I’ve never been a huge fan of birthday parties. I remember my 6th or 7th was Finding Nemo themed. We went to the neighborhood pool that day. After scarfing down an adorably decorated fish cake, I held my nose and jumped into the crystal blue water. I’ve never been a great swimmer, but I loved throwing myself into the chilly unknown of the deep end. I kicked my feet so hard and gasped as the sweet summer air permeated my tiny lungs when I broke the surface, invincible. That was the last birthday I remember really enjoying.
By the time I got to middle school, I stopped throwing celebrations of my own. I found that my summer birthday proved to be a scheduling problem; my friends were always off at camp, or on a family beach trip, or just “away.” It didn’t bother me though. My birthday has become a ritual day that I spend with myself: I sleep in, I eat a donut for breakfast, I get my nails done or go to the mall. After an accumulation of these “lonely” birthdays, they started not to feel lonely at all. As my mom always tells me, I used to play by myself for hours. I like being alone.
This year, however, my birthday was different. On the day my teenage years died and I passed into the great unknown of my 20s, I moved in to my first apartment with the help of my loving parents and their rental car. I spent my 20th watching my dad curse at a crumbling set of IKEA shelves. The strange thing was, this didn’t bother me one bit. I felt no need to celebrate my momentous coming of age. I was just happy to be with my parents on that day, even if I got a sun migraine and my dad yelled at the scamming Comcast Wireless lady on the phone. Overall, I was content.
The next day, I packed my backpack with a prepared lunch for work, got on the L and arrived in downtown Chicago for my summer marketing internship. I filled out some spreadsheets, secretly (but not so secretly) watched Netflix for a couple of hours. Eight hours later I hit the reverse button: I walked back to the L, rode home, heated up a frozen noodle dinner from Whole Foods, watched an episode of Criminal Minds, then set my 7:45 alarm for the morning. Wash, rinse, repeat.
I laid in bed that night of July 10th. I had been 20 for 24 hours. But I felt no cosmic change within my bones, no momentous shift in my psyche, no significant, mature revelation from my soul. Then I thought to myself the most terrifying question that one can think: Is this it?
Who was this girl laying in my bed? Was this the same girl who dreamt of being a world famous animator/singer/comedian when she was a kid? The same girl who loved throwing herself into improv classes, singing her own music live, creating custom illustrations, seeing her friends smile, and making people laugh? The same girl who plunged herself into the terrifying deep end of the pool? Would she eat a frozen Whole Foods noodle dinner and describe it as “hearty and full of flavor”?!
I sat up straight in my bed. I thought to myself:
I will not go gently into this good night. If my childhood is going to evaporate into fun trips to Bed Bath and Beyond and amateur healthy cooking recipes on YouTube, I will not let it die in vain. I’m gonna throw a funeral god damnit.
5 Tips and Tricks to Make Sure That Your Funeral is Fun, Flirty, and Thriving:
Cool it with the ornate flower arrangements. People came here to see your embarrassing childhood photos, not the Danish Tulip Festival.
Put out snacks! How rude is it to make people come to a 3 hour event to hear about you, you, you, and you don’t even provide sustenance for your guests? Don’t be so self-centered…
Let’s keep it to one speech from a family member or friend. No one wants to hear six of your distant relatives attempt to spin a life metaphor out of your love for racquetball or some shit.
No singing. I don’t care if your 14-year-old niece is the star of the church choir; I don’t care if you always thought she had the voice of an angel. Don’t let it happen. Or else she’ll sing a 10 minute pitchy rendition of “Amazing Grace” to make it alllll about her.
Everyone loves a photo slideshow! No, they’re not tacky. They’re cute and fun and people love laughing at your hideous middle school yearbook pictures. Yes, they will likely try to stifle that laughter under atrocious black napkins, but still. It’ll be the most fun they have all day.
I began planning my own funeral by creating a Facebook event. I invited around 30 people, because I wanted a small, intimate ceremony. I got 12 yes’s, 2 no’s, and 16 “seen invites.” Next was the food. I bought Cheez-its, two bottles of wine, lemonade, and a handle of vodka (all from a 21+ friend). The cheap stuff. If my childhood was dying, its funeral was going to be a riot.
Finally, I focused on decor. I had a brand new apartment living room that was mine to transform, to fill with mourners and partiers alike. Like I mentioned earlier, huge flower arrangements are a no-no. I went instead with a candle shrine, honoring the memory of my withering youth. I gathered all of the different “lavender, relaxing, this-candle-will-fix-your--diagnosed--mental--health--disorder” candles that I have accrued over the years and threw them onto the living room coffee table. Around them, I positioned my three potted succulents (a natural flare) to remind guests that life is for the living! Finally, I hung streamers across the ceiling connecting from one edge of the room to the other, along with a banner spelling out the word “BABY”.
It was important to me that my childhood was rightfully respected at the ceremony. I wanted my memory to live on for a long time after I departed to the beyond. As the age-old adage goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. Therefore, I created a 20 minute slideshow of my greatest childhood hits.
After a week of planning, the night finally arrived. Four of my closest friends arrived early to pay their respects. It was an admirable show of mourning—they drank half my vodka and then mocked me for having the same haircut now at 20 that I had when I was two.
A few other guests eventually rolled in. We played party games: Would You Rather, Never Have I Ever, Who’s Most Likely To __. The new empty halls of my apartment echoed with our laughter. It was a night of celebration and comradery. One of my best friends even honored me with a Kel Maleh Rachamim, a traditional Jewish funeral prayer.
The night ended with a trip to the Burger King across the street for fries and an Oreo milkshake. Drunk and tired, I happily dipped my fries in the shake (yes, it’s delicious and you should try it) and fell asleep to the muted sounds of Broad City playing from my laptop.
How to Live Past Your Funeral: Happiness After 20 (Death)
You’re an adult now. Wake up and move on. That’s what adults do.
Take a hot shower, you’ll always feel better.
Hug your friends.
Remember the happy times.
The next morning, I woke up with a dull hangover, a trashed living room, and a newfound appreciation for life. I opened my phone to see all the embarrassing childhood photos and I laughed. I thought about how much I love my haircut. I thought about how happy I was to have friends who came to my apartment the night before, to have friends that would respond if I texted them right now, to have a family that will curse at IKEA shelves for me. I packed my lunch for work the next day. This time I packed myself extra cookies for dessert. Although I wasn’t excited to resume my commuting cycle, I was content.
How do we remember a life? Pictures, sure, of course. Maybe some family testimonials, and sweating in itchy black dresses while sitting on uncomfortable pews. But why? When I really do pass on into the great unknown, I want my life to be remembered like it was: confusing, a little stupid, and very happy. If anyone cries at my real funeral, kick them out! Unless they’re laugh-crying at the hilarious roast comedian I will hire to mock me post-mortem.
I want people to leave my real funeral like I left the one I threw for my childhood. I want them to walk out of my service and hug the ones they’re close to. I want them to smile in the morning when they wake up and see three missed texts from their friends. I want my mourners to go home and search through family albums to laugh at their own heinous middle school pictures. I want them to think about people they love and how stupid, funny, and human they are are. I want them to think of that party they went to in college in a shitty apartment with terrible vodka, no air conditioning, and hilarious friends. I want to make people smile and laugh—especially beyond the grave.