"IT'S MHHHAAAAAAI BIRUUUUTHHDAY" shouted the shiny woman from the crowd. I stare blankly for a minute unsure how to react. It was another Monday night open mic at the Boiler Room, one of the longest running open mics on the west coast. It is also happens to have an audience composed almost exclusively of people impatiently waiting for karaoke to start. Because of it's location in Old Town in downtown Portland our open mic often throws salt on many a school of bridge and tunnel young business professionals or bachelorette parties fun. I don't remember the joke I was trying to work on, it probably doesn't matter. Comedians think comedy is the most important thing in the world and when anyone dares reminds them that it isn't they get hella butthurt. However looking out at the shiny woman and her friends I couldn't conjure my ire because she was just having so much damn fun. Its so easy for people without a constant soundtrack of neurotic pathos to have fun. This is most people. I am the weirdo. Who the fuck am I to hate on this person who is just having a good time on a Monday?
I like cake, and drinking, and presents, and hanging out with friends, and getting to boss people around, yet I hate my birthday. I get paralyzed by the pressure I feel to have THE BEST TIME EVER yet am disappointed by the uneventfulness due to my own lack of planning. Here presented in summery is a history of me hating my birthday. The dates are estimated but the feelings are true.
No memory of these birthdays. I am going to imagine at this point my birthdays were pretty chill and mostly composed of me looking cute af while pooping my pants.
This is my first memory of having a birthday party, it is also my first memory of having a public meltdown on my birthday. Some things never change! My parents and I were living in a small grey house on Long Island that had termites but a really cool covered side porch area that was my play room. I am an only child so I spent most of my childhood either by myself or in front of my tv (NO SHIT KATIE) so I wasn't really used to having people all up in my space. My mom invited a bunch of kids from my preschool and their folks and set up tables to do crafts. There was a pinata and probably some bubble action. My mom was mad cute and hadn't been crushed by Long Island's insufferable keeping up with the Jones soccer mom mafia culture yet. I insisted that we also take my new rocking horse outside so everyone could see it. It was pretty dope, it was a large plastic brown pony that had white spots that sat on springs. I would sit on it for hours and just shout nonsense songs to nobody (#comedianpathos). Lo and behold, once the other kids saw how boss my rocking horse was they wanted a turn to use it. What? You guys aren't here to just watch me talk to myself? You are touching my pony? I mean I get sharing and everything, but this is like, my home. What are you even doing here? Its pretty rude to come over to someone's home and touch their pony.
Oh the crying.
Long island has a class range from working class to super rich one percenters. Weather its because they had to work or they wanted to pop xanax and fall asleep in the pool with a glass of white wine nobody wanted their damn kids around for the summer. Everybody either sent their kids away to camp or to stay with relatives. If they were really rich they went on fancy vacations or, if they were Jewish to Club Med. I was only half Jewish so I went to day camp and went to Lake George. Anyway, the mass cull of children from suburbs in the summer meant there were not a lot of people around when it came to my birthday. I was born in the first week of August, and while I sometimes lucked out with a choice best friend or two, the rest was usually left up to chance. Casting from the D-list has left me with a lot of confusing childhood photos filled with unrecognizable faces of toothless smiling girls. Hope they aren't dead!
My family liked to push against the prepackaged birthday thing that was big where I grew up. You could paint a ceramic cat and then dance in a back room or a craft shop, you could go to the playground showroom and a pirate would chase you, all sorts of terribly questionable early nineties nonsense, and they weren't having it . In hindsight I don't know if this is because they were sincerely good parents who liked creating a unique and memorable experience for me or because they just wanted to protect me from the fact that I couldn't get enough people to show up to meet the minimum guest requirement at one of those pre-fab deals.
We started a tradition around this time of going to Rye Playland, an amusement park that I believe is actually weirdly owned by the city of Rye New York. It has old wooden roller coasters and old timey carousels and the same disaffected teenage staff that has worked every seasonal job ever since the dawn of minimum wage. Sometimes they would rent a van to take us, sometimes we would all fit in a car. All I really remember is one infamous trip, the one with the "Ferris Wheel Incident". I was a very squirmy kid, and we deiced to ride the Ferris wheel. The seats on the Ferris wheel were the large circular kind that you can fit a bunch of people in. In the bench seats were drain holes for when it rains. I was a tiny A.D.D tornado and if you left me unattended for even a second I was going to get my hand stuck in something. Within seconds I get my finger stuck in the drain hole and panic sets in over my face. I imagined an irritated teenager in a polo shirt opening up a first aid kit and cutting off my finger. In reality they had to stop the whole ride, stranding a bunch of concerned park guests at the top (an actual real life fear of mine) to put various greasy products on my hand until one aided me in slipping out. I am now totally terrified of Ferris wheels but that is more due to how rickety they feel and how high off the ground they are as opposed to childhood trauma.
Do you guys remember being thirteen? What a fucking nightmare. You body and your feelings constantly hurt and nobody gives you a heads up on how clothes ruining your period actually is. Due to the events of this party I deemed it "the last" birthday party ever. It really wasn't that bad, its tragic and awful in the way that everything feels tragic and awful at that age. I had been going to a summer arts day camp that year where I had fallen into a group of friends. It was going to be the first year in a long time that I was going to have more than 4 people for my birthday, let alone in my house. I clearly had forgotten the lesson of the touched pony from 1991 (the lesson is I don't like people up in my shit).
