Birthdays after 21 suck…

man with party hat celebrating birthday alone

Today my baby cousin—whom I call my son because I dreamt of his birth before my cousin even announced that she was pregnant—is turning one, and though he more than likely won’t remember this birthday, I have one piece of advice for the little guy: Enjoy these while you’re young because once you get to be my age, birthdays pretty much suck.

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Photo by @SNAPAVELLI from

“Can I shoot you?”

Not the pickup line I was expecting from the guy who, for the last three drinks, has been eyeing me from the opposite end of the bar.

He raises the Nikon strapped around his neck, aims the lens at me, and before I can take the compact out of my clutch for a last-minute lipgloss adjustment, I’m blinded by flashing lights.

When he pauses long enough for my vision to return, I ask, “Are you a photographer for a magazine?” I flip my short hair, frayed by split ends, but he doesn’t seem to notice, circling me like a predator.

An ex once told me I could be a model. I can imagine his face now when he sees me on the cover of Vogue. Bet he’d wish he did more than cook me box mac and cheese and make me watch gory slasher films on his roommate’s dirty couch.

“No, no, no!” he says. “You belong on a thirteen-year-old boy’s bedroom wall!”

Not sure how I should take that, but everyone in the club is staring, and it’s not because I’m sloppy drunk for once, so I strut in place like I’m on the catwalk. Poke out my hip, arch my back, pose for the camera, feign a pout—is the duck face still a thing? I smize, smile with my eyes, the way Tyra taught the girls on ANTM. I could’ve been on ANTM.

“Oh, no. You’d be better than them. You could win the whole thing.”

He’s too obvious, stroking my ego. Does he expect a tip? I’ve got none. Does he want me to buy the prints? How ’bout Instagram? Will he invite me to his studio downtown? Nothing inside but the lights and a place for me to take off my clothes. Because you’re not a true model until you pose naked. That’s it, he wants to see me naked. I hike up my thrift store miniskirt a little too high to give him a tease, and his eyes widen. He clicks more frantically now. How far am I willing to go, he’s wondering. As far as he’ll take me. Nothing holding me back. Lead me to your car, and I’ll claim the driver’s seat.

© 2017 Nortina Simmons