A train of long, rectangular tables, adorned with white linens, flowers and white candles, flocked with gold-colored chairs was situated in the middle of a grassy track that ran between two plots of grape vines, lined up in uniform rows. Brown and green leaves mingled and chatted with one another as the tall wooden poles tried to moderate. The moon, round and resplendent, wore strings of naked light-bulbs round her neck like strands of pearls to accessorize and supplement her glow. We, 30 guests, dressed in long, flowy sundresses, short skirts with colorful blouses, khaki pants and linen suits, some wearing large statement pieces of jewelry that spoke of our travels to different countries caught-up with old friends and chatted with new ones. Conversation flowed as easily as the wine, because though many of us had never met each other, we were similar—akin energies—connected by one special person: the lovely woman who was turning 50 the following day.
I found the same dynamic, at another 50th birthday party I attended two months later. This one was held in Miami in a modern-chic hotel that spoke to the birthday-star’s personality: chic, stylish, with classic architecture outfitted with the latest styles. She called us, her guests, women from all over the country, her core 24. We were the women who had been by her side during the highs and lows of her life. A long weekend spent lounging on coral-striped beach towels in luxury cabanas taking turns rubbing sun screen on each other’s backs and pouring more Rose in each other’s plastic, pool-safe wine glasses; exchanging stories, compliments and pictures over multi-course dinners that challenged our Spanx; brief moments in the hottest nightclubs until tired feet and insulted ears made us universally agree that “we too damn old for this mess,” turned “friends of a friend,” into fast friends.
I felt as if all 100 guests at the last 50th party I attended were my friends, though technically I only knew four others. The guest of honor, a conscious, constantly smiling, Woke Sista, who is the perfect mix of Southern-charm and city-sophistication brought together her tribe from parts all over the world to celebrate life, particularly her life, at a funky Black art museum located in Baltimore’s warehouse district. Music, provided by a female DJ from Brooklyn, sung a story of a late 60s baby, who loved old school hip hop, classic and neo-soul, and Prince (we both feel that he should have his own genre). People grooved in front of a 6-foot color-poppin self-portrait that she had custom painted for the occasion; sipped on various designer drinks made by one of her best friends, grazed on fish tacos, socialized and danced. We, her guests, were spread across various rooms and on a back lawn, but somehow the setting was intimate and warm—like her. It had a cool, funky, backyard-barbeque type of vibe. It was her vibe filled with people who grooved to it throughout her life—even when the beat changed.
That beat, the rhythm of our lives changes. You will be “Walking on Sunshine” one minute and asking “Can You Stand the Rain” the next. One minute you are “Living your Life Like It’s Golden” and then the master DJ switches to “Hard Times“ so suddenly that you, a naturally good dancer, loses your rhythm and almost falls down. But there are those people who grab your hand to catch your fall, drop to the ground with you and pretend that it is part of a new dance, dance with you—even if you are both off-beat, pull you into their arms and lead you so expertly that it looks as if you are proficient, or summon the others around you to make a soul train line and then encourage you to overcome your insecurities and boogie-on-down.
Those dance partners, our friends at 50, speak to who we are at the core. The neighborhood girl whom you met at 4 and whose mom made the best meatloaf, your first boyfriend from high school who you used to make-out with at the night football games, the 3 Sorors who were also your bridesmaids (at your first wedding), your ace-boon from work, and your ride-or-die from your mothers’ group speak to who you are, who you’ve always been—at the core—regardless of life’s circumstances (or the song that was playing in the background).
50—something about that age—seems to mark when we embrace all that we are and accept all the tunes we’ve danced to (from disco to the blues). We celebrate that person and the our personal soundtrack. If we are that Sista whose friends used to tease because we couldn’t seem to catch the beat, or the Sista who was still doing the rock 30 years later; or the one who only danced when a line-song came on; or the one who lives almost as purely as a nun, but dances like a stripper — we let her dance. We allow ourselves to dance freely, unabashedly with the people who appreciated our moves, even when we didn’t or couldn’t.
Dance on, Sista!