Monday Roundtable: Our Ideal Birthdays

In a perfect world, your birthday would be your perfect day. We don’t live in that universe, but also… what if we did? For the last team roundtable of our Birthday Issue, here’s our take on our ideal birthdays!

Heather Hogan, Senior Writer + Editor

Oh, I just love a quiet birthday. I am always so very grateful for the well-wishes from my friends and family who make me feel so treasured on my birthday, but my ideal birthday is celebrating with just me and Stacy. Because I’m a December baby, my dream birthday would involve a cabin in the snowy woods and a fire crackling in the fireplace and I read a book all day (high fantasy, woman protagonist) and Stacy plays the PS4, which she has of course brought along, and then we cook a delicious meal together which we share with peppery red wine. Bubble bath. In bed by 11. Somehow, also, my cats are there.

Erin , Writer

My dream birthday starts in a cabin with friends. We’re all having fun after a long day of decadence. All of my exes are there, but they can’t talk to anyone besides each other, and occasionally I will permit them to give me money. Someone puts on Rihanna and then out of the corner of my eye I see the door open. It’s Rihanna. I look to my friends like, “You didn’t,” and they’re all, “We did.” Rihanna laughs and is like, “Yes, girl! We got you.” I’m reeling at this point. Then, Cate Blanchett walks in. Immediately, I throw my phone through a window as that seems like the best course of action. Behind her is Sandra Bullock. Someone does a joke and it lands! We’re all laughing and then something dawns on me: “Are we about to Ocean’s 9,” I say, and everyone nods their heads. Cate interjects and is like, “Or Ocean’s… (gestures around) however many there are of us,” except it’s in her Australian accent and I ask if she can do it as Carol. She laughs and says it again, as Carol. I excuse myself for no reason! When I come back everyone tells me the plan: We’re going to rob the local bank. Mindy Kaling assures me there will be no guns involved, which is a relief. The plan is really complicated and it’s clear that everyone spent a lot of time on it for my birthday. I stand back and take in how lucky I am.

Carrie Wade, Writer

My most recent birthday came pretty close to ideal: I flew home to California and spent an entire day hanging out at my favorite bar with my girlfriend and family as our friends circulated in and out. Fancy beer and important relationships are both absolute birthday necessities. To put it over the top, I would add some rock climbing (a recent hobby, turns out it’s the best!), a movie in an actual theater, fancy coffee to go with the beer, and ample time to cuddle with my cat. Also a nap somewhere in there.

I used to avoid really celebrating my birthday because I’ve never been a big party person and I also worried no one would care. I’d internalized this idea that there’s only one way to birthday, and if that doesn’t suit you, the only other option is to ignore it entirely and act like you don’t care. But I do! I think birthdays are fun! Once I acknowledged that and started using my birthday as an excuse to do the things I enjoy most, it got a whole lot more valuable.

Riese , Editorial & Strategy

+ nice brunch / breakfast situation

+ used bookstores all day!!!

+ check in to cool hotel

+ all my friends come over!!!!!!

+ we all laugh and drink and eat.

+ hotel sleepover party!

+ room service breakfast in bed the next morning

Ari , Writer

My ideal birthday is me waking up to a spotless apartment that smells like rosewater/bleach that I did not clean. The coffee is already made, and the temperature is no lower than 67 and no higher than 81 all day. I want my friends to volunteer to hang/to be the ones to make the plans. They each compliment me at least three times during the day with how good my skin/hair looks.  I want to swim a lot and I want to have time to read an entire book, get fucked, and to go to bed before 10 pm. Oh, and two cakes. I always have two cakes. Also, honestly, the ideal birthday includes a rich benevolent donor who gives me enough money to pay off all my student loans and all my bills for the year.

KaeLyn Rich, Writer

My dream birthday involves:

+ Sleeping in until the sun naturally wakes me
+ Never-ending, comforting, filling brunch food all day long
+ A small group of friends for dessert and board game
+ Remi making me a really cool original crayon drawing
+ Reading a book uninterrupted for hours with unlimited hot tea at the perfect drinking temperature
+ A shopping binge at a store that has everything in my size and it’s all ON CLEARANCE
+ Hot coffee with the perfect amount of cream
+ Immersive theatre date night in the evening with Waffle
+ Somehow both chilling in my own home during the day and being out at night in NYC (6 hrs away from home, but this is a dream, so whatever)
+ Cuddles with Remi before she goes to bed at a reasonable time
+ Cuddles with Waffle while we binge watch something until an unreasonable time, and
+ A second day after my birthday to sleep in again!

