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2003-07-17 | 3:04 p.m.

My name is Annabel Copes and I am thirty-eight years old. I'll be thirty-nine in November. For my thirty-ninth birthday, I'm hoping to have a slumber party with some of my favorite female friends. I know it seems a bit sophomoric, but I rarely get to talk to these women for more than twenty minutes at a time, if that, and anyway I don't think I ever had a slumber party when I was a kid so I am overdue for one.

I didn't have a lot of birthday parties of any kind when I was a kid. I don't know if it's because we were in a different socioeconomic bracket at the time, or because kids today are different (or rather, their parents are), but I don't remember it being the expectation that a child would have a blowout birthday party every year.

(When her son Rojo turned two, my niece, Bambi, paid a hundred dollars to rent one of those inflatable jumpy houses. I gave her a hard time about it, since Rojo wasn't even big enough to climb inside on his own. "What are you going to do when he's eight?" I chided. "Get a hooker?")

When I turned twelve my mother paid for me and a bunch of other girls to go to the skating rink. I ended up inviting girls I didn't much like, because they seemed to complement the other people I was inviting better than I did. I don't remember it being much fun. Out on the ice, the ones I didn't like paired up with the ones I did like, just as that squirmy feeling in my stomach had warned me they would. So I was more or less on my own at the party, which made me feel wistful and sad, which made everything that much worse because my mother had spent so much money on the whole business.

I still feel weird about it. I feel bad about all the times I siphoned my mother's pocketbook with my goony teenage obsessions. In 1981 I convinced my mother to buy me a pair of Calvin Klein jeans that cost $60. Sixty dollars! I think I bought another pair of $60 jeans in 1984 and since then, I've paid an average of $20 for every pair of jeans I've had since.

The worst thing, the absolute worst thing about the damn Calvin Klein jeans, is that they didn't even look good on. I was just besotted with the label and I wanted to show off at school. My mother worked in a metal-plating shop, plating bits and pieces of the space shuttle for five or six dollars an hour. When the bosses weren't looking, she and her co-workers would dip their treasured pendants, charms, and collectible coins in a pot of 24-carat gold. I think we still have some gold-plated bicentennial quarters around somewhere. Unless Damien stole them during his own years as a hip-hop fashion plate.

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