Pity party


photo by Emily Patterson

In light of a global pandemic, deciding whether or not to socially celebrate your birthday can be challenging.

Cookies in one hand and a present in the other, you arrive at your friend’s house. But something is wrong…you left your face mask at home. Now you have to begrudgingly break the news to your mom who just drove 30 minutes to get there. With unconventional obstacles like this, birthday parties can lead to eventful surprises, not including those that are inside the wrapped presents.

As a result of an extended quarantine, many people have had to choose whether to host a gathering or to stay inside and simply celebrate their birthday with their family. On one hand, a small, socially-distanced get-together with close friends poses risk, and on the other, not having a party altogether is isolating.

Every family’s situation is different, so it comes down to a case-to-case basis when creating the ultimate coronavirus-friendly birthday plan. High-risk family members, such as those with an autoimmune disease, often take more precautions, whereas others are safe to spend time with their close friends. Milestones like the much anticipated sweet 16 or an 18th birthday can put even more pressure on a family, making it harder to reach a consensus. 

“I chose to have my birthday party because it was my sweet 16. I still wanted to do something special,” junior Lorelei Stillwell said. “My friends and I went to the Melting Pot. I had already been with this group of people all of quarantine and we took precautions, so I felt very comfortable about it.”

Senior Sarah Marino reached a similar decision, as she celebrated her 18th birthday in September with her close friends. They spent the weekend at Saratoga Springs in Disney and had a birthday dinner at Uncle Julio’s.

“I knew the risk and me and friends decided that it was still worth it,” said Marino. “All invites were well received and they were all excited. We made it abundantly clear the safety precautions we were going to take.”

Going out with close friends and family is always a popular way to celebrate, but for many families, safety is the top priority. Junior Kat Bell initially had a birthday trip to a resort planned out, but with a May birthday, her family decided it would be best to cancel.

“My parents are very strict with COVID precautions, and everything was closed at the time so I didn’t have any options,” Bell said. 

Instead, Bell’s parents chose to throw a surprise drive-by party for her, where her friends and extended family could drive by and wish her a happy birthday. This past summer, a multitude of people chose to celebrate this way, as they could see their friends and family while staying socially-distanced. 

“Even though I wasn’t able to hug anyone, it was still one of the best birthdays I’ve had,” Bell said. 

Bell was disappointed, but ultimately knew COVID was serious, especially with the amount of people not taking precautions

“It was difficult not to feel a little jealous, but most of the celebrations I saw online were of people not wearing masks and not socially distancing. I wanted to keep my friends and family safe,” Bell said.

Senior Faith Neidhardt also erred on the side of caution, choosing to stay indoors, watching movies and eating cake.

It was too dangerous to risk having a party and it would’ve been very irresponsible of me to do so. My friends and I decided it was best to sit this year out,” Neidhardt said. 

The dilemma of birthday celebrations does not extend to all; students with earlier birthdays are relieved to have avoided the pandemic during their celebrations. With a birthday in early March, senior Xiomy Sam did not have to worry about wearing a mask or washing her hands for a minimum of 20 seconds. The only thing on her mind was her math exam, which happened to be on her birthday. She spent the day at Bahama Breeze with her family.

 “I didn’t expect the pandemic to blow up like it did; my family and I shrugged this whole thing off. We didn’t even have 50 cases. It wasn’t until the next week when everything hit the fan,” said Sam. 

Celebrating at home can be safer, but many decided to prioritize their mental health when making the decision to have a social celebration. Quarantine can be lonely, and parties are a way to relieve stress and connect with loved ones. 

“If my birthday was during quarantine, I would have been devastated. I’m a simple person. I either want to go to a restaurant or spend the day at Universal with my family,” said Sam.