I literally just had my dream birthday party, so I guess this is good cause I need to have new dreams! I think my new dream birthday would happen in a beautiful but homey and actually functional vacation home somewhere on the water. Like literally you look out the window and all you see is water. I’d want all my best friends there, but everyone should have their own room ’cause they’re all introverts who are at their best when they have personal space. I’d just want to cook delicious things, drink incredible wine, sing songs, and chill. Of course I’d also want to have incredible sex. Take lots of photos. That’s all I got for now, check back in six months and i’m sure the list will be longer.

Rachel Kincaid, Former Managing Editor

I feel embarrassed about this but: in my day to day life I have to make a lot of decisions constantly; I’m in a decisionmaking position at my job (this one, where I’m an editor), I’m a single-person household who handles everything about it alone, and in many of my major relationships I am the one who Figures Things Out. My dream birthday, if I’m being honest, is that someone else plans the entire thing for me and organizes a day of activities (or non-activities and hang time, idk) that they know I would love because they know me so well and would make me feel good about being born, and I don’t have to figure any of it out or decide anything! I am responsible for nothing, everything is fun and nothing hurts.

Alternatively, I could just attend Erin’s birthday party, which would also be more than I could ever imagine deserving.

Stef Schwartz, Vapid Fluff Editor

hate having attention focused on myself but I hate being left out of things, so as a result birthdays fill me with a heavy sense of dread. This year was pretty excellent in that two friends and I had big plans of going to a museum but first popped by one of my favorite sushi spots for lunch and then went to Central Park in search of the Mandarin Duck. If you don’t know, the Mandarin Duck is… a very fancy duck who is not native to this area of the world, who just showed up in the Central Park duck pond one day this past October. He’s very, very fancy. As it turned out, the duck wasn’t around that day, but we’d brought binoculars and we checked out all the other birds around the park, walked up to the boathouse and rented a rowboat (which I’d never done). Sometimes it’s nice to be a tourist in your own city, and being rowed around by a couple of friends while eating vegan donuts was not the worst way to turn (whatever age I apparently am). We accidentally spent the whole day at the park on our Quack Quest and didn’t see the duck we’d come for, but it was a very wholesome day and I had a wonderful time. Afterwards, I had dinner with another lovely friend I never get to see and went to a bar to have a few drinks with friends. I’d like to spend more birthdays like that one, although in the future I would like for someone else to purchase a cake for me.

For what it’s worth, I came back to the park a couple of weeks later and saw The Duck and he was everything I’d dreamed of, well worth the wait.

lnj , Director of Operations

Ok Heather and I are super on the same page here, which uh, makes a lot of sense! For my birthday, I want the full month of February with Megan in a mountain cabin so remote, our only neighbor is a retired Swedish assassin and she just visits to drop off more firewood and smoked fish by the front door, but she doesn’t even say hi. The cabin smells like cedar and fresh air and is fully stocked with literally everything (we don’t even need the assassin’s fish but I prefer it over the store-bought). My children text me daily to say they’re safe and so happy at [wherever they are], and it’s true and I don’t have to worry about them doing drugs or having unprotected sex or not saying thank you or talking over a woman ever. It rains or snows every afternoon and well into the night, but it’s bright and sunny in the mornings. We eat fresh fruit and vegetables and olives and cheeses and this amazing sourdough that I’m suddenly very good at making. I wear soft pants or caftans, robes, plush wool socks and statement necklaces. All of my dead relatives visit me in a dream to tell me how proud they are of me and that they were never mad or disappointed in anything I did while they were living or since. Everyone I love gave me handmade cards before I left and I read them by the fire on my actual birthday (it takes hours) with a bottle of natural wine — Riese’s makes me cry and the one from Melissa Etheridge is surprisingly funny. I spend the month learning a new language, painting, reading about architecture, napping without feeling guilty, and laughing at Megan’s stories from the soaking tub. The cabin has a small indoor pool and a soundproof room where Megan plays drums. Megan is never bored. There isn’t a clock anywhere. Our pets come with us but somehow the dogs never bark, not once, and they totally ignore the cat. My mother isn’t sad that she wasn’t invited. Nothing unexpected happens at work and on Fridays the senior editors marvel at how smoothly the week went and how I set them up for success in every way.

