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39 & Feelin’ Fine

by Elizabeth Spannuth

I turned 39 on Tuesday and in the weeks leading up to my birthday I was having mixed feelings about it. Typically, I don’t mind getting older, because I enjoy the mental journey. I am fond of saying “I miss my 20 year old body, but I don’t miss my 20 year old mind.” But being the birthday before the big 4-0, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I don’t have the trappings that society associates with my age group, such as a spouse, home ownership, a lucrative job at a big name company, and kids. I have a long-term boyfriend, live in a rented house, have a job at a start-up and have a dog and a cat. Not to say that these things aren’t great, because they are; I am thankful for them and I am confident in my choices. But society has a way of telling you those things aren’t good enough and every so often my ego agrees and feels the need to by for a visit and let me know… Conventional thinking asserts that you must make your union legal, own things and procreate, preferably in that order. (The best example of this was given to me by my sister. The majority of time that she lived in Texas she was a 30-something single woman. She would tell me stories of how married people again and again would ask her things like “why are you STILL single?” and “why don’t you have any kids?” while eyeing her as though she were defective.)

So it was with some trepidation that I awaited the arrival of the big day. My mind would periodically ponder questions like “I wonder if I will feel like a big loser?” and “I wonder if I will just feel old?” Then something shifted in me a few days before my birthday. I often write stream of consciousness style in the morning and during one of those sessions I was hit with the inspiration to get more engaged with my birthday and make it a more interactive experience this year; to use it as a chance to thank the universe for conspiring to help me succeed, instead of lamenting the march of time.

I decided to start by giving myself the most loving gift I could think of: 2 Bikram yoga classes back to back. (This will sound like madness to some, but those in the know are shouting “Amen!”) It was fantastic! Then I reached out to my friends and family to thank them for being part of my life, instead of waiting for them to call me. They were all a bit confused initially, but ultimately pleasantly surprised. The day rolled around and I had nothing but good feelings about it. When I got up that morning I was inspired to make myself one of my favorite cakes, the 6 Minute Cake from the Moosewood cookbook ( along with a strawberry-mango sauce topping. I told my boyfriend that I was making myself a cake. He sputtered with outrage, “You can’t make your own birthday cake!” I said, “Who will make it for me, you?” He looked me cautiously, “Do you want me to make you a cake?” I responded with, “Don’t answer – it’s a trick!” and we both collapsed into laughter.

I travelled with my cake all day, spreading joy wherever I went. I made a special stop at my parent’s house to shower them with goodness, as well as taking the remainder of my cake over to a friend’s house for our standing movie night. What a great idea: to spread joy with cake wherever you go!

I continued showering people with goodness throughout the week, buying some lovely carnations for myself and handing them out to people. I was rewarded for these acts of powerful kindness throughout the week. While standing in line at the gas station, a 5 year old girl complimented me on my bright pink toe nail polish and followed it up with” You look pretty.” A few hours later, I went to Costco and got carded for buying beer. The cashier was probably in her 50’s, but hell, I’ll that that as a compliment anyway. In your face 39!

I also decided to throw myself a belated birthday BBQ to enjoy good friends and good food. Last year I suggested throwing myself a BBQ and I was deterred by my boyfriend saying, “You can’t throw your own party! Someone else has to throw you a party.” This year I decided that there are no rules, but the ones that I make. Under my rules, it’s not only ok to make your own cake as well as to throw yourself a party, but preferred; that way you get what you want when you want it and you can share it with whomever you wish. So, I have a date with 40 next year and I intend making it as great as my date with 39 turned out to be!