I am on the verge of another birthday. While I am not sure if other San Franciscans share the same sentiment, I am completely stressed out. It feels weird throwing a party for yourself. Surprise parties don’t work for me because I am bound to figure it out. I don’t do trips because I like being able to go home and sleep in my bed at the end of the night. There are various options for throwing a birthday party, but I seem to just stick to the traditional ‘throw a party at a bar and invite people on Facebook.’
I will be completely honest; I like having big birthdays. I like bringing people together across all of my friend groups and actually get to catch up, even for a minute. I appreciate everyone who walks through that door to wish me a Happy Birthday. Whether you would like to admit it or not, it feels good to have other people recognize you overcoming another year in your life.
The last year for me was rife with challenges, both professionally, personally and with finding a way to love San Francisco despite its flaws. A birthday is a time to release yourself from that past year and focus on the now. Unfortunately, that is not how I feel. I am nervous about putting up a Facebook event. It automatically makes me question whether people will actually show up, or flake out on me like California tends to do (reference two articles ago).
Despite my insecurities, planning a party is hell in this town. Pick any venue that has a reserved spot, and you are looking at paying anywhere from $500 to $4,000 for one night of your life. My friends have recommended that instead I just show up somewhere and tell the 100 people I am going to invite that they should come. Justifiably, that won’t work because we will probably get kicked out. Others have told me to go to Dolores Park and have a day party. Not to be a snob, but that is not my style. It is a beautiful place, but not one that I feel like packing a picnic for and eating a birthday truffle.
Why are there no normal spaces in S.F.? I have been on Airbnb, Peerspace and Craigslist trying to find anything that will accommodate my guests and is under $500. I still cannot deal with the fact that I would have to pay that amount of money to have a party for myself. And I would never have people pay for tickets to cut the cost and celebrate with me. I feel like it lacks freedom and choice. Everyone decides things last minute here, and I don’t want people’s money to be wasted if they decide to not show up.
Hence, the stress sets in. Last year, I was lucky enough to have permission to invite 150 people to The Starlight Room in the Sir Francis Drake hotel. It was gorgeous. Atop The City I am growing to love, there was a dance floor, full bar, tables and nightlife ambiance. As I think about what I can do this year, nothing is as good as that party. Granted, I was celebrating a milestone birthday, and I had to go all out. Also, I had a connection who knew I could bring in enough people to make it worth it for the bar.
So, now I am stuck a week before my birthday, no idea what I am going to do. I haven’t even made reservations for dinner. What is my problem? I think with all of the options and all of the stress, I have become relatively immobile, unsure how to frame the transitional moment between last year’s birthday and this one. This isn’t even an important birthday. I do list my age on my Facebook, by the way, so everyone knows what year of my life this is. (As a side note: what age do people tend to turn off that information, if they turn it off at all?)
What am I going to do? Despite all of the bullshit I have put myself through over the past two weeks, I am finally taking it seriously and emailing like crazy. I even have my email tracker on to know whether they have opened it or not to know how much to bug them. I am finally crafting my list of invitees, hoping that they haven’t already made plans. Even though I should probably book the venue first, I am finally participating in the planning of my own thing.
I’m not sure why I have been so stressed out. I realize that it isn’t just because of the annoyance and effort it takes to plan a party, but because I am getting older. I guess it just feels weird to get older in this city. It makes me scared that I will be less relevant in the startup world when I cross a certain age range. Despite this scary truth, I have to remember that age is just a number (Aliyah), and I am lucky to be able to experience another year of this amazing life I have in San Francisco.
Here’s to a new birthday!
With a background in journalism, Melissa Eisenberg has been working in the tech industry for eight years, currently leading the SF FashTech community.