I’m turning 50 in July and there is no part of me that is bummed about that. I know a lot of women don’t like to share their age or might feel like 50 represents the start of being old. Not me; I want an entire month of parties, and I want to celebrate in every way that I am here and have the life that I have.

I suppose there are some people who genuinely don’t want to be the center of attention — they don’t want a big deal made. But I tend to think that, in general, most people welcome the chance to be celebrated a little, to be the cause for cake and laughs and balloons and confetti flying. I feel like we’re taught to shy away from it all — to say “Oh, no thank you! I don’t need anything, don’t make a big deal on my account.” While inside we’re thinking Of course I want a party and it better have amazing food and loud music and interesting people and last a very long time, and bonus points if it’s on a boat! I made that shift when I met my friend Lisa — she had no qualms about making it clear right up front that her birthday was important and needed to be acknowledged in a way that was both festive and memorable. And I thank her for it, because it made me realize that, oh yeah, I do want a big deal made and, oh yeah, I deserve it.

I spend much of my time worrying about and attending to the needs of others, so I only feel a tad guilty wanting that one day (or week, or OK, maybe a month) to be all about what Kym loves, what Kym wants. It’s easier now as my kids are self-sufficient and heading off to college, but there were years when they were still young, i.e. super needy, that my birthday could come and go with little more than buying myself dinner at Pizza Hut. Raise your hands, parents in the room, who want their birthdays back! Don’t worry — it’s coming, but you have to embrace making it known that “today we are celebrating moi.”

I’m lucky in that my birthday is in the summer (it doesn’t compete with other holidays and everyone loves a party in the summer), and I’m blessed with sisters and friends who are really good about celebrating me. Maybe some people aren’t surrounded by people who know how to spoil them, but all is not lost. I used to date a Serbian fellow, and according to him, their tradition is for the person celebrating the birthday to take everyone out and drive the party train. So if the party isn’t coming to you, you take the party to them.birthday

In all seriousness, I’m most excited to celebrate 50 because my maternal genes have made aging a bit of an obstacle course. My mother, her mother and a lot of maternal aunts died fairly young due to cancer. Between my mom dying at 56 and me beating cancer at 39, I’m unabashedly happy to celebrate my birthday every time I’m fortunate enough to see another one.

So here’s a cheers to 50, and to everyone deciding that their birthday is worth a bash. Stay safe this summer and enjoy the next trip around the sun.

Kym Byrnes

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