Birthdays were always a big deal at my house. Mom would bake us our favorite dessert, often German chocolate cake or gingerbread for my big sister, always chocolate mouse pie for my younger and for me, she’d get up at 5 AM so I’d have piping hot apple pie before school. There were presents, we’d get to go out to dinner and Mom would throw us an awesome party. This lasted throughout the entirety of high school: birthday parties with costume themes, over the top activities and much raucous joy. I used those parties as an opportunity to strengthen fledgling friendships, a way to introduce people who didn’t really interact together and I, admit, I totally loved the presents. I found 6 was too small (that year everyone just sat around and kvetched), 13 was too big (that year I didn’t actually get to interact with everybody), but somewhere between 8 and 12 was ideal. I’m the only one of my siblings to continue to do parties after high school. I tend to have more friends and am the one most likely to do things for myself, rather than expect someone to do a thing for me. To point, last I checked my siblings still expected someone else to present them with a cake, where I decide what I want and make it myself.
We also had these amazing Victorian tea parties, where each of us would invite a couple friends and their moms, my mom would make this amazing spread and we’d all sit around drinking 12 kinds of tea and gorging on scones with cream. Even into high school, it would end with us kids running around the neighborhood in our finery in the most absurd game of hide & seek tag. I loved those. I hope some day to hold my own.
The irony of this is that while I love throwing the occasional party (back in Pembroke, a friend and I threw an awesome summer bash, which was probably the most ethnically and visually diverse group of families ever assembled on the South Shore), I really don’t like interacting in groups. The joy of the party is introducing lots of people who don’t know each other and whom I hope will like each other. It’s about an excuse to make fabulous food and watch different personalities bounce off each other. Well, and in the case of birthdays, it’s also about presents. Call me shallow; I like presents. I absolutely don’t understand why you’d want to hang out with multiple friends at once. Couples are obviously different, but on a whole, I consider the more people present the more the experience is degraded. The more people, the more shallow the interaction becomes, the less personal the communication, the less interesting the topics. I can’t think of hardly any contexts in which given the choice between hanging out with a friend and two friends, I would choose the latter, especially since it’s often the case in what I like about a person isn’t what someone else likes about the person, so you can’t actually discuss the topics you enjoy without others being bored.
Over the years this has had created interesting friction. I had a friend in New York, who introduced me to a lot of his social circle and then was furious if I exchanged numbers and spent time with them without him. I used to tell him this was Only Child Syndrome, which he also hated. That friendship did not last, though I still have relationships with someone of the people he introduced me to. He had great taste in friends. It was unfortunate. Currently I have a friend who I introduced to another friend and they’ve become inseparable. The first friend keeps wanting to do things as a threesome, which A) I don’t want to do and B) is a headache, because trying to coordinate three very busy schedules is a beast. I genuinely don’t get it.