Diary of a Marriage: What I Want for My Birthday

Or, really, what I thought I wanted. Thank goodness J. knew better.


On August 9th, I officially cross the (absolutely terrifying) threshold of … my thirties.


A friend told me to continue using the phrase “I’m in my twenties” at least three times a day until then, another told me turning 30 wasn’t actually all that bad, and yet another told me that your body starts turning against you the second you hit your third decade.

In any case, lately I’ve been giving some serious thought to my thirtieth birthday present. (Yes, yes, that sounds shallow and materialistic, but whoever can honestly say that she hasn’t secretly hoped for a little something special to commemorate a gigantic, horrible-age milestone is full of crap, so if you claim to be one of them, then please just stop reading here and continue being a saint.)

J. and I went vintage shopping a few weekends ago, and I tried on the most insanely terrific jacket. It was 1980s Azzedine Alaïa Dolman-sleeved cropped black leather jacket. The leather was  impossibly thick and, though I absolutely despise this expression, it honestly did feel like butter. The real kind, too, not some low-fat nonsense. As I slipped it on, my skin prickled with excitement and I felt the sort of pure contented bliss that comes when you find a piece of vintage clothing so perfect it could’ve been made especially for you. “Welcome home,” I whispered to it, somewhat creepily, in the dressing room. And then I emerged, trying to physically project a radiant glow so that J., too, could see that I was born to own this particular jacket and that it would be a major travesty if we did not claim it immediately.

He was checking sports on his iPhone and didn’t even look up, even as I paraded around him in all of my glorious cropped black leather Alaïa jacket glow.

“I. Need. This,” I croaked, too enamored with my find to actually form sentences. “Like, oh my God, babes, I need this.”

J. threw me a cursory glance and rolled his eyes. “Stop being dramatic. You’re fine. You just bought a $300 purse shaped like an elephant. Seriously?” (This is true. I did just spend $300 on a purse shaped like an elephant. But, come on. It’s a purse. Shaped like an elephant. Clearly, I needed this in my life.)

Then I made a statement I wasn’t sure I was even ready to make, but I was desperate: “For my thirtieth birthday! I want this for my thirtieth birthday! Yes, this is it!

Now, full disclosure: I was actually thinking all along that what I’d really like is another thin diamond band to add to my wedding stack. That seems like a perfectly suitable gift for someone nearly entering middle age, right? I’d been throwing subtle hints around for a year, hints like, “Babes, I think I’d really like a thin diamond band for my thirtieth birthday.” Was I really prepared to leave my band behind for a leather jacket?

I went into work the following Monday and had several very serious conversations with co-workers about my predicament. Do I hope for the classic ring that I’ll wear everyday, or the fashion staple that I will someday hand down to my granddaughter? Opinions varied, and I finally decided that I’d really be happy with either. I’d given J. two choices; he could take it from here.

The thing that makes this crazy, though, is that I wasn’t even sure that J. was really going to get me anything. I was treating the possibility of him buying me a $1,200 jacket like a real, solid possibility. We don’t typically even do birthday gifts. For all I knew, he could be planning on ushering me into my thirties with a dinner at the Macaroni Grill and a bottle of two-buck Chuck from Trader Joes. But I continued vocalizing my internal debate to him: “I mean, I’ve wanted an Alaïa piece forever, and I would definitely wear it to pieces, but a ring would look so pretty stacked together with these…” Even I was beginning to hate myself.

And then last weekend, over dinner at Capital Grille, he said that he had something to tell me. He made me promise not to squeal or make a scene, and then he announced it: For my birthday, he is taking me to St. Martin. We are spending five days in a tropical paradise, lounging on hammocks overlooking painfully beautiful beaches.

I did squeal, for the record, and all thoughts of leather jackets and diamond rings flew from my mind. Yes! A vacation! We haven’t taken a real vacation together since our honeymoon four years ago. This is exactly what we needed—a getaway for just the two of us, to completely unwind and spend every minute of each day together, in a place that looks pretty much like how I imagine heaven looks.

In the end, this is better than any piece of clothing (even a vintage Alaïa jacket) or jewelry (even diamonds). Because it will be ours, and we’ll get to enjoy it together. There’s really no better gift than that.

P.S. So, Mom and Dad, there’s this jacket I saw ….

Do you prefer “experience” gifts to something you can unwrap? Has your groom ever surprised you with something totally awesome you weren’t expecting?



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