birthday message ever?” she asked. “Do you remember any?”

I couldn’t, and realizing that, saw that Cait’s was actually a fairly nice message under the circumstances. Not something I felt I should reply to, but nice to know she’s not gone from my life entirely, and that we could maybe even be friends at some point when it hurts less.

Kept getting messages from my 3 years-older friend Nate, who shares my birthday and had had a birthday dinner in Brooklyn, so I cut out of Lei’s and cabbed it to Patio on Fifth Ave, where a few well-wishers were still reveling quietly when I showed up just before the stroke of midnight to a round of applause.

Jed bought me an approximation of a Dark ‘n’ Stormy— I say approximation because it was made with ginger ale rather than ginger beer. I actually had to go over and walk the bartender through the steps; when she had finished, she told me it was on the house since I’d taught her so much. “It’s my birthday too,” I informed her, for no good reason other than to further justify the free drink.

The group was nice enough to go several blocks out of their collective way to walk me home. A great guy like me shouldn’t be all alone on his birthday, and thanks to some really good friends, I didn’t feel that way nearly as much as I could have.

Don’t get me wrong— I’m still holding out hope that next year will be better. Maybe next year I will receive my favorite birthday message ever.

•••

P.S.

This one, sent along to me by my mom, almost qualifies for sheer topicality:

It’s the birthday of Tennessee Williams, (books by this author) born Thomas
Lanier Williams in Columbus, Mississippi (1911), author of more than 24
full-length plays, including Pulitzer Prize winners A Streetcar Named Desire
(1947) and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1955).

He said, “I have found it easier to identify with the characters who verge
upon hysteria, who were frightened of life, who were desperate to reach out
to another person. But these seemingly fragile people are the strong people
really.” And, “A high station in life is earned by the gallantry with which
appalling experiences are survived with grace.”

It’s the birthday of Robert Frost, (books by this author) born in San
Francisco (1874). He cultivated the image of a rural New England poet with a
pleasant disposition, but Frost’s personal life was full of tragedy and he
suffered from dark depressions.

He graduated from high school at the top of his class but dropped out of
Dartmouth after a semester and tried to convince his high school
co-valedictorian, Elinor White, to marry him immediately. She refused and
insisted on finishing college first. They did marry after she graduated, and
it was a union that would be filled with losses and feelings of alienation.
Their first son died from cholera at age three; Frost blamed himself for not
calling a doctor earlier and believed that God was punishing him for it. His
health declined, and his wife became depressed. In 1907, they had a daughter
who died three days after birth, and a few years later Elinor had a
miscarriage. Within a couple years, his sister Jeanie died in a mental
hospital, and his daughter Marjorie, of whom he was extremely fond, was
hospitalized with tuberculosis. Marjorie died a slow death after getting
married and giving birth, and a few years later, Frost’s wife died from
heart failure. His adult son, Carol, had become increasingly distraught, and
Frost went to visit him and to talk him out of suicide. Thinking the crisis
had passed, he returned home, and shortly afterward his son shot himself. He
also had to commit his daughter Irma to a mental hospital.

And through all of this, Robert Frost still became one of the most famous
poets in the United States. He said, “A poem begins with a lump in the
throat; a homesickness or a love-sickness. It is a reaching out toward
expression, an effort to find fulfillment. A complete poem is one where an
emotion has found its thought and the thought has found the word.”

And, “In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it
goes on.”

Of course I wouldn’t deign to compare my own petty trials and tribulations to the Job-like suffering of (my distant cousin) Tennessee or Frosty, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel a little validated by it, and encouraged by their patience, fortitude, and wisdom. It does go on. And I can go on, with grace and gallantry.

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