One of my closest friends here in Austin turned 37 two days ago. June 14. Earlier in the week I was sent a “Let’s Celebrate June Birthdays” email from another mutual friend, mentioning specifically that Shannan’s birthday was the 14. Yesterday, the 15th, as I’m google mapping my way to the party, I realize I let the entire day pass me by. Not a word. Immediately, I hit up the Facebook Damage Control Hotline:
Holy shit, did I really not wish you a happy birthday on your actual birthday? OMG, I want to die.
It’s one thing to know gifts will be exchanged, glasses raised, the small talk about how getting big feels. But it’s quite another to completely miss a birthday, not a call or card, an email, or even an obligatory Facebook quickie. I know exactly why I felt horribly wrong about it. Because I’d hate to think that she doesn’t get how important she is to me. She matters a lot, and missing her birthday felt, to me, like standing someone up because you fell asleep. As if to say, something else was more important. When in actuality, I simply don’t have my shit together.
But I also realize that for most people, especially as they get wiser, birthdays stop being as big of a deal. Not for me. For me, there will always be cake and at least one candle. And a mandatory month-long household worshiping of me. I digress.
All was quickly forgotten (if even remembered) over mango swirled frozen margaritas at Hula Hut—an establishment I tend to think of as more hut than hula. The eight of us, seated at a table the shape of a horseshoe, coupled off into smaller conversations about what we’d hoped to have accomplished in the year, about stretch-marked asses and how people can walk around in bikini bottoms too small for their bottom, about Waldorf schools and Montessori moments, about how “gluten-free” is not some passing fad like lipstick lesbians. Then most of the conversations take a dip, hitting their natural endings. Things are quiet now except for one smaller conversation across the table, where I hear, “Are we really discussing this at the table?”
“Sharing is caring,” I say. “So, spill it.” Shannan looks for a permissive nod to divulge another girl’s secrets and is given the “Sure, go ahead” shrug.
“So, she was just telling me about her first experience with… you know.” Shannan can’t bring herself to say the words. I know them before the sentence is finished. Shannan almost resorts to charades, sweeping her arms up over her head as if she’s directing oncoming traffic to carry on and keep it moving. No one says anything.
“Anal,” I say with an air of authority.
“Yup, God bless her.”
“I’ve been holding out a long time,” the friend says coyly. “He’s been a very good boy.”
It’s nice not always being “the” potty mouth at the sanitary table. Still, I get a sense that a few of the girls are uneasy with the private talk in such a public space. Girls who quilt, wear aprons, and use the word “cuss” to refer to words like “Hell.”* What will people think?
Any misunderstandings with nearby eavesdropping diners are cleared up when I add, “Retentive. Anal retentive, for anyone just tuning in.” And I can almost feel a communal exhale.
Then the game became a type of Mad-libs, where the newly poked elaborates in half sentences, skipping all the colorful words. “So, once he got it started, I really let him _______.” “So much so, that I let him _______.”
I can’t say the “cum” word either (it was painful to just spell that), so I simply filled in her blank with a “finish,” and everyone understood. Then I picked up my fork and ate my tossed salad.
I’d better meet some serious over-sharers in Florida. Otherwise, there will have to be required girl reunions aplenty. Because these are the delicious moments, when you get to see people blush, laugh, finish one another’s sentences. You realize you’re not alone, they have the same arguments about how money is spent and sex is negotiated. And all I can think is that there were so many missed opportunities here in Austin. Camping trips discussed but never planned, bingo nights that never happened, gay bar dancing abandoned, and not nearly enough adult sleepovers. There were so many openings where people stayed closed, where the effort wasn’t made, where we never really took the chance to make more memories. This is something I’ll keep with me, work at, no matter where I live. It doesn’t have to be perfect or planned; you just have to make it happen. In Sharpie.
* Not that there’s anything wrong with aprons (I own ’em) or quilting (wouldn’t couldn’t didn’t, but I’d be happy to let one of them make one for me)