Relationships

What Was Your Birthday Like This Year?

birthday broad city

My birthday is this weekend, and I’m feeling…

…a little sad. My birthday usually means I’m on the dance floor with friends until the wee hours of the morning, or at the very least, having dinner at a favorite hole-in-the-wall with twinkly lights and tiramisu. We talk loudly and laugh, eating joyfully — swapping dishes, insisting everyone taste what’s on our plates, ordering bottles of wine, and sharing desserts until the place is almost closed.

This birthday will look nothing like that.

Just like everything else this year, celebrations are viewed through a lens of unfamiliarity. Nothing looks the way we expected it to look, and it can make you really sad when you think about it. Then it occurred to me that this year almost all of us have had quarantine birthdays. Whether solo, with roommates, or with families, we’ve figured out a way to make it okay, despite our worlds turning upside down.

My favorite celebration this year was my friend Emily’s birthday picnic in the park. Everyone brought a blanket and Prosecco to cheers with, six feet apart. It also happened to be the day Biden won the election, so spontaneous dancing and cheering followed, and the whole city partied together day and night.

As much as I would love to be dancing in the street, or close talking with friends, I’ll settle for a really good cake, and a slow dance. Perhaps 33 will be an “elegant older lady” year. It will definitely be one to remember.

What did your birthday look like this year? I’d love to hear!

P.S. 14 birthday traditions from around the world and which birthday cake do you like?

(Photo from Broad City.)

  1. Meg says...

    My ex cheated, lied, and broke up with me on my birthday this year and had no contact ever since. I was sad but now i can see that was a blessing in disguise. No more toxic relationship. I am able to enjoy my life better <3

  2. Jaime says...

    My fiance’s birthday was in early quarantine before we all knew this was the “new normal.” Normally we would have gone dinner at a fancy restaurant or gone on a trip to celebrate, but I decided to bring the restaurant home to us! I turned our apartment into a “Red Sauce Joint” complete with the red and white checkered tablecloth, candles, and ordering every-single-thing we could ever possibly want to eat from our favorite neighborhood Italian place, and even made a playlist with old school songs like Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra on it to really set the vibe. It was such a surprise and hit, and my fiance told me it was his favorite birthday yet! It was also one of my favorite days on the entire year, because it was the first dose of joy in a very scary and uncertain time!

  3. Moonlight says...

    My birthday was on 1 December. I usually arrange dinner the Saturday following it, and then we go out dancing. This year, my family got me a cake and came over for tea at my apartment (we live on the same building). Later, my friends called me, spontaneously, and we used a filter with a cake, blew out the candles and then used another filter with balloons- hah! The following day they surprised me with an actual birthday cake at home (my favourite kind)! Regulations allow for house gatherings of up to 10 people where I live, so we are on a semi-bubble with my 3 closest friends.
    I made plans for a Sunday brunch at home, then had casual, socially distanced drinks out in the afternoon, and had wine and a platter back at my place again. We are only allowed to be out until 21.00 so they left early, however since we started early I felt like it was a full day. I’m hoping that we will soon be able to dance out again, and all celebrate our 2020 birthdays in our favourite ways, even at a later date!
    We’ve all noticed that birthdays we celebrated in Jan/ Feb this year, now seem to be lifetimes ago! So strange- this year seems to have gone my so quickly but also soooo soooo slowly!

  4. kd says...

    My birthday is March 16. This was the Monday following the weekend when everything got serious and shut down in Colorado. I manage a library and spent the whole weekend and my birthday (which I originally planned off) doing logistics to figure out the transition. Very few people remembered it was my birthday. One friend dropped a cupcake off on my porch. I’m not an attention loving person, but it was tough to not feel that extra love. I also live alone with my dog, so it’s almost like it didn’t happen at all. I legitimately just had to do math in my head to figure out my age (32!? 33? lol). It looks like I will likely have 2 birthdays in quarantine… so maybe I can orchestrate something to make up for the last one. Regardless, always grateful to have a birthday to celebrate… even if it’s with my dog and a way-too-big-for-one-person cake delivered from Whole Foods.

