My 44th birthday is in a few days. I was meditating the other day–I hate to meditate, but I still do it, just like I hate to empty the dishwasher but I do that too–and suddenly thought, “I don’t know how to have a sober birthday.”
It’s not that my birthdays were exactly maniacal blowouts, or not since college, anyway, but there was always a favorite restaurant with Manhattans to start and a shared bottle of great wine plus ‘just one more glass’ (to be followed by more at home, naturally). We threw a party for my 40th and in defiance of the standard ‘no gifts, just you,’ two friends each showed up with a mixed case of Viogniers and Marsannes because they knew how much it would thrill me–and it did. So many beautiful bottles of pale yellow wine in their cardboard silos–a girl could almost feel safe with that much wine in her house.
Typing the word “Marsanne” just now felt like a little bad-boyfriend thorn in my heart
On the actual night of my 40th I was out of town for a work retreat and near the end of the surprise party they gave me, someone ordered a round of tequila shots for the whole group. I remember discreetly setting mine aside and feeling smug about it–so smart to avoid the half-ounce of demon liquor that would magically tip my perfectly benign eight glasses of Chardonnay into a hangover. (Even the next morning as I pried my aching, mascara-smeared self out of bed I was congratulating myself for not making it worse.)
So, yeah. Not a lot of experience on the sober-birthday front around here.
I finished the rest of my meditation time, which was not a delight, and went downstairs to the kitchen, where my husband was making dinner and watching True Detective for the hundredth time. “The idea of my first sober birthday has really caught me up short,” I told him. “It’s been decades since I had a birthday with no booze. I think my 16th was probably the last time. I don’t know how to do it anymore.”
My husband stopped chopping fennel and leaned his elbows on the counter. “Well, what did you do for your 16th?”
“My mom dropped me and a bunch of other girls off at Waterboggan and we spent the whole day riding water slides.”
My husband thought about that. “Well,” he said finally, “we could probably find a water slide somewhere in Washington state?”