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As not only a Leo but an only child, I’ve always applied the mantra “go big or go home” to my birthday. Case in point: When I turned two, I had a petting zoo with ponies…along with a clown and face painting. For my 13th, I rented a hotel banquet hall and hosted a dance party with a DJ. For my 21st, I took ten friends on a wine tasting trip to Napa. I’m as extra as birthday girls come. But when I started dating my husband and realized that our birthdays are a day (and five years) apart, things changed. 

You see, as a fellow Leo and baby of the family, my dear husband is an even bigger fan of birthdays than I am, and he has some strong opinions about how they should be celebrated. Our birthday overlap didn’t prove to be too difficult the first year we were together. We started dating in April and since our birthdays are in August, our friend groups weren’t quite conjoined yet. I rang in 25 with a 20-person dinner at my favorite Mexican restaurant and Mark, not to be outdone, feted his dirty 30 by schlepping a party bus full of friends to Malibu Wines for a long (and very boozy) day of wine tasting. It ended with two men initiating a slap fight, several alcohol-fueled trysts and about $700 of damage to a stripper pole. Mine, on the other hand, ended with fake mustaches and mini sombreros, hugs and Instagram photos.

Once we got engaged a year later (we were friends before, calm down), it seemed weird to host two different parties in the same week with almost identical guest lists. Thanks to L.A. traffic and our friends’ tendencies to have very full social calendars, we knew a joint shindig would be the optimal way to celebrate. We opted for a lowkey day of wine tasting at Rosenthal Wines on the Malibu coast and reveled in our first joint birthday. It was fun! It was new! It was exciting! And I didn’t mind sharing with him! In fact, I was honored to share my birthday with such a notorious party animal. The shared bash also turned out to be a great way for people to mix and mingle ahead of our engagement party and, ultimately, our wedding.

Fast-forward into almost a year of marriage and this whole bday thing had taken on a life of its own. We couldn’t agree on an activity. Mark’s busy schedule meant that any and all suggestions I made were tabled until “later.” To add insult to birthday injury, most of his friends had small children by then, so that really limited our options (sob!). My friends, on the other hand, were all in their 20s and were down for anything that involved drinking. After making a very thorough spreadsheet of birthday options, each of which got nixed, I decidedly gave up and let Mark pick what we’d do. That proved to be a huge mistake. He decided on a bowling party and my saltiness for our shared birthdays was born.  

Not only do I detest bowling, but I also had a cast on my dominant hand at the time. I also can’t eat most of the food at bowling alleys because of a very annoying gluten allergy (yep, I’m one of those). But, since our birthdays were less than two weeks away, I opted to just go with it. Overall, it was fine, but it’s certainly not how I would have chosen to spend $1,500. Did I mention the sheen of sharing a special day with my spouse had worn off by then too? We already share a last name, a 700-square-foot one-bedroom apartment, bank accounts and a cat. Would he want to use my expensive eye cream next? Actually, he did. And by then, my inner only child just about had it.

This year was my 29th and his 34th. So I made a case for having separate birthdays. Specifically, I wanted to host a high tea party. My husband, ever rational, pointed out that by this point a large chunk of our friends were couples and they surely wouldn’t want to do activities segregated by gender or attend two parties in one weekend. We did the same dance of “what should we do?” for weeks, and finally I agreed to host a party in our backyard loosely inspired by our trip to the Amalfi Coast earlier this summer. My birthday fell on a Saturday, the best day to host a gathering of any kind, which was great, but also meant that instead of just sharing my party with Mark, I would have to share my literal birthday celebration with him, too.

Since it was technically my special day and I could be just as extra as I wanted to, I enlisted my friend to create floral arrangements and help me nail down aesthetics (shout-out to Amberly Brown of Flowerful Grace). I kid you not, I went ham. There was a five-foot charcuterie board, a bartender, a photographer and I even rented goblets and china. I told you: I like birthdays.

As I set about organizing this whole mess, I asked Mark not to steal the birthday show and to let me, in the words of Real Housewives of New York star Dorinda Medley, “make it nice.” Frankly, he did an OK job of that.

Due to a work obligation, he was traveling the week of the party and wasn’t able to help with setup or logistics (although, he did pick up the charcuterie boards). He also casually informed me that he invited “some” extra people and our guest list was suddenly at 70. He complained that there were goblets instead of red cups and didn’t succeed in setting up the projector that was supposed to play Endless Summer. As much as I love my husband, it began to feel like I was throwing him a party and not us a party. Suffice it to say, I got a little frustrated. But on the day of, I forgot all of that and really enjoyed myself. I love that our friends and family have gotten to spend more time together because of our exceedingly large joint birthdays. And as much as I dislike sharing the spotlight, there is one benefit to always celebrating our birthdays together.

I may never get to have my own birthday party again (fingers crossed for my 30th), but at the very least I can always blame my husband for my over-the-top (read: $$$) birthday ways. He’s older and “wiser” anyway. 

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