In my head, I would be wearing a brand new pink dress – a captivating vision in the middle of the buzzing Bar*Food space in West LA. There would be crowds of familiar faces around me -- laughing and slapping one another on the back in (drunken) camaraderie and fighting over who would be next to buy me another birthday drink that I didn’t actually want.
In turn, I would be the perfect hostess – distributing professionally coiffed miniature cupcakes to everyone in attendance, smiling for every camera, and bringing my disparate groups of friends together in a weird, yet somehow sensical, harmony. By the end of the evening, we’d all be singing Elton John’s “Bennie and the Jets” in a reenactment of the best scene in the rom com flick 27 Dresses.
And I’d be that girl. The one who brought everyone together for her 26th birthday celebration – the charming, effervescent and very pink center of the universe for just one evening.
Instead, I wore a two-year-old red dress. My hair, victimized by a bad hair day, was thrown up into a last-minute messy bun, and since I couldn’t afford to buy cupcakes from any of the posh LA bakeries I frequent, I spent nearly five hours baking five dozen chocolate chip and oatmeal raisin cookies. Bar*Food was still almost completely empty 30 minutes after the party had officially “begun,” and as the minutes ticked by, I began to wonder if I’d made a big mistake. That maybe I wasn’t cut out to be “that girl.”
But then people started filtering in, joining the long stretch of tables that my two high school friends, dear college friend and I had commandeered for the evening. My first yelp friend arrived with her boyfriend, Chrystal and Amir from the Duo Dishes followed shortly thereafter, and the paella pals I’d made at La Espanola showed up eager to gorge themselves on my chocolate chip cookies. Soon the space was bustling with food bloggers, former colleagues, church friends, my favorite co-worker, and even a few stowaways and friends of friends.
Nobody seemed to care that my cookies weren’t cupcakes – they devoured both containers with audible signs of approval. Nobody seemed to care that my dress was old and my hair looked funky. And nobody seemed to care that the collective party was a big hot mess of random, and the locale wasn’t exactly Hollywood happening.
No, it wasn’t the birthday party I envisioned in my head, but by the time I sauntered out a little after midnight early Sunday morning, I felt warm with happiness. The tranquil setting of Bar*Food with its long rows of tables and charming staff had been the right choice for my casual shindig. It wasn’t glam, but neither am I.
I’m just a girl who wanted to celebrate her 26th birthday with the people who have made LA a home for me. It’s their friendship and support that make me feel like “that girl” – even when it turns out that I’m not really “that girl” at all.
12217 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90025