  5. Charlotte says...

    Happy birthday! I hope your day today was better than you worried it might be, and that your days continue to brighten. This year has been so hard and I know many people who remain unemployed and feel this type of loneliness. People are rooting for you!

    Sending you hugs.

  6. Alyssa says...

    My 31st birthday was on December 6th. Last year, I was in Disney World with my mom for my 30th which would be hard to top. However, my fiance and three of our best friends who we’ve seen throughout the pandemic through the coziest birthday party ever. Two of us have December birthdays so the entire party was at our friends house. They decorated the whole house SUPER Christmasy, with extra lights, balloons everywhere, the yule log on the TV, blinking christmas light necklaces, the whole nine yards. We ordered our favorite takeout, the hostess made yummy snacks. We were required to wear Christmas PJs. She planned Christmas-themed Minute to Win It Games and Christmas scattegories. It was truly a most magical birthday. Not what I expected but honestly perfect in every way.

  7. sara says...

    Reading this, I thought back to my birthday in September and… nothing. I have been sitting here for a few minutes, thinking hard, and I cannot remember a single thing about my birthday. I can be sure my husband made me something delicious. I am confident I ate cake and delighted to be celebrating with my kids. But the specifics have melted away, which seems kind of fitting for this year in which every day has kind of blurred together. Like the rest of this year, though, I am grateful for the fact that my existence has been mundane and repetitive. It means I and my loved one have remained healthy and out of harms way!

  8. Mel says...

    I turned 34 at the end of July exactly one month after having my second daughter by surprise C-section (thanks to covid and minimal short appointments my mid-wives missed that she was breach). I was in intense recovery pain, my 3 year old was home and bored and my husband and I were both a bit postpartum from our terrible hospital experience and having no one to come help us. He still went out and bought crab legs and made me a beautiful dinner and got me flowers. A week later my sister took a covid test to ensure she was ‘safe’ (enough) to come help and spent a week doing laundry and taking care of us. The following week my other sister did the same. By week 6 both my husband and my mental state turned for the better. And at the 8 week mark we sent our then 4 year old to preschool. My Birthday was hard, but things turned for the better soon from there (at least within our house). Next year tho? Champagne, friends and a hotel room (for just husband and I) i’ve decided.

  9. E says...

    I can’t even remember what I did for my birthday, if anything. It was in May, which feels like so long ago.

  10. ANYA says...

    I turned 40 in September. I had a windfall this year and so I had booked a five-star trip to the Azores in Portugal (volcanoes, hot springs, whale watching) for me and my 3 closest college friends. Maybe next year! Instead I spent it all alone camping and hiking, went to a cute used bookstore & ate a veggie burger and a Martini on a terrace overlooking a waterfall. I tried to make it nice but honestly I was pretty bummed out.

  11. Ellie says...

    My 32nd is next week (eek) and it’s definitely disappointing to not be able to celebrate with friends. Usually we find a way to go out for dinner and drinks amid the craziness of holiday parties, end of year work events, and travel to see family. Still, I’m definitely looking forward to “caviar night” (our sometimes tradition to make celebrations at home special) at home with my husband who seems to have a few tricks up his sleeve…

    Especially hard was my husband’s 40th last month. His brothers and parents were all supposed to come visit us in our new city and I know it was a big bummer not to be able to go all out. Hopefully we can make up for it next year!

  12. Mrs. Mach says...

    I turned 30 this year. I picture a lot of things happening for my 30th birthday- none of which happened. So I completely understand. However my 2 best friends went out of their way to make my day special, my family reached out several times and my husband treated me like a queen. No I didn’t have a huge bash with all the people I love, but I still felt the love from afar. ❤️❤️

  13. Natalia says...

    Just got a positive corona test result for my birthday. Thankfully I seem to be getting off pretty lightly but I’ve had to cancel all the Christmas excitement I’ve been planning for the kids since the summer to try and make up for all the 2020. Instead we’re isolating until Christmas day. Sigh.

