Ryan and the Technicolor Wardrobe
Short Stories and Essays

A few years ago, I had a birthday dinner at a sushi restaurant that I frequented quite often.  At the end of the meal, the waitress brought me some tempura fried ice cream as my birthday dessert, and I followed the birthday dessert protocol by taking a bite and passing the dessert down so everyone at the table could have a taste.  Unfortunately, a friend of mine who will not be named, didn’t understand the protocol, and interpreted the passing down of my dessert as a request to finish the dessert for me.  I was too busy socializing with others to notice that this was transpiring, until our waitress approached me, completely puzzled.

“You didn’t like the dessert?”

“Why would you say that?” I asked, before looking around the table and seeing that my friend was nearly finished usurping my ice cream.  Conjuring up my best Mr. Wilson impression, I yelled my friend’s name as if he were Dennis the Menace, but it was too late.  He had finished the last bite.

Luckily, I was given a replacement dessert, free of charge, but I still look back at that birthday as a near disaster.  Fortunately for this friend, and unfortunately for me, this was not even close to the most catastrophic birthday that I ever had.  (There are two definitely worse than that: 1. In my mid-20s  a girl who had just crushed my heart decided to tell me that she couldn’t go to my party through her friend because she “forgot” that she had a date that night.  2. I had to work huge amounts of overtime in the days leading to my 30th birthday and I had to have my birthday lunch at work exhausted and all by myself.)

It’s always been difficult to celebrate my birthday, especially since my birthday falls around the 4th of July and that’s a perfect time for friends to get married or go out of town.  For previous years, I’ve countered that issue by celebrating weeks before or after the date to ensure that people would be around. Even then, it can be particularly disheartening when my plans, which are never particularly grand, get torpedoed.

After hearing the horror stories, my girlfriend decided that this year would be the year where I could feel like my birthday was actually celebrated.  We planned a trip to Northern California for a weekend where it would basically be the two of us, and if any of our friends who lived up there wanted to join us, they were more than welcome, but they certainly weren’t obligated to.  A handful of my friends and a friend of hers joined us for a variety of activities such as a birthday dinner at a fantastic italian restaurant, wine and beer tastings, a visit to a cartoon art museum and going to a baseball game in downtown San Francisco.  While we did a lot, we gave ourselves plenty of time to just relax as well.  Even by a normal person’s standards, this birthday would be a considered a success.

Not that I’m expecting every birthday in the future to be as exquisite as this one, but it’s nice to get such a definitive victory after so many suffering so many defeats.  Instead of dreading every birthday, I can now look forward to the next one, and even if that one doesn’t turn out to be great, at least I know that some years things won’t work out, and other years will be much better.  It’s an attitude I could apply to life as a whole, after realizing that no matter how hard I try, not every expectation I set will be fulfilled, and even when they do get fulfilled, it’s never as perfect as you imagined.

This birthday was the absolutely best one I’ve had in recent memory, and while we got to do all the things we had set out to do, there’s one inconsequential, hilarious, little blemish, and it happened before the trip.  My girlfriend decided to give me my birthday gift a few days early, and while I loved the gift, the card I received could’ve been an ominous sign of upcoming disaster.  Now, to her credit, my girlfriend had warned me that the card selection at the store wasn’t great, but when I opened it, I wasn’t exactly sure what she was referring to.  She was referring to the fact that the card was for a 3 year old so she had to manually draw in the 2nd digit.  Unfortunately, she had drawn in the incorrect 2nd digit.   She thought I was a year older than I really was.

I wasn’t angry with her about her error, I was more amused than anything.  It wasn’t a sign of things to come, it was just an isolated harmless mistake that kicked off a fantastic week for me.  I celebrated my birthday in style.  I don’t expect to top it next year – I haven’t even thought about what we could possibly, but I’m sure of one thing.  Next year, my girlfriend will definitely get my age right.