Picture it: Cedar Rapids. 1991.
I’d finished college and moved home with my parents that December and immediately got involved (natch) in the local theater community. By April I’d already done two shows (a theater revue called Follies and my first fabulous experience in A Chorus Line) and I was in rehearsals for an original musical based on the Madeline children’s books.
April 18 was our tech rehearsal. It was also my birthday. We finished teching the show that afternoon and the cast was noshing on a few snacks when one of the girls in the show hurled. Massively.
I was nearby, so I helped clean it up. No harm, no foul, right?
Wrong. My woeful ignorance of sports and their metaphors came back that night to punch me in the gut.
I threw a birthday party for myself that night at my folks’ house (where, you remember, I was living). I invited a ton of people I’d recently become friends with in my three shows, though I technically barely knew any of them. Granted, I’d seen many of them in their underwear backstage and I’d touched a couple of their boobs in the context of being dance partners, but any friend history we had went back less than four months.
The guests arrived. The party started. The presents were opened. The cake was cut.
And suddenly I didn’t feel good. I really, really, really didn’t feel good.
I ran upstairs to the bathroom and threw up so violently my toes were pulled inside out. And I didn’t stop. Whatever was in me that wanted out so bad was making sure it exited with high drama. And a full orchestra. And pyrotechnics. And a profound death wish deep in my soul.
I went downstairs to find my mom (because moms always know what to do in these situations) and once I told her what was wrong I had to run back upstairs and hurl again. And again.
As you may know, hurling is no fun. And hurling this violently can quite literally be the worst moments of your life. Especially on your birthday. Especially as your birthday party – filled with people you’re only just starting to know and your folks totally don’t know – dances on without you in your parents’ living room.
Finally empty, I crawled gingerly into bed … with a path of old towels between me and the toilet in case my inner demon reared its ugly head again in the night. And at some point the guests – apparently oblivious to my absence – packed up and left.
And before I drifted off I vowed I’d never throw up again.
And so far I haven’t. For 21 years. I haven’t even come close, in fact. So happy birthday to me.