I woke up this morning to an inbox filled with Facebook alerts. "Happy birthday Leah!" "Happy birthday!" "Woo hoo, it's your birthday!"... If Facebook does one thing right, it reminds folks that it's your birthday, for good or annoying. But as I flew through a series of emails leaning on the delete key, one message stopped me in my tracks. It said: Michelle McCarthy posted something on your Wall. "Happy Birthday to you! Happy Birthday To You! Happy Birthday Dear Leah!!! Happy Birthday to You!!!!!"
I clicked through the link and over to her wall. "And Happy Birthday to YOU, my birthday buddy" I wrote back.
Michelle and I share April 29th. We also shared a lab table during our junior year of high school. Chemistry. The periodic table. Balancing equations. This blog post is one in a series (apparently) where I document my admiration for former lab partners.
I don't know how I managed to score Michelle as my lab partner that year. Even in high school she was strikingly beautiful. Tall and graceful with dark silky hair. Headshot-perfect cheek bones that demanded the attention of rouge. She was like a comic book fantasy woman. She wore complicatedly-laced tops torn from the pages of Seventeen Magazine. Her dark jeans poured all the way down to her un-sensible heals. Her slacks ended neatly in the original hem - unlike mine which were always rolled up two or three times. Michelle was the only person in our class who could pull off oversized hoop earrings. She wore stacks of tiny bracelets that jingled. She looked like she belonged on the runway, rather than in a classroom behind an acid-stained bunsen burner.
By some feat of cosmic gymnastics, Michelle and I happened to be born on the same day. This seemed impossible to me. I sat at least a foot shorter, with unruly curly hair and a complexion that could barely abide make-up. If Michelle and I were born on the same day then it must have been on different planets. She could hypnotize high-school boys with a selectively raised eyebrow. She knew all the Spanish words to Sublime's hit 'Caress Me Down.' In 1998 she was seventeen going on twenty-seven.
Today Michelle and I are both 29 years old. I'd like to think I've caught up with her in some respects, but most likely not. Today I am wearing hoop earrings and heals, but they're both fun-sized miniature of the real thing. Michelle inhabits another planet of ease and style - where birthday dinners happen in bars brimming with loud laughter and brightly colored martinis. She won't spend the evening at home with dinner wedged into the attention span of a demandingly baby.
I'm groping for some metaphor involving high school Chemistry. You can't compare helium with neon, for example, yet both are noble gases. I apologize for the lame attempt - both because it's poor writing and also because it's blatantly untrue. I have always longed to be tall, lovely, effortlessly graceful. As my twenties come to a close, the best I've achieved is acceptance that I'll never get there. I can get saddle up next to flawless. I can write its lab report. And then it's back to my unkempt reality. Husband and baby and a snot-covered birthday. In a way, I'm really looking forward to my thirties.
So happy birthday to me and Michelle. Our faces might not belong in the same book, but I'm glad they're there anyway.