  14. Meghan says...

    My birthday is in exactly 1 week. We just start a new lockdown and restrictions which include absolutely no indoor OR outdoor gatherings. So… it will be me.

  15. Kelly P says...

    I was in Zurich, which sounds like it should be the best birthday ever, but in reality my husband was being an ass. We got in a big fight and I spent most of the day walking around the beautiful city alone. I did get an ice cream (two scoops!) and sit by the lake people watching for a long while, so there’s that.

  16. Flora says...

    My birthday is today, my partner’s birthday was yesterday. We live in busy Berlin, so we treated ourselves by renting an electric car and driving farther out to a tranquil old forest with small hidden marshy lakes for a hike. We packed sandwiches and a thermos of hot cocoa, and bundled ourselves up. It was perfect. Today, we are bundling up again for a physically distant walk with friends to get takeaway coffee and pains au chocolat.

    • kd says...

      Sounds absolutely beautiful.. Happy Birthday to you both, Flora. xx

  17. LB says...

    I turn 40 on January 20th, inauguration day. And while I’m bummed I won’t be having a fab trip with friends or even the usual celebratory night out, let’s be honest – the one wish I really wanted to come true for this birthday will *actually* be happening…

  18. Eva says...

    Haha. Definitely not very good. It was in March, during the first epidemic peak in France. On Friday we had to close the cardiac rehab department where I work as a doctor. In a gloomy atmosphere and gloomy weather we sent all patients back home.
    On Saturday my 1 YO baby starts vomiting, his first gastroenteritis. With my boyfriend we manage to make each a last trip to the bookshop in a strange atmosphere because we feel that lockdown will likely be announced soon.
    My 32th birthday is on Sunday – I buy myself a birthday cake, a good fraisier (french Classic strawberry cake). My toddler is still vomiting.
    At midnight we, happy parents, started vomiting too and speed the whole night feeling sooooo bad.
    On Monday we are unable to go to work (anyway there is no patients anymore….) and lie in bed feeling so tired and mesuring the side effects of having a toddler. The remaining half of the fraisier will never be eaten.
    On Thursday the president finally make the lockdown announcement.
    (Cherry on the (birthday) cake, of course the holidays planned the following week to see them and celebrate are canceled and everybody is very scared).
    Well. I hope 2021 will bring a nicer birthday !!

  19. Lisa says...

    My birthday was very weird. I was undergoing IVF treatment, and egg collection day fell on my birthday. Every time it came up the nurses would say “make a birthday wish!” And during the procedure I had the weird experience of being in stirrups while the nurse, doctor and embryologist wished me a happy birthday. The anaesthetic was pleasant at the time but made me sick for the rest of the afternoon which meant I couldn’t have my special birthday dinner or takeaway burgers (we have small kids and no childcare). But! My husband did get me the best birthday cake ever – a merveille. It’s meringue with cream and chocolate. Incredible

  20. margaret says...

    Happy Bday Kim! My bday was last month, right as the Covid cases were beginning to surge. I guess it was a classic Covid bday. My husband and I took a morning hike, an afternoon picnic, and had two friends over that night for socially-distanced cake around our new fire table. My sweet friend new my ideal birthday cake is – weirdly – the cake I had as a child at a chain restaurant from the Midwest. She found the recipe on line and modified it to make it less heart-attack inducing. It was delicious and so, so kind and thoughtful!

  21. L S says...

    I will turn 40 next weekend and I plan to leave the kids with my husband and ski all day at my local ski resort – Hopefully it is a bluebird powder day!

  22. Marcy D says...

    Turned 40 pre-pandemic actually. Still had the flu followed the very next week by a horrific stomach virus. Still very on brand for 2020 before it even got started. Oh well.

  23. martini says...

