I’ve been thinking about my upcoming 40th birthday and accompanying party this August. I was speaking with one of my sisters for a chunk of time on the phone yesterday, discussing some of the plans. We are going to be having a BBQ at my parents’ house (where my wedding reception was), just for immediate family – siblings and their offspring. Two of my best friends from school may come along for some BBQ, but then head away, so mostly it will be a nice intimate affair of 26 people! (2-10-14 are the numbers in each generation.)
My mother keeps trying to “formalise” aspects of it – pushing for the meal to be held in a restaurant or something like that. She somehow feels this would be “easier”. I don’t know if it’s to do with how we were expected to behave when we were kids: tolerating a lot of boring adult time and food, being super quiet and uncomfortable, and not liking the expensive stuff that was served to us, but which we were still expected to eat. Or maybe she’s just forgotten what it’s like to be dealing with small, easily distracted humans with terrible palates.
In any case, my sister has successfully deployed the phrase “It’s not what [ME] wants” several times now. So, I’m actually really looking forward to it, and to spending time in the evening maybe singing songs, chattering away into the wee hours and solving the universe’s problems. Maybe I should be careful not to have too many expectations. Maybe I’ll just be really tired (in my old age) and go to bed early. I think it will be lovely though.
There is one aspect I’m feeling a bit apprehensive about though, my standard room elephant – who’s pretty talked about here, to be fair – alcohol.
My immediately younger brother is the only one I’ve told that I’m not drinking anymore. And I’ve sent him this blog, and we discussed it briefly when I was over in Canada. There were a few “standard” mentions of alcohol when speaking with my sister yesterday: “That’s a conversation for a bottle of wine”, “A present of a lovely bottle of brandy”, etc. I played my expected role in the conversation: “Or two bottles!”, “Delicious”, etc.
It’s a bit of a lie.
It’s more than a bit of a lie, but I’m not – I wasn’t – in the mood for discussing it, explaining my choice. Actually, I don’t really mind explaining my choice, the issue is around defending it. And maybe I won’t have to, and that will be cool – maybe my family will just be all “cool, whatever – you do your thing and we’ll do ours” (Ha! a very You Do You moment indeed. I’m so fashionable.), but I predict that at least one person will feel the need to have A Conversation. Hey, maybe I’ll be the one feeling the need to have a conversation about it…
Right now, however, I’m inclined to treat it as a non-issue. Like, suppose I wasn’t going to eat steak at the BBQ – or any red meat. So long as I knew there would be plenty of other food on hand (and I do know this, and I am unlikely to want red meat), there wouldn’t be any reason for me to make a big song and dance over what I’m not going to have. No-one is going to get upset or disappointed or feel uncomfortable because of my choice of what not to eat. No-one is going to feel like the camaraderie of the BBQ is somehow spoiled just because I’m eating a food that has less iron and cholesterol in it.
My plan is to bring along some drinks for myself that I know I’ll enjoy on the day – some 0% alcohol beers, cranberry juice and fresh limes to mix with sparkle-water (I drank this yesterday and it was omigodyum, maybe mint leaves and hence the ability to construct a virgin mojito, all sorts of things that will feel like party drinks and no deprivation – and possibly look much the same to the others to lessen their potential discomfort.
I did briefly entertain the possibility of my drinking at this party. By which I mean, I sat and ran through the visual and asked myself if I wanted to drink at this party – which is still a long way from actually doing it. And, no, I actually don’t want to. I think that will make it a lot easier. And it is getting easier to see that more quickly at occasions. It’s not just “I don’t want to break my sober streak, and I’m scared I won’t be so effective at starting again” and it’s not even just “I don’t want to have a hangover the next day” – I actually have no desire to drink some vaguely poisonous stuff that will alter my perceptions and actions.
It feels good to be in this place. I don’t assume I’ll have this vantage every day for the rest of my life, or even necessarily on the day in question, but for right now, it’s a pretty good feeling. It feels like solid ground. It feels like me. It feels like home.