I turned 30 in September and there was no 30-year crisis in sight. Not just because I happen to share my life with someone who is 12 years older, or because I live in an actual, detached house with three children and a cat. I didn’t exactly think that that’s what my life would look like when I turned 30 (or ever), but it’s making me feel both very young and very old in a weird and simultaneous way. I think the reason why I didn’t have a crisis is that I lived my 20s to the fullest. I lived in seven different countries, studied at four universities, pursued three different career tracks, and I have enough wild stories to write many, many novels. I really don’t think there’s anything I could’ve done to max out my twenties more than I did. I entered my 30s feeling just a bit exhausted, and very happy that I’ve finally settled and found my place. It’s been a long time coming.
But, although I didn’t have a 30-year crisis, I did have a birthday party crisis. I wasn’t even sure whether I would have one. I’ve never hosted a sit-down dinner before and I had a lot of questions that made it feel quite overwhelming. Would anyone come? (Yes) Should I have a toastmaster? (Yes) What do people expect? (Booze and food) Do I propose a dress code? (No) How much booze should we get? (More than you need) Should we have a seating plan? (Yes) Will X get offended if they get seated next to Y? (No) And so on.
In the end, I invited 30 of my closest friends and it is some of the most fun I’ve ever had. We had a chef come in and do a tailored menu which was a roaring success. I didn’t want to see the menu before the party, and the only instructions I gave him was that it had to be vegetarian and the guiding principles for the menu were ”unexpected” and ”fun”. He served us five courses which included plums from our garden, veggies from his allotment, and cheeses and spices from his travels to places like Iran and Hörby. I enjoy good food, but I’m rarely floored by it. This was an exception.
We started the evening with a little toast before doing tipsrunda, the Sandy Edition™. There were many people attending who didn’t know each other so I’d put together a quiz about me and experiences I’ve shared with people at the party. To get a clue or three, I’d also put together a little pamphlet with bios of everyone attending, and — of course — hints to the answers. This was a nice little ice breaker, a great way to do a house tour, and, more than anything, I really enjoyed writing both the quiz and the bios.
Once the dinner kicked off people started finding the five disposable cameras that were scattered across the dining table. I thought this would be a fun and cheap way to document the evening. It turns out that it wasn’t particularly cheap and many of the photos are sort of rubbish, BUT there are some real gems in there regardless. And it’s interesting to see what the Instagram generation looks like in analogue. The only thing I regret is not handing out cameras for the quiz, and keeping one for when we opened the presents at 5am in the morning… There were many tears. Anyway, let’s take a look!
The big sit-down dinner! H’s 14-year-old daughter and two of her best friends waitressed the whole evening and did a remarkably good job. They were so impressive that they actually got an unexpected pay raise at the end of the evening he he.
As I mentioned, I was a bit nervous about the seating plan but it worked out wonderfully in the end. It was so much fun to see friends from different parts of my life come together over shared interests, even though they’ve never seen each other before. Here’s Robin, one of my best friends from sixth form (gymnasiet) and Claire, one of my best friends from university. They’re both civil servants, Robin in Malmö and Claire in London, they’ve both studied Swahili to varying degrees, and they’re my two favourite discussion buddies. It was a given to put them next to each other.
I tried to sit next to as many people as possible and a great way of doing that is stealing somebody else’s seat when they go to the loo. That way you can chat to and catch up with as many guests as possible. here I am next to Jacob and Ivy.
I chose to have my party in English. All the writing was in English, the welcome toast was in English, and the chef presented the food in English. There were only two people attending who didn’t understand Swedish, but it was important to me that everyone felt equally included and understood as much as possible. That’s also part of the reason why we didn’t have the traditional snapsvisor — other than the fact that I hate snaps — but instead I’d printed the chorus of some of my favourite songs, including Toxic, Jenny from the Block, and Larger than Life. It was great.
Isabelle and Ebba. Isabelle is my first internet buddy — I found her blog when I was 15 and that is how we got to know each other. I eventually invited her to London to come and visit, and a few years later we shared a house in Uganda. Ebba and I got to know each other through my sixth form buddy Jacob, her boyfriend, and today she’s one of my best friends. Ebba and Isabelle, by the way, WON the Sandy Quiz. They titled their team ”Internet Stalker” hehe.
My dad was there. He set up his first restaurant back in the 1950s and he loves nothing more than a good piece of meat, so I was extremely pleased when he went out to the kitchen to tell the chef that he was very impressed with the food ”even though it’s vegetarian”. My dad just turned 80 and I only got to know him when I was 14. Our circumstances mean that our relationship is far from given, so having him there meant a lot to me.
I gave a little impromptu speech and realised that I didn’t know most of the people there when I moved to Malmö just three years ago. H, for instance! It made me a wee bit emotional. As did the other speeches.
And after many speeches, some tears, and even a song that H had written and performed in my honour (I know!), it was time to get the dance floor out!
And the hotshots! I also did my first of two outfit changes ha ha because yes, apparently that’s who I am.
Vicky and Micke kept looking like they’d only just met — which, by the way, is the best look — as opposed to having been together for four years.
The same goes for Jasmin and Per, only they’ve been together for twelve (!) and they have two toddlers.
Ebba and Robin played table tennis…
…and kept the dance floor warm.
Every time someone left I kept saying ”ALREADY???” and then I looked at the time: ”oh it’s 2.00/3.00/3.30” lol. That’s how you know you’re having a great time.
On top of the two desserts that the chef served, we had also ordered a glorious cake which no one had room for after the five-course meal. We tried a tiny slice and eventually I brought it to the office on Monday, more or less untouched.
Perhaps my favourite photo from the evening. Look at those faces!
Eventually it was 4.30am and there were just three of my best friends left when one of them said: ”shouldn’t we open the gifts?”. And so we did. I cried, as I do, and I went to bed feeling quite overwhelmed.
I was both hungover and tired the next day. But I was also very, very happy. And I still feel the love and gratitude that I felt at my birthday party. It was worth all of it.