On Saturday, I attended the Super Sweet Sixteen for my cousin Gabby. It was at a fancy catering hall in Queens, NY and it was quite an affair! As I mentioned, it was a Tiffany-inspired birthday party, which meant that everything was decorated in that fantastic Tiffany blue, down to the seating cards, which were little blue boxes filled with white M&M’s, and the cake, all fondant-ed out as a stack of blue boxes with white ribbon. Also, there was a lovely light projection on a curtain that read ‘Gabby & Co.’
Gabby is a pretty creative girl and I know that she and her friends do all of these big cheerleading competitions. That, combined with the fact that her father works in TV production, made the entrance to the party quite spectacular. Several of her best girl friends, all dressed in little white dresses, were called ‘VIP’s’, and they stood on the dance floor while a video of Audrey Hepburn standing in front of Tiffany & Co played. And then Gabby came out from behind yet another Tiffany blue box in a wild blue dress that looked like something out of a fairytale.
Beyond all the theatrics, it was a very ‘sweet’ party. Probably the most impressive part was the candle ceremony, in which she presented sixteen candles to the people in her life that meant a lot to her. The speeches she made about her family and friends were wonderful. It reminded me that young people can be such smart and confident individuals. And Gabby is a truly caring person who considers her grandparents celebrities and her older cousins, Aunts, and Uncles, friends. Having grown up with three macho, older brothers who are ready to pounce on any boyfriend she brings to the house, she knows how to hold her own, and I think it accounts for her maturity. She values her friendships and the people in her life and it is very refreshing to see.
When I was sixteen, I was a pretty awkward girl. I didn’t have a lot of friends and I spent most of my time just figuring out where I belonged and how to avoid being such a social disaster. I had a lot of things to be confident about: I was good in school, a hard worker, and a good athlete and I had the support of two parents who I was often more embarrassed of than grateful for. Despite all that, I was kind of a mess, and I’m not sure I would have had the confidence to stand in front of people and share my feelings in such an articulate and mature way.
As an ‘adult’, I still wonder if I have the confidence to stand up and say how I feel about the people in my life and how grateful I am for them. I wonder who those sixteen people might be and if I have the guts to tell them what they mean to me. In general, it’s not something we always have the opportunity to do. But, I hope I find those moments in my life and embrace them because I’d like them to know.
As you can see, the party was enlightening in many ways. The idea of a ‘Sweet Sixteen’ is certainly the stuff that young adult novels are made of. And as I find myself writing about a sixteen-year-old protagonist in a genre I never thought I would try, this party made me realize that the audience I am writing for is truly full of ‘heart’. Maybe they are Tiffany-inspired girls or social disasters. But they are wildly intelligent and they value the relationships in their lives.
Maybe we all didn’t have such spectacular parties to celebrate sixteen. I had my friends over and we watched movies in the basement. As my Uncle Anthony joked, ‘When I turned sixteen, I got my brother’s old bike. Maybe I had a cake. I’m not sure.” But, I think we all remember what it meant to be sixteen and how we had to navigate our way through all the relationships we had and understand what the people in our lives meant to us.
Do you remember your 16th birthday? If you turned sixteen today, who would you give those sixteen candles to?