Molly Priddy, Writer

Ah, the perfect birthday is no one recognizing it at all, no party, no surprises, and definitely no gifts. I don’t care about my birthday, and as I’ve gotten older, I hate being spotlighted with an office birthday cake and a song or something. I don’t mind at all if other people love their birthdays — some of my best friends have birthday weeks, not just a day. It’s like drinking that way. I don’t care if you do it, but I’d prefer not to because it makes me feel weird and uncomfortable. I’m pretty sure this stemmed from having a midsummer birthday and parties with just a few friends because it was summer and everyone was traveling or whatever. This all sounds like a bummer, but it’s not, I promise. I had the best birthday last summer because it was also Vanessa Friedman’s going-away party in Portland and no one knew it was my birthday at the party. Frankly, my tradition on my birthday is calling my mom, listening to her tell me my birth story, then thanking her for having me. Moms should be celebrated on the birthdays of the people they birthed.

I actually just had a really lovely birthday with my best friend and sister but if we’re stretching the limits of my imagination then I am more than willing to go with this FIRST I start my day with tiramisu and a handy pack of whipped cream to get me through my day. I’m sent a video with Janelle Monae singing Happy Birthday and telling me she believes in me. I get to tell the entire crew of Black Panther how much they mean to me and I get to see Moonlight several times and sit down with Tarell Alvin McCraney and Barry Jenkins and also just cry in thanks to everyone who made the movie possible. I get to thank Dee Rees for Pariah and also just for existing. Stevie Wonder leaves me a voicemail saying, “Alexis, dear I’m so happy to celebrate you being here. Happy birthday, love.” I get to tell a whole bunch more people how they’ve helped me so much and the words fit right. I PET A LOT OF DOGS / I SEE A LOT OF MUSICALS AND CRY DURING THEM / I READ A LOT OF FANFIC. There’s a party like Honeygroove festival full of QTPOC friends and family and my best friend as we all sit and dance on this big ass lawn while we watch Friday projected on a big screen. We drink and eat and indeed be black and merry. Bill Withers sings me not so sad anymore. I read all the poetry and fiction I want. I don’t fear any of these people dying and police are a bloody history we don’t repeat. I don’t change my pronouns or the pronouns of the ones I love to keep myself and the ones I love safe. I hold the hands of people I love for a very long time and laugh so hard it rattles my toes.  I don’t spend the day worrying how I’ll make a poem out of this or how it’s all downhill from here. I just stay in the moment and for that my heart is grateful.

And if we’re REALLY going there, I also marry Brie Larson and we marathon Orphan Black the day after and I get to talk about my fictional theories ad nauseum for the rest of my life amen.

Vanessa Friedman, Community Editor

Before I begin, I have to tell you that I identify as a Birthday Brat.

I strive to have my dream birthday every single year because birthdays are very important to me and my birthday is my favorite holiday, and because I have extremely accommodating friends and also because I am known to throw an excellent party, I am usually able to pull it off! I love talking about birthdays, so thank you for giving me this space. Here are all the things that make a birthday ideal, for me.

Birthday sex. Birthday cake, often made by me, because I’m a weirdo and love baking and don’t find it a hardship to make my own birthday cake. Lots of calls and texts and birthday cards in the mail from faraway friends. Sushi. Flowers. Grand gestures of love on social media, specifically Instagram. Being outside, ideally in nice weather even though it’s late December. A solstice fire, because yes, my birthday does fall on winter solstice. A cute outfit that makes me feel really pretty. My birthday tiara, obviously. (Yes I wear a tiara that I got for my Bat Mitzvah every single year on my birthday, I told you all that I’m a birthday brat and I take this title very seriously!!!) Lots of hugs and kisses from my friends. A party, probably themed, where everyone has a really good time and my friends who don’t know each other very well get to meet and become closer and everyone feels happy and safe and loved and maybe I get to makeout with someone in the bathroom. Someone playing me a Taylor Swift song on acoustic guitar (this has actually happened to me on four separate birthdays!! Magic is real!!!!). Nice surprises that I don’t anticipate but love so much. Going to sleep feeling happy and warm and full and excited to see what the next year of life brings!

If money is not a thing nor immigration nor traveling issues nor legal documents that don’t reflect your real name and gender marker, my ideal birthday is watching a Clásico at the Camp Nou in Barcelona BEFORE Messi retires where we once again beat Real Madrid with AT LEAST five goals, so I can watch Gerard Pique do another Manita at the camera at the end of the match to recreate the very iconic photo tradition. I’d be sipping a delicious refreshing drink and cursing at Real in full form which can be very loud and makes me really happy. Honestly if I ever stepped in that stadium I would probably start sobbing, so any game really would do but this is my highest aspiration, I’m going wild here.

