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Inching closer to a Botox birthday

Alison Berkley
Aspen, CO Colorado

So I turned 38 last Saturday. Unless you’re the people who own Botox, it hardly seems a cause for celebration.

Still, I expect a huge party to be thrown in my honor and I am totally devastated when that doesn’t happen. No parade with baton twirlers and nerdy band boys stomping down Main Street in tall caps with feathers playing drums they wear on suspenders. No cake for me to pop out of dressed in a peacock feather bikini and white go-go boots. No male strippers dressed as firemen or fireworks on Aspen Mountain.



“I figure I have four days to get your present since your birthday is on March fourth,” said my friend Dina.

“Actually, it’s today,” I replied.




Ever since I can remember, birthdays have been this huge letdown.

My fifth birthday party is one of those events that will never be forgotten, sewn into the fabric of our family history as a story that will be kept alive for many generations to come. It will be brought up every time I bring a boy home to meet my dad ” a boy he is either consciously or subconsciously trying to scare away. It’s right up there with the time my brother pooped and peed all over the basement floor and then proceeded to drive his Tonka trucks through it, or the time I wrote the entire alphabet (in capital and lowercase letters) across my bedroom wall with a permanent marker.

So, it’s my fifth birthday party and everyone sings and I blow out the candles and my mom cuts the cake (of course the birthday girl gets the first piece) only to reveal blood red strawberry jam filling. I hate strawberry. I shrieked so loud you would have thought my mother had stabbed me in the eye with the cake knife. I’m sure she would have liked to, because as soon as I started to cry, the other 15 kids sitting around the table in party hats with the elastics cutting off the circulation to their red faces started to cry, too. There were enough snot and tears on that table to get the entire neighborhood sick. One by one, my mother collected our plates and scraped the uneaten cake into the garbage can she’d dragged into the dining room from the kitchen, trying to silence the cries of my kindergarten class before the neighbors called the police.

So last Saturday night I finally called Jeff around 8 p.m. when I hadn’t heard from anyone yet and we were supposed to go to dinner at 9:30. “Should we cancel the reservation for eight people?” I asked, trying not to sound upset. “Have you talked to anyone?”

“No, I haven’t talked to anyone,” he said, his voice hoarse. “I’ve been sleeping.”

My sixth birthday was a bit of a disaster also. My mom had set up all these games in the basement like a little mini carnival, games like pin the tail on the donkey and a pinata. She had candy and prizes to give away and all sorts of fun party favors. For whatever reason, I was not blessed with the inherent skills required for winning any of these games so I threw a huge fit.

There’s a photo of me from that party in a red and white polka dotted dress, white tights and black patent-leather Mary Janes. I have clip-on plastic earrings and a rhinestone tiara and I’m sucking on a lollipop, which means it obviously took more than one prize to appease me.

So my phone rings at 11:30 p.m. last Saturday night and I decide to answer it even though we’re still at dinner. “I’m so sorry we couldn’t make it to your birthday dinner, but happy birthday!” my friend Neal said.

Growing up with two shrinks, you get solutions like “code words” to help alleviate embarrassing scenes in public. It was 1976, and Mork and Mindy was one of the most popular shows on television, so whenever I started showing signs of being a brat during my sixth birthday party, my mom would say “nanoo nanoo” and give me the little Mork handshake signal.

Too bad there was no one to help me out with that this year, because by 8 p.m. I was ready to cry. Instead, I bit the bullet and managed to rally two of my friends to join me for a drink.

“Where do you want to go?” one asked. “Matsu?”

“Why would I want to go there? I was thinking someplace chill like Bentleys.”

She made a face and I was in no mood to argue. I just wanted to be sedated, or maybe put to sleep.

In the end it was my usual posse. It was the same crew of friends who celebrate my dreaded birthday with me every year as the numbers next to the “3” slowly creep up toward the dreaded four-oh. My friends who took me out for an amazing dinner, fed me drinks and made me laugh even though I’m still a spoiled brat.

Still there’s a part of me that feels let down somehow and I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because my birthday doesn’t mean anything after all, other than reminding everyone that I’m another dreaded year older. Maybe it’s because 30 years later I’m still that bratty kid wondering why I can’t win the damn prize.

“Sorry I missed your birthday,” my friend Don e-mailed me a few days later. “What kind of present do you want? Let’s go shopping today!”

“What can you possibly buy for the girl who already has it all?” I replied, and sort of believing it. “You don’t have to get me anything.”

What I probably should have told him is the truth: What I wanted was a birthday cake ” just make sure it’s not strawberry.