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 Bernard, CEO
+ 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!
Reneice Charles, Writer
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 , Interm Literature 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.
Laneia , Executive Editor
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.
A. Tony Jerome, Writer
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!
Mika Albornoz, Writer
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.