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  1. I’m the Grinch about my birthday because I hate anything people will tell me about myself all day for not really a good reason. I take time off work to avoid the small talk.

    But one time it was on the first day of Acamp, when it’s actually nice to have an ice breaker built in for long lost friends and strangers, *and* everyone has already agreed to be pretty fucking excited(and do a whole lot of hugging), so it’s not out of anyone’s way to sing loudly to a stranger at dinner. AND IT WAS ALSO SOMEONE ELSE’S BIRTHDAY SO I GOT TO REPLY “THANKS, YOU TOO” NOT BY ACCIDENT And I had a birthday boi crown and it was a travel day, so everyone was too tired to stay up late so I didn’t have to do that either.

    So I mean after that my birthday is pretty much retired.

  2. I’m not sure what my ideal situation is, but it would definitely be something exciting with tons of people. My August birthday was during moving week in college, so I was never able to have big parties because everyone was still living out of boxes or hadn’t come back yet. After college, it always landed over Madison Pride, so that was pretty great! I also have a huuugeeeee fear of throwing social events and then no one showing up. Literally my worst nightmare. So I solve that by not organizing anything!

    But this year my birthday will be three days after I move to Chicago and I obviously won’t have made new friends by then. So I should come up with a plan to have a an amazing solo birthday. This will probably involve a nice restaurant, a post-moving-soreness massage, and putting together Ikea furniture lol

  3. Rachel I dream about exactly the day you described on a regular basis for those same reasons. Last summer I nearly canceled my vacation plans and spent the time hiding at home instead because all the decision making of solo travel, like what and where to eat, seemed way too fucking demanding and not relaxing at all.

  4. So I’m not big on parties and I hate being the center of attention. I normally just have a birthday dinner and that’s nice but sometimes I’d rather do something else.

    I’m a huge movie buff so I think it would be cool to rent out a movie theater I’d hope I’d have a couple friends or even a girlfriend otherwise it would be a depressing birthday. We could have pizza, the movie foods: popcorn & candy and of course a cake!

    I’d either like that or I’d like to take a trip, like a weekend trip, again with friends, to someplace I’ve never visited. I’ve never visited NYC and I feel I need one trip in there just to check it out.

    I have no idea what I’m doing this year, my birthday falls on a weekday this year so I guess I’m celebrating my birthday that following weekend.

    • I think I’ve been to every shitty version of Mika’s birthday party, you know, every single time that Messi plays for Argentina.

      Pecho Frío hijo de puta.

  5. I too hate attention but having ONE person who my damn birthday mattered to for ONCE would be nice ( can you tell I’ve just had another and am miserable and cranky?! )

    • Aw Rachel! Happy belated birthday. Your birthday matters to me: I’m glad you made it through another year. I’m glad you’re here, existing and letting us know you need some birthday love. Now pretend that this comment is written in invisible pixels so no one else will see it and you can ignore the fact that someone paid attention to you. Just randomly feel good for no reason you can fathom.

  6. @stef In my area we have an Egyptian duck(two bird watchers said it looks to be someones pet who they didn’t want anymore) that is very agressive and has attacked me once. I tried to find it again weeks later but it was not there.

    This is very timely as my birthday and my best friend’s birthday is in two weeks. My dream birthday would be either safely lost in the Yosemite and end the night with a soak in a private hot tub. Or house by the beach with a private hot tub, all you can eat buffet, loads of queer gals and nb pals, along with mary jane. Sadly those really aren’t an option either due to cost or it doesn’t really exist(at least I haven’t found a cabin that has an all you can eat buffet and hot tub full of queer gals. lol So instead I may do what I did new years, and go to a budget sex motel, get the honeymoon suite again and just relax in a hot tub with my best friend. Oh and order loads of food.

  7. hello yes i would like one order of heather/laneia birthday, please, hydrated and snuggly with nothing wrong, always and forever

  8. For Christmas, my fiancee surprised me with tickets to a showing of Hamilton on my birthday (coming up next month!). It’s a matinee, because I’m incapable of staying up late enough for evening shows, and she’s agreed to wake up early so we can explore the city and go to my favorite Indian place for lunch. I didn’t know that this was my ideal birthday, but it totally is (also I’m so excited that I get to marry a woman who buys me surprise Hamilton tickets, you have no idea).

