Deep thoughts, random insights, and musings by Susan Jacobs

Monday, November 22, 2004

Party at my place

My birthday week started off rather auspiciously, in spite of the fact that it began in Cleveland (which is really a nice city, but it's so much fun to make fun of). I was there to cover the General Assembly of the United Jewish Communities, which was cool because I got to meet some movers and shakers in the Jewish community and bump into some old friends from Stern and NCSY.

I didn't stay long though. Just after the opening plenary ended, and just before the end of the Pittsburgh Steelers/Cleveland Browns football game which was going on at the stadium literally across the street from the convention center (incidentally, the Steelers won), I made a dash for my car, so I could beat the post-game traffic and make the two and a half hour drive back to the Burgh in time for my own birthday party.

I share my birthday with two other good friends at my shul and this year we decided to have a joint party with music and a 1980s theme. While the party itself was fun, I didn't enjoy it quite as much as I had hoped because something I had eaten in Cleveland did not agree with me, so I wasn't feeling completely well, and barely touched any of the decadent desserts I was so looking forward to eating. I also would have been more comfortable with a smaller party -- I find it awkward to be the center of attention of a large crowd. And also, the party -- out of necessity -- took place two days before our actual birthday, and I find it somewhat inauthentic to celebrate my birthday on any day but the actual day.

And then there was the music. The husband of one of the other birthday girls had decided to hire a band (and cover most of its cost). The band usually plays jazz and some klezmer. About a week before the party, we gave the lead musician a CD of 80s tunes we liked, and asked him if he would be able to play any of them. The list included classics like "Footloose," "She Bop," "Rock Me Amadeus," and "Jesse's Girl" -- great dancing music. We told the band to play whatever they could, and put the CD on during their breaks.

I was really hoping to dance a lot -- especially since I was dressed in a "Flashdance"-inspired outfit. (Trust me, it was modest -- contrasting colors and multiple layers can give one the appearance of wearing off-the-shoulder clothing without actually showing any skin. Also, we had a mehitzah. I am not afraid to bust a move, but I don't dance with men.)

Unfortunately, the band decided to attempt playing 80s songs which they were so not meant to play. Trust me when I say that having a man named Henry sing an off-key rendition of "I Will Survive" was enough to make me hope I would survive the song. Fortunately, enough of us female folks knew the words to sing them at the top of our lungs and drown out Henry.

The other highlight of the party was when, during a break, the band put on our 80s mix CD and "Thriller" came one. In a moment reminiscent of last summer's movie "13 Going on 30," a bunch of us moonwalked and gyrated like the good ol' days. A moment for the memory books.

Feeling like a party pooper, I left while lots of people were still mingling because I was not feeling well, and showed up to work late on Monday because I still felt kind of gross. Thankfully, by Tuesday, I was feeling a lot better.

My birthday itself was a regular workday -- I wore a new outfit I bought myself, and brought a cake into work (The Chronicle's policy is BYOC -- bring your own cake.) so that my coworkers would sing happy birthday for me. Someone even produced a few candles for me to blow out. And my mom sent me flowers, which was nice. In the evening, I went to a concert at the JCC, which was good, and there was even some dancing, though it was mostly me and a bunch of sixth grade girls.

Altogether, it was a good birthday, with some disappointing undertones. My mom also mailed me a small package for my birthday (a box of chocolate -- I have the best mom), which she sent Express so I would get it in time, and she signed a waiver so that I wouldn't have to sign for the package when it arrived, which was supposed to be last Shabbos. Well, the postman decided to be super diligent and not leave the package for me in case someone stole it before I picked it up. Four trips to the post office and six days later (three days after my birthday), I finally got the package, and thankfully the chocolate had not melted. I almost went postal, but thanks to an infusion of chocolate flowing through my veins, I am now at peace with the postal service.

The other disappointment this week was related to my dating life. Birthdays are always painful reminders that "I'm another year older and I'm still not married." To counteract that feeling this year, I decided to be a bit more proactive. I signed up for, and bought a plane ticket to attend, a singles Shabbaton in New Jersey. While I normally abhor such events, this one sounded like it was being carefully planned and would be worth attending. Alas, on my birthday, I got a phone call informing me that the Shabbaton had been cancelled because not enough men had expressed interest in attending.

I briefly entertained the idea of visiting friends in New York for the weekend, but eventually decided on a quiet weekend in Pittsburgh, which turned out to be a great idea. I had a nice relaxing Shabbos, and Saturday night I ate chocolate and French fries and watched part of "To Kill a Mockingbird" (one of my favorite movies) on television. It was so nice and relaxing after a hectic week of trying to celebrate, that I couldn't help thinking that this was the best birthday party of all.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

I'm older than I've ever been

And now I'm even older. And now I'm even older.

For those of you unfamiliar with the wit of They Might Be Giants, the above is a nod to a song called "Older" from their "Mink Car" album (sorry, I'm too tired to find a link now, but I highly recommend the group, especially for anyone with a quirky sense of humor).

I write these words because today I am a year older. Yes, my friends, I have reached another birthday. In some ways 28 is easier than, say, 25, because I've already gotten past the shock of being an adult and still not knowing how my life will turn out. In recent years, I have learned that life is an unfolding mystery in which we cannot possibly know what the next day holds, even when we are certain that we do. Man plans, G-d laughs. You know how it is.

While I know that 28 is not at all old, it is still difficult to come to terms with the idea that that is how old I am. On the other hand, I am also proud of how far I've come, and have no desire to go back to being in the over-idealized early twenties.

All things considered, the last year has been a good, productive one for me. Since my last birthday I have been reading and writing more, and exercising more -- I now take two intense ballet classes a week, sometimes three, and I am probably in the best shape I've been since high school. All of these activities also make me feel more accomplished, and more interesting. I've also developed somewhat of an addiction to clothes shopping, which is not great for my bank account, but has allowed me to put together a wardrobe that makes me feel more sophisticated.

Since my last birthday, I followed up on a promise to myself to take a trip to Israel, which I had last visited in 1996. In July, I was in the Holy Land for nine days -- as much time off as I could arrange. The experience was both fun and spiritually uplifting, and made me feel as though I was doing something good for Israel and its economy.

I had the good fortune to escape a job in which I felt stifled to return to my chosen career as a journalist.

And, I slowly moved on from a very painful breakup to the point that I am now interested in meeting guys and dating them -- as opposed to just feeling that I should, lest I die alone and be eaten by an Alsatian.

Altogether, it has been a year of self-discovery and self-empowerment. I have a lot more confidence than I did a year ago, and I am so much happier.

So, I am glad to be living my life, and embracing the changes that time brings, even if that means that I will continue to be older than I've ever been before. (And now I'm even older. And so are you, my friends.)