Fifteen Years Ago, 1989
I don’t remember how my birthday was celebrated, but it couldn’t have been big. I think this was the year I started asking for doughnuts or banana bread for breakfast instead of a birthday cake. I didn’t have any friends yet. I had just started sophomore year at Columbine High School, full of rage at my parents for taking me away from the High School for Performing and Visual Arts in Houston where I was actually popular. I was asked not to return because I failed art, but that made no dent in my fury – I couldn’t have gone anyway because we moved, and that decision was made first!
It snowed on September 12th that year and I was absolutely stunned that snow could fall for so long, and so softly, and still end up in big piles. I had never seen it snow before, not for real. I walked around outside looking up into the clouds and everyone laughed at me, but gently.
Torn between heavy metal, the soundtrack to Hair, and copious quantities of Depeche Mode, I try to compromise by sporting my Death Angel t-shirt with a bandana over my hair and dark glasses. I hide clothes in my locker to change into for school so I can look more like a bad girl, but refuse to use hair spray or wear high heels…mostly because I’m not very good at either. My mom gets me a drum kit and lessons, to even out my sister’s piano. I love it more than anything I’ve ever done.
First I have a boyfriend in Houston that I haven’t let go of, then I let go and have a local boyfriend who has dropped out of high school and claims to be pursuing his GED. He is the first of the four Brians I will date. He spray painted his car black, so we all call it the charcoal briquette. I also have a wicked crush on a beautiful blonde girl named Tara, but I don’t know that’s what it is.
All my friends that year drink and smoke pot. I don’t remember how I first met them, but we have lockers together (near the door where you can see students running out of the school into the park next door in videos of the Columbine shootings.) Most of them can barely read, even though we go to a “good school.” I tutor them extensively and ditch gym. Two idiots in my history class (semester 1: Salem Witch Trials, semester 2: American Gangsters) start their public speaking assignment with the contention that women are second class citizens and I leave the room in protest. I am told I’m overreacting.
I’m not allowed into more than five classes, though there are seven class periods and classes under their enrollment limits that I want to take, because we just don’t do that. Despite three years of being on the literary magazine in junior high, I’m not allowed on that project because it’s a class, and it would make six classes. The French class votes to repeat their curriculum from the previous year, and I’m moved a year ahead. But I practically flunk Algebra II because it makes no sense, and my dad thinks I’m doing it on purpose.
I go vegetarian. I start a recycling program at school. I’m so bored in biology class that I read novels in French under the table and ace the exams. When I object to cutting up frogs – since there’s a perfectly good diagram in the book – I am told I have to leave the room. I ace that test as well.
Ten Years Ago, 1994
Failed spring semester of college at Macalester in St. Paul, started a job at the Nature Company in the Mall of America in Bloomington in June. Told my parents I was going back to school in the fall, instead take a leave of absence and keep working. My hair finally grows back down towards my shoulders, after the 2-inch haircut I got in April when I was breaking up with the fourth Brian – which is good because ultrashort hair makes me look like a 12-year-old lesbian.
Mike (eek, a full name!) and I got together just after that haircut and have been living together all summer, first in a house with a bunch of other folks, then in a 2-bedroom apartment with S., his ex-girlfriend, who is still tightly woven into our fragmenting social circle. Mike is working some science-related Mall store in the same company as NatCo, getting fewer hours than I am, so we’re pretty broke.
Mike goes to Russia right before my birthday, with his mom, on free airfare. He doesn’t seem to understand why I’m upset. I resent him bitterly for it, so I don’t think twice about fooling around with the dumb blonde guy who lives upstairs almost right after Mike leaves – without discussing it first, which is the big “no” in a non-monogamous relationship. Dumb blonde’s name is D., I invite him down to watch DangerMouse. But he kisses like a fish, so that doesn’t last more than a couple of hours.
S. and I go out for my birthday, finally kiss (after somehow avoiding it all summer despite electricity), and start dating. I think we saw When a Man Loves A Woman in the theater that day, but I wouldn’t swear to it. I know that when we go to Michael’s to get my Go Fish poster framed – that’s her birthday present to me – I am wearing a jacket and big boots and feeling like “the boy” and I even walk differently, and she is pretty and blonde and I have no idea that it isn’t going to last a month.
Five Years Ago, 1999
In Boston, or more precisely living in Somerville and working practically on the T (subway) line between Boston and Brighton. Working on the green line, past Boston U, where I went for a year before realizing I couldn’t afford it now that I was divorced from Mike. Boring, frustrating job, and since my world doesn’t have blogs yet I am bored bored bored and never have enough money to do very much that’s fun. Except quilt, which is fairly expensive. That contradiction wouldn’t have held up well if I’d examined it – but also many of the quilts I’m making are commissions.
S. and I are again not dating, after thinking we would start dating again when we both moved to Boston. We are still living together as friends, and we think we’re getting past some drama that hurt both of us – but we’re not. We never will. She will move out this year to a new apartment with new roommates without even having told me she was thinking about it until the last minute, and I’ll only see her a few times after that before I move home to Texas.
I meet J. several weeks before my birthday. He is the great heartbreak of my short life, and then I have to start learning how not to let people break my heart like that. It will take five years to really get that down solidly. But before that, my birthday comes up and we go with M. and my friend Liz from undergrad to see Stigmata. I know it will be bad but I really really really want to see it. We may have even postponed my birthday for that, because I think it didn’t come out until mid-month. Liz says that she likes J. because he seems so genuine – the irony is only apparent much later.
I went to work, but only until noon. The office folks brought beignets from Crescent City, and my boss bought me fancy indestructible spatulas from Williams Sonoma. I-ROCK emailed me at 2am to say Happy Birthday, and J. sent me a crazy e-card first thing in the morning. San Antonian called at noon or so to make sure I had a message when I got home, and I heard it at 12:30 and smiled. B. had shipped her present to me early at work, and I left it out last night so I would see it this morning and smile.
After a quick trip home for The Dog, M. and M. and T. took me “tubing,” which is a bizarre activity where you float down a river in a rented inner tube. The water was cold-ish but we went twice, and I had to put on ice-cold sunblock for round 2 because I’d stored the bottle in the ice chest. T. fell out of his tube when he chose to go over the dam instead of taking the chute for people in tubes, M. threw my soaking wet freezing cold shirt at me (it had also been stored in the ice chest), and we saw a girl with no bathing suit top on – all in all, an entertaining afternoon.
Had dinner at the Gristmill. Underwhelmed. In a shop across the street, I found old-fashioned candy sticks exactly like the kind I would get at the drugstore near my house when I was little – on the visits where my mom didn’t get us ice cream, because they still had an ice cream counter. M. bought me a handful of them, and I’m saving them for special treats.
When I got home, I had email from four more people with bday greetings, and a card from Jped (who has known me for 18 or 19 of my 30 birthdays) and a card from my mom. The card from Jped included a magnet that wins the prize for tackiest in my collection – Hawaii’s state fish, and you have to see it to believe it. The card from my mom included a Bible verse – which I think means that my mom has gotten comfortable enough with me being comfortable with her to express her true feelings, even if those feelings are religious and I’m not. That’s a good thing.
We close this wander through time with our official tribute song, penned by the bard UnwiredBen:
HAPPY HAPPY HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU, MISS PRINCESS, BENEVOLENT RULER OF ALL THINGS LIZARD. MAY YOUR REIGN CONTINUE FOR ANOTHER THIRTY GLORIOUS YEARS! ALL HAIL THE AMAZING GODDESS! (subtle enough?)
That last part, in lower case, is done by the chorus – in case you were wondering.