  9. My ideal birthday is big and bold because I’m just a party monster, I guess! There’d be lots of people having fun and lots going on; lots of games like Twister or relay races that require activity and interaction! There’d be a bounce house and water slides, and other carnival games! There’d, of course, be a DJ blasting everything from the 70s up through now, and lots of dancing! People could embibe if they like, but nobody would be stupid, falling-down drunk. There’d be lots of good food and a large, decadent cake! And oh yeah, people could bring me lots of gift-wrapped toys that I could rip open just like when I was a kid, and then I could donate them to a worthy children’s charity! I could, of course, keep any that I just couldn’t live without, LOL!

    Vanessa, can you tell I’m an un-fulfilled, unrequited “birthday brat?” I used to imagine at least “medium-sized” kid parties growing up, and barely anyone would come. So I’ve had to adjust a bit as I’ve grown older.

    P. S. I just loved the whole “quack quest!” That was, in deed, one fancy duck! I love anything with feathers too. Birds have always been my thing.

  10. this is so dreamy

    also my birthday is happening during a-camp just a reminder JUST A REMINDER

  11. For breakfast some powdered cinnamon sugar dough nuts that won’t make me sick and some farm eggs. It’s a toss up between a free shopping spree at a good sex shop or that cookware store I love. In a perfect world Cocina Mizado would never have been closed so that’s where’d I go for a lunch with my parents and a friend who loves Pan-Latin cuisine. There are mini lemon butter milk bundt cakes for dessert but my actual birthday cake is a log roll ice cream cake that won’t make me sick and I’ll eat it after dinner.
    Dinner is Saba’s and they have that fruity yet cinnamony jasmine tea still.
    After dessert is birthday sex then cause I’m a June baby go to one of the Pride related dance parties where my mojito is free and made with good rum not that barcardi shit.

    When I get home more birthday sex, my favourite fries in the fridge for a post-coital snack then some more log roll cake and cuddling while watching the sun rise.
    One of the birthday gifts is of course being able to sleep in without any interruptions.

  12. This article was posted on my birthday, which was pretty excellent! I’m two months post C-section and my baby stayed with my in-laws while my wife and I went for a long easy hike in one of our favorite state parks. It was cool but sunny and there were signs of spring. It was something we hadn’t done since the summer and it felt so good. I didn’t realize how limited I had felt by pregnancy/c-section recovery/winter. I felt like myself again. I also loved the alone time with my wife. Top it off with dinner at my favorite restaurant. Just so good.

  13. The cabin-in-the-woods thing, definitely, but just out of sight through the trees (a pleasant walk away) are two other cabins for our families and friends, so we can spend most of the day together, and there’s a lake so we can go kayaking. We spend some of the time having a massive splash fight with the kayak paddles, but later there’s also a silent kayak ride where you’re allowed to point to show people beautiful things but you have to be super quiet otherwise. It starts raining near the end of the silent kayak ride, then after we’re all back inside there’s a storm all afternoon. We spend the afternoon playing board games or roleplaying (my daughter’s character is a magical talking ferret because let’s be real, it always is) or lying on the extremely comfortable carpet watching the storm through the huge windows and skylights while we catch up with each other. There’s hot chocolate.

    Homemade samosas for dinner, family-recipe birthday cake while the storm completely clears up, then we all go outside to watch the stars which are amazing because there’s no light pollution. I get to be in the middle of a husband-and-kid cuddle sandwich while we stargaze, then kiddo gets to spend the night in the family cabin while hubby and I go back to ours. There’s sex and more cuddling, then another storm rolls in to listen to while we fall asleep. All my friends and family have as excellent a time as I do.

  14. I feel silly now, but my assumption when I opened this article was that it would be about when in the year you would, ideally, want your birthday to be.

    So I am here to share that while my actual birthday is in December, when I was turning six I moved my birthday to the summer that year, and apparently told my family it was because I wanted strawberries at my birthday. I had a nice beach birthday, with strawberries. And then I still got an extra present on my actual bday, so that was pretty great.

    Also I love the birthday mood boards so much!

  15. I was born on Valentine’s Day in the Northern Hemisphere’s winter but have spent most of my life in Australia with my birthday falling in the hottest part of the Southern Hemisphere’s summer. With this in mind, Heather’s snow bound cabin in the woods, fits with the fantasy that I have every year, aided by full burst air conditioning, that I’m really enjoying winter and indulging in all my favourite winter treats.
    The long warm cosy sleep in, the welcoming fire and the cuddles with my darling one and our cats as well as the afternoon spent cooking and baking lovely things for dinner. Occasionally ducking outside to enjoy the bite of the cold then curling up to read by the fire. Oh Well! That’s the fantasy. I usually have to wait till midwinter here, to at least get a taste of it though.

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