I feared the worst: My friends won't be able to come, and I'll spend my birthday alone in my apartment drinking cheap vodka from half-cracked Easter eggs.
It was the kind of news that made me drop the F-bomb at a catastrophic level in my quiet apartment. My eyes bulged at the chilling news parading itself across my laptop screen. I pushed myself off my bed, and scurried to find a roommate to listen to my woe.
Easter has occurred on April 4—my birthday—exactly five times in the last 115 years. I had just learned that my 21st would be one of those days.
Having spent most of my upbringing in one of the world's most renowned wine regions—Napa to be exact—I grew up watching people drink. My parents dragged my sister and me around wineries well before we hit our teen years; I spent those long afternoons gazing at the glamorous crowds in between sips of my alcohol-free grape drinks. I anticipated being a part of this elite array of humans. As my age grew closer to that glorious double digit-ed figure, I planned my birthday with anticipation. Weekend wine tasting excursion? Vegas? Geez, why stop there, let's go for Hawaii!
But according to that fateful day in October, the vision of my pending 21st was a deafeningly loud, "I don't think so." Clad in pastel.
Here's the thing about Easter: It moves. Most holidays have a set date, or a small window of time when it will occur. Not Easter. Oh no. Easter is more like that friend who randomly pops into town for brief bursts of time, leaving a whirlwind of confusion behind her. (Don't lie, we all have one.) Technically, Easter occurs the Sunday after the Paschal Full Moon, which, in turn, is the first full moon after the spring equinox (usually March 21). As you can guess, determining the date of Easter requires one to combine both lunar and Western calendars—which is unusual.
Easter technically can fall any time between March 22 and April 25. High maintenance, much?
I feared the worst: My friends won't be able to come, and I'd spend my birthday alone in my apartment drinking cheap vodka from half-cracked Easter eggs.
But I refused to let this sinister vision take hold. Instead, I strategized. Maybe I could go out Saturday night, then start the bar crawl at midnight? But research showed (okay, I asked a few older friends) that most locales consider open-to-close times as one business day—even if midnight falls somewhere in between. Therefore, even though the date would technically be Sunday, April 4, most bars would consider it April 3.
There was a solid chance that my ID would not be accepted.
I agonized over this possibility for months, toggling between the best-case scenario (drunken fairytale night!) and the very very worst (being rejected at the door and sadly biking home only to discover a flat tire, dead sober). In short? My thoughts were decidedly occupied in anticipating my night of reverse Cinderella-dom.
One week before my birthday, I made a list of every bar in my college town (Davis, California). I perused Yelp and an actual phone book to ensure that I didn't miss a single business. Next, I created a chart to track my planning. I sat on my bed and called virtually every bar in Davis. 90% of the time, my conversation with a manager went exactly like this:
"I turn 21 next Sunday, which is also Easter. Because of thi—"
"HAHAHA! DAMN! I can't believe it!"
"Riiight?! Thank you! Anyway, I was wondering if I can come in Saturday at midnight. I'm going to bring a big group of friends."
"HAHAHA! Sure, honey. That sucks! 'Ey, come're—the lady on the phone call you just answered? She turns 21 on Easter Sunday! What . . . ? Oh, I KNOW!"
Ultimately, just one bar gave me a wishy-washy response. All others literally laughed in my ear and promised to make an exception for me. I mean, Yolo County really does abide by the "yolo" creed. My chart was completed with a flourish of stars and smiley faces, but I was still stressed. What if they actually just threw me out on the quiet(ish) streets of Davis? Would I survive the humiliation? What if there was some crazy, cosmic, Groundhog's Day-flaw that prevented my 21st birthday from ever even arriving?!
As far as my 20-year-old brain was concerned, anything could happen.
I'm happy to report that April 4 did indeed arrive. Despite deadlines, dance rehearsals, visiting friends, and general spring madness, I rallied my troops to my apartment with a few hours to spare until midnight. I received gifts, cards, and all that love that comes out of birthdays. When the clock struck 11:50 PM, we began making our way to the bars. By the time we reached out first destination—a bar called G Street—the clock had stuck 12 and I was ready to join the illustrious 21-and-up crowd.
Outside the door, I brandished my ID to the bouncer. I stammered out:
"Hi, I know this is unusual, but, I spoke with your manager—"
The man shook his head.
"Aw, sorry honey, but I just can't . . ."
Everything was ruined. My birthday was over. The time I spent planning? Worthless. Wasted were the hours my friends spent driving to see me. My foxy, 22-year-old boyfriend would surely see that I was too much of a baby for him. While my dreams blistered and withered before my eyes, I heard the bouncer laugh.
"Just kidding. Happy birthday!"
He nearly shouted as he pressed his stamp to my forehead (it's a tradition in Davis to stamp the forehead, instead of hand or wrist, of bar patrons on their 21st birthday). I was so stunned, I couldn't even smile or stride inside. My birthday was happening! It was on! So, very, very on!
The rest of the night was a blur of free drinks, birthday shout-outs, more forehead stamps, dancing, kisses, hugs, and drunken laughter. I felt like some craven reverse Cinderella.
Finally it was midnight.
The debauchery began with my friend Jordan offering to buy a—excuse my French and childhood whimsy—blow job shot. Now, I'm lactose intolerant. That drink includes whipped cream. In that moment, I gracefully declined the whipped cream but not-so-gracefully downed the shot in all its 3-ounce fury.
As I felt the stinging sugar hit my throat, I felt accepted by the illustrious 21+ crowd and everything spinning out of control.
Ordinarily, this would have frightened me, but on the night of my 21st birthday, it felt oh-so-right. Before I knew it, I was accepting beers from folks I had only meet a handful of times, dancing (oh-so-over confidently) with my boyfriend and his friends, blowing kisses at DJ's sending birthday wishes, and chugging drinks that included a whole host of dairy products. And honestly, who knows what else.
I fell into a blissful sleep that night. (My boyfriend, however, did not sleep thanks to the gratuitous snores of my roommate's boyfriend.) And then miraculously, not that hungover, I spent the next day with my family. My parents—being the Napa people they are—saved a case of wine from my birth year (1989). We opened the first bottle that day, and drank to my milestone in adulthood.
It may sound silly, but I often think about this lactose and booze-soaked night when I feel overwhelmed by life's many curve-balls. Despite the months I spent stressing over my pending festivities, my 21st turned out to be one of the best birthdays of my life.
I guess life is funny like that.