There are some things I can't lie about. I have no problem exaggerating my plans for the weekend to get out of something or saying, yes, I did read Pride and Prejudice (I was in a Jane Austen class in college, it was one of the last books on the list, and I was fucking tired of Jane Austen by the time we finally got around to Elizabeth Bennet). But other stuff is a bridge too far.
A friend lives in Buffalo. Whenever we travel, he says he lives in New York and lets people assume he means New York City. Like, people will make comments about Manhattan or Brooklyn and he will just make vague noises and nod. For the record, I live closer to New York City, two states away, than he does in Buffalo. But I couldn't do this! For the past 12 years, the entire time I have not lived with my parents or in my home state, when I tell people I'm from Illinois, they assume Chicago. And this makes me feel guilty, that I have willingly been misunderstood, because I didn't grow up in Chicago. I didn't even grow up in a suburb of Chicago. I grew up in a very small town in the middle of nowhere and unless you are from Southern Illinois you will never have heard of it. And even this isn't true because I met someone else recently from another small town in Southern Illinois and we had never heard of our respective small towns. Today, when I get the question 'where are you from' it usually comes out as 'Illinois-not-Chicago.'
I get caught up in the pedanticness of it all.
I recently turned thirty. My birthday is in December and one nice thing about a birthday in December is you always know how far you are into things. It's August, so I'm eight months into my thirties. What an adventure! For most of my late twenties, older friends spent significant time telling me what they did on their thirtieth or even fortieth birthdays, to give me ideas on how to spend mine. One friend went sky diving, another rented one of those hut things over the ocean somewhere Mediterranean. Side note: I saw pictures, it looked gorgeous and apparently she got the room at a steal because there were terrorists nearby. Do what you can, I guess.
My thirtieth birthday was going to come at a weird time - days before Christmas, days after moving from Germany back to Indiana. I entertained several ideas - maybe I would stay in Europe a few extra days, spend my birthday in Paris. Or maybe I would fly through New York and spend my actually birthday in NYC. But the truth is, by December, after a year of traveling, I was tired and out of money. I had spent a week in NYC in May. I had spent so many weekends traveling around Europe. I kind of just wanted to go home. Plus, with Christmas and moving, I really couldn't wait to stick around to my actual birthday, four days before Christmas.
Two days before my thirtieth birthday, I flew from Frankfurt to Indianapolis, getting in just late enough for my mom, sister, and I to have a tired dinner downtown before going to bed in a nearby hotel. The next day, the last day of my twenties, I woke up early, around three AM, and walked around downtown Indianapolis, trying to find something to do and also not freeze my ass off. Then my mom, sister, and I got up and spent the rest of the day moving my shit from a nearby storage unit to a new apartment where I would live for two months before moving to New England. At some point I paused and got my haircut, for the last time, at my favorite salon in an Indianapolis suburb. There was a glass of wine and a neck massage and it was decadent. For my actual birthday, the next day, I got up early, but later than three AM, and unpacked a few odds and ends. Eventually, we ended up in downtown Indy again, having lunch at my favorite restaurant. Tacos and margaritas before noon. The waitress found out it was my birthday and brought out free tequila shots. By the time we left the restaurant, I wasn't drunk but was very happy. I had a brilliant idea for my thirtieth birthday - I would just be drunk, all day. And if there's any day that warrants that, it's your thirtieth. We went shopping and then went to the local indie art cinema. In part to see La La Land but also because there was a bar attached and I could drink wine and keep up with my new goal of being drunk all day. But! Alas, it turns out the bar doesn't open until 4 PM on the weekdays (1 PM on weekends and holidays; birthdays apparently don't count towards the latter). And while La La Land was fun and fine, it would have been so much better with a goddamn chardonnay or pinot grigio.
Afterwards, we had dinner at another favorite restaurant. Side note: it's been six months since I moved and I'm making plans to return for the first time in a couple months. I'm very much looking forward to seeing friends and family but also these restaurants, to be honest. At dinner, there was champagne. Then back to the apartment for a couple of movies.
That was my thirtieth birthday! It was fine, nice. I don't like a lot of attention or being the focus so anything larger would have been torture. And it was nice to see my favorite places in Indy with my sister and mother, especially since I would be moving across the country in the near future.
But where's the story? When a younger friend looks for suggestions for how to spend her thirtieth, what can I tell her? Find out about theater booze policy, for one. And here is where being able to lie about dumb stuff like this would come in handy. Because I did things in preparation for my birthday that, if nothing else, sounded like a better story.
A few weeks before, I went to London and saw Wicked, a counterpoint to the first time I saw the show in Chicago, with my mom, for my twentieth birthday. It was a perfect day in London - met up with a friend at Camden Market, saw Wicked and Book of Mormon on East End. Had dinner at my favorite restaurant in London, then walked around the squares, beautiful at night, and saw Westminster and Big Ben and walked along the Thames. It was perfect!
Right before I left Europe, I did one more weekend in Paris, hitting up my favorite spots, of course. I went by the Museum d'Orsay, my favorite museum in Europe. I walked along the Champs-Elysees and saw the most famous parts of Paris lit up for Christmas. I spent an afternoon in my favorite gardens (I can no longer use the word 'favorite'), Luxembourg. I bought scarves for people for Christmas and overall had a perfectly lovely time.
I wish I could say that. Just be cool and cavalier and oh, I was in Paris and London for my thirtieth. But I can't get away with the lie. I will have to clarify. I went to Paris and London *for* my thirtieth but it was actually a few weeks before. And then I'll probably have to go into a whole explanation of my expat assignment. It will be exhausting. And then end it with 'oh I had a very nice day in Indianapolis with my mom and sister, visiting the places I like the most before moving again' on the actual day. Because sometimes it's all the details.
But I don't know, go to Vegas or something.
I haven't started thinking about my fortieth yet because, honestly, who the hell knows where I'll be or what I'll be doing, but I figure there's a showing of Wicked in there somewhere, at least.