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Entertaining for the Poor as F**k: Stop whining and Throw Yourself a Birthday

Updated: May 20, 2014 23:58
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There was a time in my life when I left my birthday plans up to others.

For my 24th birthday, my then-boyfriend made plans to take me out for dinner, but first, the sweetheart treated me to a manicure and pedicure at my favorite salon. He even volunteered to drop me off because finding parking was a stereotypical Los Angeles nightmare. I was holding his phone in the car, playing Angry Birds (dated!), and a text popped up on his lock screen:

“I’m not going to make it for the surprise 🙁 what kind of booze does Marissa like?”

I froze. I stumbled out of the car into the salon. I think I got my nails done.

This poor young man had signed his boyfriend death warrant (and seriously on the day of the surprise DON’T let the guest of honor near your phone. ROOKIE!).


I have what the experts call “anxiety”—generalized and social. I don’t like crowds, I often worry that I don’t have any friends, and I startle easily.  So about that surprise party…

I pounded two vodka drinks within the first five minutes and the rest of the night is kind of a blur. For about 45 minutes mid-party I excused myself to his apartment’s patio and cried, alone.

Close. I was wearing a bra.

This is going to come off as mega-rude but I put on a brave face for what was essentially an all-night effort battling the urge to throw up. For my friends who were there, I’m sorry for how distant I was that night. I love you all very much.

To my one friend, however, who got the Facebook invite and thought out loud, “Marissa’s going to hate this, I should put a stop to it”, and didn’t, well I love you very much too, because I can’t imagine the balls it would take to put a stop to another person’s plan.  Still though, my one friend got it.  My boyfriend didn’t.  Not his fault, but I learned my lesson: make your stance on surprise parties clear by date three otherwise it’s your own damn fault.

Fast forward to a year later. My 25th birthday is approaching and one day it hits me: I know exactly what I want to do for my birthday.


Maybe next year…

After some brief research I found a place in LA that lets you rent out an art studio and do crazy paint-related activities with your friends. You make art and then your friends paint YOU.  Yahtzee.

I did the whole thing: venue, invites, food and drink- and it was a fucking BLAST.

My 25th birthday

My 25th birthday

Jump ahead to the present day.  I’m broke.  The new friends I can claim in my new city I can count on less than one hand. I’m working a miserable job that breaks my spirit every workday. I feel lost and broken. I announce to my boyfriend that we’re not celebrating my birthday this year.  #dramaqueen

This bitch again

The cloud passed and I was struck with a bright idea, and I wrote it down because those bright ideas are sneaky jerks. I set a plan in motion and sure enough I’m having a goddamn birthday celebration. It’s going to be awesome and I’m going to be 27 (LOOK!- IT’S MY REAL AGE PUBLISHED ON THE INTERNET) and that’s awesome too.

The moral here, friends, is to take matters into your own hands. Throw yourself your own birthday because you know what you like, you know what you don’t like, and you’re already cynical about everything else so plan something fun or I’ll kick your ass.


“But Marissa: we’re broke!”  Yes.  And?

Someone told me that a person’s 30’s are like their 20’s but with more money.  I do hope that’s true, but while I’m still a 20-something (a LATE 20’s 20-something), I’m po. Fo show. So here are some tips for planning a kickass birthday on a teeny tiny budget:

1)   If your birthday is on a weekday, don’t plan a large-scale celebration on the actual day: instead do your big group hang the weekend before or after. You will get a larger turnout of the people you love (more drinks for you) and legitimately extend your birthday to up to a week (a week of more drinks for you). SCORE.

2)   Plan something during the day: A dating advice column once told me that it’s better to meet a date during the day because not only are you not tied down to a long and awkward dinner, you’re also going to spend more money because dinners just cost more money. So rally the troops and get to day-drinking.

3)   Buy the first round: yes, asshole, I know it’s your birthday but your friends are here with you so you better buy the first round. Plus then you can be like, “Nah man I bought the first round” for the rest of the afternoon. 

On this note: don’t plan something that’s fun but is going to cost your equally broke peers their hard-earned cash. Foot as much of bill on your own as you can. And if you can’t foot the bill, brown bag a bottle of André and take those friends to the park.

And,  if you need me this weekend, too bad: I’ll be at Lake Merritt having a color fight with my friends (then day-drinking. Duh).


Images courtesy of:,,,

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Marissa moved to San Francisco for love. She has previously moved to Los Angeles for dreams and Boston for distancing herself from her New Jersey roots.

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