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adventures of a half-chinese yalie in hollywood

What do You Buy a Man for His Milestone Birthday?

What do You Buy a Man for His Milestone Birthday?

I’ve been absent. Now, given my patchy posting history, you may think: “This is an absence? I thought it was merely a Thursday.”

Or, you may think: “Thank goodness! She hasn’t been cluttering my Facebook feed with posts, like so many wild hairs in an unattended sorority shower drain.”

Third option: “You” may not even exist. I could be writing straight into a void, imagining I hear the thunderous applause of an adoring audience, when it’s all merely the loud clacking echo of my keys into a cavernous vault.

Gainsaying the latter two options, let’s press on. Much has happened! Every year as the calendar switches from the witches of October to the cornucopias of November, we usher in a time of holidays. All the usual end-of-year ones, of course, but first, there are my boyfriend’s birthday and mine. Separated by 10 days in early and mid-November, the duo of birthdays offers the perfect measured introduction to the hectic, fraught Big Holidays. (Big Holiday = any day whose accouterments get a prominent endcap display at Costco, no fewer than 3 months prior.)

But this year, my boyfriend celebrated a milestone! I don’t know what “milestone” means, exactly — to my mind it should symbolize the once-in-a-lifetime onset of something climacteric and irrevocable. Like having your prized blond hair turn dark for the first time, necessitating the surreptitious application of lemon juice and Sun-In. Or your wisdom teeth impacting, necessitating painful surgery and an introduction to the truly innocence-destroying water syringe that you use to shoot the food remnants from your ripped-up maw. Or menopause.

Deepak didn’t experience any of these issues this year, so far as I know. (Though I did find those empty Sun-In bottles … ) But on his early November birthday, he turned an age that features a 0 in the ones column. Evidently we must treat any birthday whose number can be divided by 10 as a great Personal Rubicon. Once crossed, it confers upon the crosser wisdom, solemnity and rude greeting cards about saggy jowls and loose bowels.

I didn’t go the rude greeting card route, but this and every year I feel great stress at the question of what to get, what to make and how to celebrate my boyfriend’s birthday.

Last year, I blew up these balloons, stuffed them into a cut garbage bag, and rigged them to drop, along with a bag of "HAPPY BIRTHDAY!" confetti pieces, upon Deepak's opening of the door. Like a
Last year, I blew up these balloons, stuffed them into a cut garbage bag, and rigged them to drop, along with a bag of “HAPPY BIRTHDAY!” confetti pieces, upon Deepak’s opening of the door. Like a “Home Alone” ambush Kevin would have cooked up, but instead of using improvised weaponry, love.

There’s the question of precedent. Barring the dramatic loss of fortune due to Ponzi scheme, or loss of limb due to “127 Hours”-type mishap, there’s really no excuse to do a worse job of celebrating your boo’s birthday than you had in previous years. I may backtrack on this, but so far I’ll continue to cling to the dangerous escalation tactics that surely left those poor protagonists of “Gift of the Magi” hairless and watchless.

Last year, I made the balloon bag/confetti cannon during a furtive trip home during lunch. After setting it all up, I slid out the side door and jumped over the balcony of our first-floor apartment. This year, I didn’t have the need for furtiveness and strictly regimented lunch breaks (due to being on an Egg Timer Jobs schedule). So I just blasted this song from my tinny phone speakers.

There’s the issue of intent. A gift should be something the recipient wants and will use, mostly for his/her own pleasure. It should also be something the recipient either lacks the means to attain, or would never attain, due to a) not knowing it exists, b) thinking it too extravagant/frivolous, c) being banned from purchasing it due to regulations/rap sheet.

So this is what I came up with:

As chronicled in this blog, Deepak spoils me with weekly, from-scratch pizza nights. But the poor man has been forced to ply his doughy trade on this pet-trodden, smashed and sooty pair of clays (they're 87¢ saltillo floor tiles from Home Depot).
As chronicled in this blog, Deepak spoils me with weekly, from-scratch pizza nights. But the poor man has been forced to ply his doughy trade on this pet-trodden, smashed and sooty pair of clays (they’re 87¢ saltillo floor tiles from Home Depot).

Gift 1: A state-of-the-art, purportedly indestructible and culinarily superior Baking Steel, from the eponymous company!
Gift 1: A state-of-the-art, purportedly indestructible and culinarily superior Baking Steel, from the eponymous company!
From the moment we started dating, I've saved all the hotel keycards from Deepak's and my trips together.
From the moment we started dating, I’ve saved all the hotel keycards from Deepak’s and my trips together.
Gift 2: I made the keycards into a likeness of Sagrada Familia, one of our favorite places we visited on one of said trips.
Gift 2: I made the keycards into a likeness of Sagrada Familia, one of our favorite places we visited on one of said trips.
Uncanny resemblance (or at least passing likeness)?
Uncanny resemblance (or at least passing likeness)?
Gift 3: A homemade cake, of course. But we were heading out of town the day after the early birthday celebration, so some recipe adjustments were called for.
Gift 3: A homemade cake, of course. But we were heading out of town the day after the early birthday celebration, so some recipe adjustments were called for.

IMG_3192

Improvised implements were used.
Improvised implements were used.
The recipe's 4 egg whites and yolks became 1 of each!
The recipe’s 4 egg whites and yolks became 1 of each!
Critical moment of flip ...
Critical moment of flip …
And complete.
And complete.
Of course, I had to make dinner too ...
Of course, I had to make dinner too …

IMG_3231

Word to the wise (which everyone already knew but I foolishly ignored): paella is both expensive and arduous to make!
Word to the wise (which everyone already knew but I foolishly ignored): paella is both expensive and arduous to make!
Though it seemed to be enjoyed.
Though it seemed to be enjoyed.

IMG_3241

Finally, I got Deepak these lights!

IMG_3222

I’m still trying to set them up, which completely blew my plan of having them dramatically go off to music to announce their arrival. But not to worry. I need to pace my gift-escalating over the years, lest I end up with fancy combs and a bald head.



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