Dig Baton Rouge

East of the River

By Katie East

Planning your own birthday is at best taxing and at worst a stressful nightmare. As a control freak, I go thru the same thing every year: I plan the birthday I want and I get something totally different. Sometimes, it’s a pleasant twist, other times it makes me question all of my friends and my general life choices.

Last week I celebrated my 31st birthday and I basically planned nothing; it was great! All these awesome opportunities and events came up and my giving family members decided to dote upon me. Of course, the organizing phase was not without its stresses.

My husband decided this year to surprise me, or rather should I say he tried to surprise me; this is not an easy feat. In fact, I have never been thrown a surprise party nor can I genuinely say I’ve been shocked or surprised by some fun event or experience. And this year was no different: the surprise was foiled.

For my wedding, one of my close coworkers decided to throw a surprise engagement party for me and my then fiancé. Not once but twice another coworker said: “So when is your surprise party happening?” His reasoning was he assumed no one would go to the trouble to coordinate the plans of a party except for me.

Again, I’m a control freak; it’s hard for me to relinquish the power of the plans. It’s especially hard to get me to go with the flow when I don’t even know where we’re going or what way “the flow” is. If I haven’t Yelped a place I probably won’t be attending. If I’m ever to be surprised I’m sure it will involve some elaborate planning. This year, my husband tried to play it casual and thus I made new plans thinking nothing was scheduled.

In the end, I had to coordinate timing, which spoiled the surprise, but the invention of the plans wasn’t on me at all. That, in itself, was a blessing. No one said: “Well, what do you want to do on your birthday?” They said: “We’re going here, what time works?” And I ended up having an amazing birthday week that I didn’t create at all.

I remember my first birthday I had when I lived in New York City was a total failure. I worked with a bunch of people who cared a lot about how much their handbag cost while I was focused on if I could fit a big beer in my Target brand purse. I was about to turn 23 and all I wanted was to force my fancy “friends” to go on a tour of dive bars.

Despite a carefully planned time schedule and map, we ended up at the only pricey dance club in the Lower East Side. My coworkers assured me they would pay for all my drinks and we could have fun without them having to worry about getting syphilis from the toilet seat.

So, the group won and I didn’t see a single dive bar on my epically planned evening. I took my free lemon drops and got in a fight with the DJ; I normally save that behavior for weddings. I had a fairly miserable night because I didn’t get my way and I let my coworkers win on what was supposed to be my night.

On the other hand, this summer I over-planned my bachelorette party for months. I painstakingly put together an elaborate, over-the-top ‘50s-themed New Orleans weekend filled with burlesque and partying. I spoke with the hotel every week for months in advance and coordinated with my fantastic maid of honor (AKA sent her 1,000 e-mails on what reservations to make).

In the end, nothing went according to plan; it went even better. Sure, we never ended up on Frenchmen Street when that was a big goal of the weekend. But, we found fun everywhere we went. New opportunities were constantly coming up with things to do and I wasn’t going to force everyone to “stick to the plan!” and forfeit the fun.

Despite all of my months of careful organization I was totally ready to go with the flow. When the hotel suite wasn’t available and then the tiny room we had was overbooked day of I didn’t freak out. We hopped in a pedi-cab and lugged 60 pounds worth of luggage to a huge house on Bourbon Street the hotel let us stay in instead: not too shabby.

I even admit the most fun parts of the weekend were what my sister and friends planned for me. The only time the party turned sour was when I forced everyone to truck it to Frenchmen Street at 4 a.m. That pesky voice in my head was yelling about “the plan” and I had to abide against everyone else’s better judgment.

The moral of the story is to accept when someone wants to plan your day for you. And be ready to accept when the plans change. But remember, if there’s something you really want to do then speak up. There’s a difference between a friend who takes charge and one who takes over. Sometimes you have to stand up for yourself and say: “We’re going to a dive bar, bitch.”

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