First of all, I thought, no, assumed, I was popular, and all kinds of people were going to be asking to take me out to celebrate. I didn’t throw myself a party which I often do, so then I was thinking that some of my party regulars will get that I’m wanting to celebrate with every one of them individually, or in small groups. I’m not popular, I’m delusional.
It started kinda great. Two days before my birthday Robin and Libbie took me for a celebratory dinner at the Palm. Then on my birthday, I woke up to an email from Huffington Post saying the piece I wrote had been posted that day. Which I thought was a great sign because the story I wrote is all about my fear of dying at a young age like my mother. Then a small group of girlfriends met me for lunch on the patio of the Malibu Hotel where I was spending the weekend. We ate, laughed, and I received some lovely gifts and amazing sentimental notes that I will always cherish. Libbie is re-gifting cards to me from our long friendship. So, there was this loving thing I wrote to her in the 1970’s about how beautiful she is and how much I love her, and on the other side she wrote an update to me. Kimberly wrote a card with words that made me cry (Libbie’s card made me cry too). It was going smoothly.
My husband gave me a wedding ring. It’s a simple, thin eternity band, but one I love. I don’t wear the one he originally gave me that was his grandmother’s because of that deep fear of death. As soon as I found out she died at 58 years old, I took it off, and that was years and years ago. It worked -- so far I’m still alive. Fresh ring, HuffPo piece trending (not really, I exaggerate), hotel room on the beach. A pretty good day -- at the end of which, I was very tired.
Augie, my daughter, who joined us for lunch, left the hotel for a modeling job. Barnaby, my youngest child, told me earlier in the week he had a performance. And, well, Oliver, my oldest, had never even called to wish me a happy birthday. But, I know I’m headed to Nobu for dinner -- and I LOVE Nobu -- and can’t wait to try the new Malibu location right on the sand. Can’t wait. My phone rings. I pick up the phone a half hour before dinner and it’s Nobu telling me there is some electrical problem and they have reservations waiting for me at their sister restaurant. I throw a fit, telling the dude, “Listen, I’m turning 60 today, I planned my whole birthday around going to Nobu. That’s why I’m staying at a hotel just a few steps away -- so my husband and I can walk there.” I might have been screaming but I was tired. I insisted he call the Greek place and make the rez there because why would I drive all the way to his “sister” fuckin restaurant in Santa Monica? He calls me back and has been really great at trying to accommodate me. He tells me they only have a 9:30. I say forget it, and he offers to pick up the whole tab at Shutters. Fine. I’m so mad. I make this “Nathan” dude promise he will honor all future reservations for me because it was so hard getting the one I got.
We head out on PCH and I start to melt down. I’m crying, complaining to my husband that Oliver never called me. Neither did my brother. I said some very bratty things, like what I was fantasizing for my birthday. I won’t even tell you, it was so demanding and princessy. All right, I thought maybe my husband had rented me a beach house for a month. I had a reason for thinking this. My friend Stacey had sent an orchid to the hotel but the delivery guy called me and gave a whole different address whre they were told to deliver it. So, naturally, this meant a beach house was waiting for me. Right? Oy. I’m tired and now we’re on the highway, which is where I never wanted to be. I’ve had a lovely day and yet…
We walk into Shutters, the downstairs casual restaurant and suddenly Barnaby comes into focus. Then Oliver, and his girlfriend Summer. And now Augie, and my step-kids, Max and Emma, their cousin Isabel, and my brother, the one that didn’t call me for my birthday, and his wife Kris, who told him he should have called because it might make me suspicious. Surprise!!!!!! Still a little cranky and in shock, I don’t react the way people wanted, so Barnaby and some of them thought I might have known. I did not know. Michael pulled it off. This was great!!! All my five kids at a dinner table for my 60th, I couldn’t ask for more. Though a beach house is always my secret fantasy. (hint-hint)
And now. Well, now I’m 60. We do eat lunch the following day at Nobu, but I also throw up afterwards, for no apparent reason. I’m convinced that, hello, you’re 60, and now you have an allergy to shellfish. Wtf? Then, the following day at the Y where I work out, I say hello to one of the regulars and tell him I just turned 60. He nearly gasps and literally backs away from me. He’s in his 40’s. This is not going well. I go out and buy myself a $12 dollar gift that officially pushes me over the edge into kooky-old-lady. It’s a coin purse made of boiled wool in the shape of a cat face. The one I purchase is black and white, but they come in other colors, so I’m thinking: should I start a collection?
On Tuesday, I do have a lunch plan. My friend Pauli asked to take me out. She’s the one person that stepped up to what I thought would be a long line. Except for the ones I already saw. We agree to meet at Farmshop in the Brentwood Country Mart, but they’re no longer making the Green Goddess dressing for the poached chicken salad and it’s really making me mad and I’m not wanting to go there -- but I just can’t come up with a different restaurant. Pauli did something so cool. Truly. She came with a bag of gifts for me. Honestly, I don’t need gifts, so I was nervous and guess what? The gifts were edible. Nothing better than a present you can eat! A big-ass chunk of fresh chocolate cake and my own bottle of Green Goddess dressing made by Pauli, a former chef, I might add. Also, the bottle had it’s own personalized label with my name on it. This was such a genius wonderful touch. I was blown away.
Two weeks after turning 60, it’s Halloween, 5:00 in the late, bright afternoon. I’m walking behind a mother with two kids in costume. The son says very loudly, “There’s a witch behind us!!” I wasn’t dressed as a witch. I was floored by the comment, and kind of mad. I retorted back, “That’s right!!! I’M A WITCH!!!” To which his mother turned to see me and said, “Oh, no, that’s a beautiful real lady.” And then the daughter, so nervous that I might really be a witch said, “Mommy, that’s a real lady, and not a witch, right?” And no, I didn’t stop at that but said, “What kind of a real lady? A beautiful one!!” About myself. Oh, my God, I am a witch!!! That’s what turning 60 did to me.
Fredrica Duke shares how she discovered her love of food while growing up in Los Angeles on her blog Channeling the Food Critic in Me.