    Crappy. Turn 71.
    A year ago, on my birthday week, I was diagnosed with breast cancer.
    Had a partial mastectomy. All went well. My surgeon is a magician and it’s hardly noticeable.
    This year, one year to the week, I found another lump. Same breast, same location.
    Turned out to be a calcified mass of fluid & tissue from the healing of the previous surgery. It was drained. Am waiting for the lab results which are almost 100% sure to be benign.
    I’d love to say “F 2020” but at least I lived through it.
    I CAN say “F Cancer”. It sucks and it hurts. Enough.

    Things are looking up though. I lived to see trump ( with a lower case “t” ) finally the hell out and gone.

    • margaret says...

      Martini! I’m so so sorry, that sounds really frightening and awful. I’m thinking about you as you wait for your results. I hope you don’t mind my saying that you really do sound like a badass, though. I’m sure that will serve you well, come what may. Stay strong.

    • Jen says...

      Sending so much love, Martini! Hoping that 72 is a care-free and joy filled birthday for you!

    • Yeah! Rooting for you to have a much better 2021.

  24. Happy birthday, Kim! I hope you have a beautiful day, finding small joys and celebrating in a way that feels festive and yet appropriate, whatever that may be for you this year.

    I’m normally a big celebrator of birthdays, for both my own and my loved ones too. I used to throw big parties for my summer birthday, though now I usually just declare August as Birthday Month, as a way to have many smaller celebrations throughout the month. But for the first time ever, I was really dreading this year’s birthday. It’s been a brutal year, between the trauma of the COVID lockdowns here in NYC with ambulances blaring every few minutes throughout the spring, enduring extreme bouts of isolation and loneliness, and watching my entire industry (the performing arts) be put on indefinite pause while it’s unsafe for large groups to gather in concert halls/theaters.

    I was inclined to skip my birthday this summer, but my BFF wouldn’t take no for an answer, having planned a surprise outing for us that she was so excited about. On my birthday, she whisked me off to Brooklyn in her car, and we spent an evening at the Skyline Drive-In in Greenpoint, where the evening feature was “JAWS”!!! Seeing movies in a theater is one of the things I’ve missed most in recent months—and how thrilling it was to see this favorite classic on a gigantic screen! My friend had brought festive bubbly and other treats from Balthazar, and we picked up pizza slices nearby to enjoy during the movie. I was so touched that she went to such effort to plan a special day for me, and those were truly some of the happiest hours I’ve spent during this entire year!

  25. Erin says...

    My birthday was back in April and I was really grateful because my partner went all out. We had just gotten a Nintendo switch and so he organized an animal party activity/scavenger hunt in our apartment (we’re in our 30s btw), followed by a delivery high tea, and then a zoom jackbox party with a bunch of people and a load of BBQ.

    I rented a movie theatre for his bday in July (he’s a movie buff) for a socially distanced sing-along movie with friends, followed by park hangout, which was super fun.

    A friend of mine also organized a cute “bar-hopping” themed zoom party for her partner’s bday.

  26. Mimi says...

    I turned 40 this year and it certainly wasn’t what I had been planning (a fun trip with friends and/or a getaway with my husband). My mom baked a lovely peach cake and we drank some bubbly and I got a beautiful ring and some other nice gifts. I wanted sushi, and we mobile ordered from a fancy place, only to find on trying to pick up that they were closed due to an employee having COVID, yet had not shut down their mobile ordering. We ended up having to order from somewhere else, ate later than we wanted to, and had to chase down the first restaurant to give us a refund. It was a memorable birthday certainly, but not the one I wanted.

    • Angela says...

      I turned 40 a month ago and it was nothing like I envisioned. I feel a little guilty for being bummed. But I also figure that a birthday during Covid doesn’t quite count right?! So maybe we will do it up next year! Happy birthday everyone! ❤️

    • Nina says...

      A lot of us turned 40 this pandemic! Happy birthday to us all! And we will all make up for it every year until we turn 50.