This April 15th, I turned 38.
I know the feeling. Your first thought — hmm, she ain’t young anymore. Right. 38, by that measure, is a magic number. Although, it doesn’t feel like a part of 30s anymore, it is also not 40 yet. And that’s a relief.
I will begin by saying I am happily married. Insanely so, if you must know. I have two lovely daughters — a confident and responsible eight-year-old and a free-spirited and funny two-year-old. My husband is a simple man. Loving and honest. Currently a student at MIT.
I am a stay-at-home mom, voracious reader and a freelance writer, in that order.
“So, what’s wrong?” You wonder.
“Nothing,” I say.
Why does something have to be wrong to become an online personal essay? Why does ‘spending birthday alone’ bring narrowed eye arising from the assumption — ‘she isn’t happy?’ Why is the word ‘alone’ mostly seen as a problem?
Like I said, my husband is a student. And a Fulbright scholar. We currently live on a modest scholarship stipend. Dining out is a luxury we haven’t been able to afford in the last two years.
Moreover, with two young kids in tow, the idea is outrightly rejected whenever we have thought of it.
My husband doesn’t like eating out. Or traveling. Or visiting cafes. He doesn’t drink alcohol and neither coffee or tea. He is also vegan which makes it a little harder. His idea of fun is staying at home — talking and watching movies on Netflix and playing with kids. Surprisingly, it works wonderfully for us.
I have a big set of friends. Here in MIT as well as back in India. I often visit cafes alone and sometimes eat out with friends at cheap delis. My last vacation was a solo cruise trip. Over a period of time, I have come to enjoy my company. I value the experience of travel, or of food more than the company I am with.
From the initial years of our marriage when I angrily dragged him with me to wherever I went (and regretting it later because he only sulked), we have reached a point where he is happy to be with kids at home and I am happy exploring the world by myself. He isn’t obliged to accompany me outside and I am not bound to stay with kids at home.
To many, this seems weird or compromising. To us, this is happy married life.
We spend a lot of time together. Quality time full of conversations and hugs and compliments. I don’t have exotic travel pictures to boast about, but I am out of Facebook anyway. My instagram — @womanatics — chronicles my everyday photography journey. And Twitter? What’s that?
With less than two months left in this country, I wanted to experience what they call ‘upscale dining.’ So when I called Legal Seafoods as Boston Harbor and the lady asked me, “Upscale or casual dining?” I knew which to pick.
And what a better day than my birthday? I had celebrated the day earlier with my friends.
Now it was my time to celebrate with myself — something I hadn’t done in a long time.
Going solo turned out to be the best way. I got a generous dose of my ‘me’ time and didn’t have to pay for the family. Plus, he babysat.
Our society — and our ideas of happiness — are fixated on others. Social media only fuels it.
The worth of any event or day is measured in likes, gifts, calls/messages and parties. And hardly on ‘how the day or event made us feel.’
My solo birthday dinner scores high on fulfillment quotient.
I paid the bill from my earnings as a freelancer. I had dressed up nicely for it, for a change. Had pulled out my new handbag from the suitcase. Generously sprayed perfume over the pulse points. And more importantly, stepped out of the house without the much-dreadful mommy guilt.
My friends wanted to accompany me. But I chose to go with myself. The table for two was apt — for me and myself.
Peering out of the window over to the harbor, I felt a sense of calm. From the second floor, I could see couples using selfie sticks to click pictures. A group of young men holding hands and patting each other while laughing. A young woman pouting. And kids running.
I sat there in silence. Enjoying the cod with potato and oyster sauce. The vodka cocktail looked pretty in pink, just like its name. I didn’t think of kids back at home. Or husband cooking for them. Or other guests deciding on their menu. I only thought about the view and how gorgeous the airplanes looked after taking off from Logan airport.
An hour and a half later, I called Uber and came home.
An evening well spent. My mom was dismayed. “Why didn’t you go with him?” My elder one confused. “Mumma, but how did you celebrate?” But my husband understood. “You should do it more often.”, he said, hugging me tightly.