In just a few days, the big event will be here: I’ll stand atop the birthday hill and make my slow descent into old age.
Damn old age.
The main question I get every year at this time is, “What do you want for your birthday?”
The truth is that I generally don’t like to get presents. Not that I don’t like presents, but I don’t like presents just for the sake of getting a present. If someone gives me something that’s well thought out and speaks to something they know about me, I’m all about it. But if someone just gives me something random – especially if they know I won’t like it but feel obligated to give me a gift – those kinds of gestures are usually a waste of money.
“You’re so difficult to buy presents for,” darling husband laments on every gift-giving holiday. I’m always amazed when he says that. The problem is probably that I don’t need things. And that makes it difficult to buy presents for me. People generally want to give me elaborate or expensive gifts when I’d be happy with a funny card.
I read a columnist in a women’s magazine recently – I forget what magazine and who the writer was – but she was talking about how, for her birthday, she asked people to suggest something they would do with her for the coming year. I like that idea, so I’m stealing it.
In an effort to expand my horizons and try new things, for my birthday I want is time with you.
I want you to suggest something we can do together over the next year. If you want it for me, then be willing to do it with me. Make it something you either always wanted to do but were afraid to try (we’ll try it together) or something that you love and want me to experience with you. Don’t just suggest it (as in, “If you ever want to do this let me know”); you have to take the initiative to call me up to make the plans (as in, “What are you doing on X day? I’d like to us to do XYZ”).
It doesn’t have to cost money, but if it does, you don’t have to pay for me – unless you’re suggesting taking a hot air balloon over Letchworth Park. Then you not only have to go with me, you’ll have to foot the bill. And make sure I have enough Xanax with me.
The key: let’s just do something together.
Some ideas (but really, the possibilities are endless):
- Take a walk together – in a cemetery, a park, the beach, a walk through historic Corn Hill, someplace you enjoy and you think I might enjoy, too (hint: I’ve never been on Birdsong Trail at Mendon Ponds …).
- Go to a restaurant where we’d normally never eat.
- Teach me a craft or art you enjoy – or let’s take a craft class together.
- Spend a day at the beach – we can sun, build castles, collect shells, feed crackers to the sea gulls and get yelled at by the lifeguards.
- Let’s go to a museum or art gallery (and it can be a weirdo choice, too; I’ve never been to the Jell-O museum).
- Teach me how to cook your favorite dish – or let’s take a cooking class together.
- Share a copy of your favorite book – we can read it at the same time and then have coffee to talk about it.
- If you play a musical instrument, give me a lesson. I’ll provide the earplugs.
- Let’s see a show – I love the theater. Plays, musicals, comedy, foreign films, you name it.
- Teach me how to use my camera. Seriously. Then let’s go take pictures.
- Let’s go to the zoo – or some other wildlife place where we can learn about animals or birds or critters or something. In case you didn’t know, I like otters. A lot.
- Try an improv class me (I’m going to try these free classes in June at Village Idiots – join me!! Sign up here! ).
- Let’s go to the Planetarium some Saturday night and look at the stars through the telescope.
- Try some new adventure – I’ve never been kayaking, for example, or cross country skiing. I’m not going to shoot animals for fun, but I used to like to go fishing and I’m not afraid to touch frogs.
- The big one – For my 30th birthday, I wanted to swim with the dolphins. I probably could have done that – we were in Key West a few months before the big day – but I chickened out. Twenty years later, I think I’m ready. If you have dolphins, invite me over for a swim.
- If it helps – I love history, old things, weird things (I’ve always wanted to go to Lily Dale, for example), things that have meaning, things that stretch my imagination. I love learning about stuff, especially if it’s outside my comfort zone. I’m interested in my Irish and Italian heritage. I don’t necessarily like kids but I like kid stuff – blowing bubbles, finger painting, puppet shows, board games. I’ll see a drag show, watch a foreign film with subtitles, or get my hands dirty digging in dirt. You could even take me to work with you for the day and that would be an adventure for me. I do have some physical limitations – back and neck issues probably mean I won’t be jumping out of a plane, but I’ll go up in the plane while you jump. If it means something to you, don’t worry about whether or not I’ll like it. Just share it with me and we’ll experience it together. And know that I’m willing to travel.
And yes, you should probably know that whatever we do I will probably write about it.
Maybe you just can’t do something with me, for whatever reason (including the fact that I annoy the bejeesus out of you) but want to give me something personal to celebrate my big day. Here are some ideas:
- Funny cards – I’ll take a greeting card that makes me laugh out loud over a present any day. And just so you know, I save almost every handwritten card, letter, and note you send me. I have boxes full of them. A handwritten sentiment means a lot to me, especially in this digital age.
- A simple handwritten note – share your favorite life quote, a lesson you’ve learned about life, your favorite poem. Write a letter or just send me a postcard. Whatever means something to you will mean something to me.
- Photos – I loooove pictures. Family photos, scenery, pictures from my childhood. Maybe we grew up together and you have a great photo of us, for example. I’d love a copy – and tell me the story behind it, too, or what that moment or experience meant to you
- A plant – you can dig up a root from your favorite lilies or pick up a $2 daisy. I’m not fussy. I like pretty flowers in my yard. (Note: please DO NOT send me flowers, though. They’re expensive, they just die, I have no place to display them safely where I can enjoy them, and I have to worry about the cat eating them. Plus, I was just diagnosed with pollen allergy, so I’m keeping the plants and flowers out of the house. Save your money and send me a card instead.)
Maybe you’re just not the sentimental type, but you really feel like you need to buy me a gift for my birthday. Note again that I don’t need presents and I don’t expect presents. But I also know there are some people who really enjoy giving gifts – and that’s ok! That’s your way of showing love. If you just can’t help yourself and want to give me a gift:
- I can always use a gift certificate towards a massage. I usually go to Scott Miller in Pittsford. Even $5 helps pay for that luxury.
- I would really like a non-plastic bird bath. It doesn’t have to be expensive, but the plastic one just doesn’t sit evenly in my yard.
- I got some of those 97¢ solar lights at Wal-Mart, the kind you stick in the ground to light a footpath. I like those and could use a few more.
- A Barnes and Noble gift certificate will never go to waste.
- I’ve been getting my hair done at Tru Salon in Pittsford. A gift certificate there won’t go to waste, either.
Again, though, remember that I don’t need presents for my birthday. But if you want to mark the occasion, think first about something that doesn’t cost money and has meaning. Those kinds of gifts are priceless.
This post is part of my series, “50 thoughts on turning 50″. Read more here.