I had made some really good friends that would last a lifetime, like my friend Jeremy who I still talk to this day or my friend Kelly who I was friends with in elementary school but reconnected with that summer. There were also some really shitty thirteen styled year old friends that I have to wonder if they are alive or republicans or something now. One of those friends was this girl, I cant totally recall her name, I want to say like Cassie or something? You guys she was soooooo cooool. She seemed to own every item of clothing that TrippNYC ever designed, her hair was long and that blue black color only the coolest mall goths had. She would say things like "only posers don't actually use their bondage pants!". I didn't even know what BDSM was, let alone that these supes cool pants with zippers and ropes on them were made for weird sex and not just looking bad ass. She told me she was bringing something "Huge that will make you feel loved!" I was terrified it was going to be a bong because my parents were home and I had yet to some pot and was so scared of being called out for it. It ended up being a giant carnival sized stuffed animal of Scooby Doo. I squealed real loud and hugged it around the neck. Other noted members of this party was a few non threatening boys, this is important because this is the summer of the most intense camp love triangle of all time. I liked Jeremy, Jeremy liked Hannah, Carol liked Sam and Sam liked me, and so did Kevin (who we called Kevinlution because of his "anarchist" views) which i did not find out about until much later. He told me I always looked so sad, which goes to show you my game has not changed in over 14 years. There was Shari who I went to high school with and was my friend, and she liked everybody, especially if you told her you liked someone. Turns out in that moment, she likes them too! Sam was a boy we liked to torture in that weird sexually repressed ways girls pick on dudes because they don't know how else to express their mixed up feelings yet. My best friend at the time from school was there too, Arielle. Something happened to her over the summer and unbeknownst to me she deiced to go "goth". She pulled it off very well unlike my summer look of awkward raver meets pop punk nightmare. Basically, it was a sea of hormones and feelings I didn't understand. And my parents were there.
Everyone started getting rowdy, people were shouting and trying to show off for each other. I had an elderly Italian neighbor who would bake me cookies and share peppers from her garden. Yolanda was starting to get senile and sometimes forgot to let her blinds down, and all my cackling teenage friends saw her shuffle into the bathroom as they sat on my porch. My stomach turned as they were making fun of her, I didn't like it. The pressure to not seem square weighted down on me, but I was so upset. "Leave her alone," I thought. "Most of you aren't even my real friends." I walk over to Arielle who is sitting by herself quietly looking off into the street, I ask her how she is doing, if she is having fun. I knew she wasn't and nether was I. It was the last birthday of mine she went to, our friendship would drop off after that summer by her choice. Shari and some of the boys are running around and screaming in the driveway, saying they are going to sneak over to my neighbors window. My dad appears in the driveway and sprays everyone with a hose. "GOOOODDDUUHHH" I shout.
I don't really remember how the party ended or everyone who was there, what I do remember is how awful I felt at the end of the night. It was definitely the seeds of a lifetime of social anxiety being planted and taking root. I did not have any "real" parties until I was in college, and even then I kept it small and causal.
21 years old. My dad took me to a comedy club, I got hammered, I heckled, Dave Attell called me a lesbian from on stage.
My friend Emily threw me a small party, I got drunk on her couch and watched my ex-boyfreind Ian try to flirt with my childhood best friend forever ( who is also named Katie). She rolls her eyes at him and says "okay buddy."
We are in the height of the "Larry" years, (see my post "I loved the monster") I don't really have any friends and I am sitting on the back patio of a local bar. There are only a handful of people there, the the only two I can recall besides myself and my boyfriend is the neck tattooed angel Trevor Thorpe and his then girlfriend. Nobody knows me that well and I am white girl wasted. I keep saying "someone buy me a drink! Its my birthday!". Everyone ignores me like I am a little kid throwing a fit except for the occasional benevolent gesture from Trevor. Finally Trevor's girlfriend said "for fucks sake its her birthday! Here!" and hands me a whiskey.
I go to bed early.
Look you guys today is my birthday. Things have changed a lot, I have so many people here in Portland that I love and adore. Yeah I am still in my bathrobe typing this, but I swear once I am done I am going to put on makeup and go outside. Tonight I am on my favorite showcase in town, Its Gonna Be Okay. At the show there is going to be all sorts of people I like, and after I get to eat a steak and sing karaoke, just like the shiny woman. I have already received many gifts from many lovely people, and I feel like people actually like me and aren't just pretending for the first time in my life. Last night after a showcase I was booked on a group of us hauled ass to a bar down the street. I looked up at everyone in the mostly empty establishment and realized that there wasn't one person there I didn't like. David shouts (always fucking shouting) "Hey are you enjoying your birthday Katie?" from across the way. "It's not my birthday yet!" My friend Caitlin leans into me with that crazy cat smirk she always has and says "Katie, you get the whole week. The whole week is your birthday." I knock back my cider and start thinking those stupid sappy thoughts you get in your booze brain before any life event. I snap a picture of everyone and think to myself "we are all going to be so fucking famous."
Happy Birthday KRL, now stop complaining and drink this.