Last night I was fully emotionally prepared to spend my 25th birthday sans glamor. No organized dinners. No crazy parties. Not even a fancy restaurant. After a good ol’ fashioned yankee breakfast with my two roommates, Pablo and Mariano (the equipo san luis), and a very lazy day lounging around the house reading (for pleasure!), I tried very hard to be completely satisfied with a homemade Mexican dinner and a kilo of delicious ice cream.
Birthdays are a funny thing. While a quiet and tranquilo birthday might be quite acceptable in the United States, an uncelebrated year in Argentina might be seen as a sign of depression and of generally a mal humor. I tried not to buy into any of that when I casually invited some of my closest friends over at the last minute for pizza and beer, but everyone seemed to be working, or sick or otherwise unavailable. I tried not to react as the following: oh you can’t come and toast for my birthday? Ok no problem. Doesn’t matter that in the past two years I have been to count them one, two, three, four birthday dinners or parties/outings of yours. But no worries buddy; I understand. Yes Yes you must indeed be tired from working so hard.
No no. I would not fall into that pattern. After all, I hadn’t planned anything myself, and I had told anyone who asked that I didn’t think I would do anything. So the only expectations I could reasonably have was no expectations.
At 8 pm last night Pablo arrives with Tati, one of his best friends and a good friend of mine and of the house in general. OK no worries, one more for dinner, the more the merrier. Mercedes rings the doorbell a few minutes later. Mercedes I was expecting. Great, now we are five for Mexican food. A five-person dinner shapes out quite well. Not pathetic at all. No risk of sounding depressed when acquaintances ask me what I did for my birthday and I tell them I dined on tasty Mexican food (still exotic cuisine in Argentina) with five of my closest friends.
At the grocery store, Pablo and Mercedes keep trying to argue with me that we need more food. I have to repeatedly remind them that there are only five of us for dinner. They agree but seem hesitant nonetheless. But what if someone randomly drops by to say hi? Pablo asks me. I curtly respond (without a hint of hurt in my voice, I assure you), Pablo, nobody is going to stop by just to say hello. First of all I didn’t invite anyone, and people can’t be dropping by my house whenever they want! That would be rude, and I am not friends with rude ass people. Ahh OK OK, Pablo looks at Mercedes out of the corner of his eye.
I should have known something was up at that very moment, but suddenly I get a phone call from Luis, one of my best friends. Now Luis waiting until 8:30 pm to call me on my birthday is strange indeed. To be honest I was surprised he wasn’t at my door the night before with a bottle of champagne in order to toast at midnight. Perhaps I admit that when I said hello to Luis on the phone, my voice was chilled. What was chilled quickly became icy as it became apparent that Luis hadn’t even called to wish me a happy birthday, but instead to confirm a project meeting we have planned for this Friday. I quickly hung up. He forgot my birthday??? How strange, I told Pablo, that Luis, of all people, would forget my birthday. After everything I did for his birthday this past year... I should have known then too, but I tried to push it out of my mind so as not to damper the mood.
Shortly after we got home and started cooking, the doorbell rang. Who is it? I asked. Pablo told me in a hushed voice that Mariano had invited some of his friends over for dinner after the theater. Why Mariano would invite people who aren’t my friends to my birthday dinner, if you could call it such, was beyond me, but I was determined not to be upset. Pablo also seemed agitated by Mariano’s lack of propriety, and he egged me on a bit. But it wasn’t Mariano’s friends. In walks Christoph, without explaining anything more than, Pablo invited me. I should have known then too, but Christoph is new in the city and maybe Pablo invited him to be friendly.
Doorbell. In walks Ariel and Tommy. Doorbell. Here come Jackie and Juan Manuel. Doorbell. Alcy and Sylvestre. Doorbell. Marcelo, Michael, Rodrigo, Juan Pablo, and Juanqui. Davin. Francisco and Damien. Doorbell. Doorbell. Doorbell. Doorbell.
Soon enough our house was full of no less than 30 of my closest friends, all helping to cook and pouring themselves glasses of wine, fernet, and beer. There were appetizers that seemed to have appeared from no where. Are those empanadas I see people making? In short, a total success and a new take on a surprise party. Rather than one big jolt of surprise walking into a room filled with faces, my face was painted with a big smile every time the doorbell rang and in walked a few more friends.
We ate, we drank, we talked and danced. We even played spin the bottle. In short I had a fantastic birthday, more than anything I could would have hoped for and much more than what I had expected. Thanks to Pablo and Mariano and everyone else who helped organize and everyone for caring enough to come and celebrate a quarter-century of life.
with many besos and lots of amor...
Photos credit: Tati Maurizi