St Louis Post-Dispatch   birthday cake

'Happy birthday' is a loaded phrase for some women

By Cary Goldwasser and Diane Kline
• Special to the Post-Dispatch
April 20, 2012


Sometime after our 22nd birthday, women separate into two distinct camps. And we're not talking about Bridget Jones' theory of "marrieds" and 'singletons."

That's the age when we either choose Team Celebrate or Team Hibernate.

Some of us gals want to stay in bed drinking our Skinny Girl Margaritas and sobbing at our Skinny Girl pictures from high school yearbooks. And others, well, the royal wedding was a little get-together compared to the attention they require.

But all women agree on the cake. Forget the decorative flowers and give us a picture of Leonardo DiCaprio (couldn't you just eat him up?). And light only one little lonely candle or we'll get burning mad that you shared our age in blazing glory.

When we blow out that candle, count on us making the same wish: "Please let me eat this cake with the same metabolism I had in my 20s."
But since we can't stop the years from coming on, we can create QuirkOut celebrations that help us through this special day.

A House Full of Thanks

Donna Henes is the author of "Celestially Auspicious Occasions: Seasons, Cycles and Celebrations," which devotes an entire chapter to birthdays.

She turns the QuirkOut tables on her birthday: "I cook a celebration dinner for all the people in my life that make living easier." It includes her hairdresser, accountant, landscaper, dentist and even her car mechanic.

We love the concept of showing appreciation to others on our day, but we see some speed bumps on the way. What if the dentist notices there's no dental floss in the bathroom? Or the accountant won't let you write off the party on your taxes?

And we are holding the line at inviting our lawyers. At their billable rates, we'd have to take out a second mortgage before dessert was served.

'No gifts, please'

Suzy's birthday is so important that her QuirkOut ritual is to plan every detail of the day herself. Then she can never be disappointed.

For the milestone 30th birthday, she threw an over-the-top bash and wrote on the invitations, "No gifts please." After all, she didn't want to look greedy — giving herself a party and begging for presents.

But what seemed like a good idea at the time turned into a QuirkOut nightmare.

As people showed up empty-handed, Suzy went into a funk. She missed the excitement of opening up beautifully wrapped packages with big bows. And when her boyfriend didn't give her anything, it meant they weren't going to celebrate in their birthday suits that night.

"I was only doing what you asked," he pleaded.

Silly man. When you see "No gifts, please" be sure to read the fine print — boyfriends and husbands are always excluded.


Bill loves his wife, Jackie, and wanted to show her how much. When she turned The Big 5-0, he planned The Big Party. A surprise party. His heart was in the right place, but his head was in the clouds.

In case he hadn't noticed, his wife is a perfectionist who lives in Martha Stewart-land. Even her toothbrushes have to match the paint color of the bathroom walls. And Bill's idea of elegance is tucking his napkin in his shirt when he eats barbecue.

Jackie walked into her house, surrounded by a sea of family and friends screaming "Surprise." And she was surprised — surprised to see paper plates and plastic cups and buckets — not filled with French champagne, but with fried chicken. (Original recipe and extra crispy, thank you, Colonel.)

Even though there was — oh, no — beef jerky, she refrained from being jerky to Bill that night. The next day she made her QuirkOut rule very clear: birthday surprises should come in jewelry boxes, not in family-size to-go containers.

What is the best birthday celebration you ever had?



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