My mother always said the birthday party isn’t for the person celebrating the birthday – it’s for all the guests. My brother hated birthday cake but she served cake for everyone else. So for many years, I trudged through overwhelming parties plastered with a smile, counting down the minutes until I could be alone again.
As an adult, I finally gained control and a new perspective: birthdays are an excuse to be selfish. Our society encourages it and I’m happy about having a “me” day as long as it doesn’t mean everyone’s looking at me. I’m fast approaching a milestone birthday, the big 3-0, and I’m happy to report the loved ones in my life know just how to make it special.
Yesterday, I powered through a full day celebrating my grandma’s 99th birthday. She was very happy to be surrounded by her family. Next week, my mom knows to do the opposite with me. She texted me asking what’s on my birthday wish list, even though I already considered fantastic seats she already got us for Newsies the perfect gift. My friends will text me too and ask about it afterward, but they won’t be planning any party.
The tricky balancing act for an introvert is to have alone time without being lonely, and the trickiest day for this is the birthday because it’s ingrained in us that it should be spent with other people. My ideal is to have relaxation time to myself before and after the special event, like a leisurely morning with a book or movie and maybe a walk.
For the evening, the easiest thing is to have a very small group at a nice restaurant for dinner. Maybe that’s your parents, best friend, or significant other. My ideal is to see nobody else but my boyfriend all day (but of course get those much appreciated texts or Facebook posts so I know people still care). The dinner is great because it only lasts a couple hours without you having to make a big to-do about leaving.
A perfect addition is to go see a show. You don’t need to entertain anyone, just get lost in the theatre/concert/what-have-you. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, you could plan a trip you can do alone or with one other person – maybe a day trip to a big city or amusement park, or an overnight trip to an even bigger city or a nice bed and breakfast.
The best plan is to do what makes you happy no matter how weird it may be to different people. You might stay home and turn off your phone to spend the day building a computer. The worst plan is to force yourself to host a party because you think that’s what’s expected of you. Sometime pushing yourself out of your comfort zone is good for you, but don’t do it if you know from the past that you’re stressed the whole party and sad about it when it ends.
So last year, I went out for brunch and dinner with my boyfriend and saw the Book of Mormon. The year before, I stayed at a fancy hotel with him. And this year, my boyfriend is planning it for me! That alone feels really nice.