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I hate birthdays.

Nobody knows that about me. Well, I suppose they do now.

I have one of those mothers that never forgets to do something special every year. On my first birthday, she baked a cake in the shape of a giant Humpty Dumpty, topped with fluffy white frosting and a detailed face made from food coloring. On my third birthday, I got a giant chocolate kitty-cake. My childhood birthdays were filled with skating rinks, sleepovers, and once I got older, nice birthday dinners with a candle in tiramisu. When I moved to California, like clockwork I received money, gift certificates, cards, and happy-birthday phone calls every May 28. My mother is not the reason I dread the day; the voices of family members have brought a smile to my face in the midst of muffled sobs. This is why I feel a stab of guilt every time I’m sad on my birthday.

No, my resentment toward birthdays has everything to do with my friends, each passing year a reminder of the crappy people I end up so desperately seeking approval from.

My obsession in middle school was the popularity I’d never obtain. By eighth grade, I thought I had all the qualities necessary to escalate to the top of the social ladder of my cliquey school. I was prettier than a good hunk of the elite, and although I still had prepubescent Kate Hudson tits, I’d returned from the summer with sun-kissed blond hair, tan skin, and a braces-free smile. I was even so bold as to sit at the semi-popular-girls’ table at lunch. But I found myself on edge, petrified of saying the wrong thing. Every time a girl left the table for a while, the others would make snide remarks behind her back, then greet her with sweet, Southern smiles upon her return. I wasn’t kicked out of that table, but I was never warmly welcomed. The girls didn’t accompany me to the front of the cafeteria to throw out my tray, even though the rest of them went in pairs. Determined, I persisted. When Christmas came, I spent hours individually wrapping incense sticks in red and green tissue paper, tying the ends with curly gold strings to place in the cards I would distribute the following day. Writing the names of cheerleaders and beloved yearbook superlatives on the cards, I knew they would not be returning the Christmas spirit.

But handing out Christmas cards was not nearly as tortuous as my birthday-party invitations.

“Sorry I couldn’t make it, Maggie,” they all said. “I was busy.”

It was a fantastic party anyway. Four or five of my real friends spent the day with my dad and me on his boat and swimming in the lake. That night, after cutting birthday cake, the girls and I lounged in the hot tub. We squirted water guns filled with Dad’s liquor into each other’s mouths. Still, my insecure, teenage self could not laugh off the fact that the other girls — those stuck-up bitches — had missed out. I was engrossed in the rejection. Instead of focusing on the family and friends who wanted to celebrate, I sulked over the ones who didn’t. And, every May, I braced myself for disappointment: my birthday would reveal that my friendships weren’t real.

There is no place on the planet more desolate of real friendships than Pacific Beach.

The one birthday I did not dread was my 21st. Turning this age dramatically affects the lives of young, bar-hungry San Diegans. At 18, I’d moved to a very 21-and-over city. San Diego’s nightlife is packed with concerts, clubs, bars, and stage venues that all require one to be of drinking age to pass through their bouncer-guarded gateways. And when it came to fake IDs, all the bars I encountered were ruthless. As a 20-year-old Pacific Beach resident, my age inflicted a harsh blow to my social life. Sure, I could go to house parties, but it seemed as if they were often interrupted by some 24-year-old prick shouting, “PUB CRAWL!” My coked-out friends would stumble toward the bar like a herd of fat people rushing to a buffet, leaving me behind.

I moved to P.B. in February, and from that time on, I awaited May 28, 2006, as anxiously as a pregnant woman does her delivery date.

Two months! I squealed to myself. One month! Twenty-nine days and 12 hours!

I was convinced that my life would be changed once that date rolled around. I could join other gallant young adults in the quest to drink the entire Garnet Avenue strip dry, starting at a sketchy dive bar called the Silver Fox, which opened at 6:00 a.m. for the most dedicated alcoholics. Then the other 21-and-up warriors and I would depart, headed west for a mimosa breakfast that ended with tequila and Coronas at Cabo Cantina; this was a gringo bar imitating a Mexican tourist trap, decked out with fake palm trees, mini umbrellas, and salty tortilla chips. It later became one of my favorite bars because of its outdoor patio area. Instead of an ocean view, Cabo’s had white boys in wife-beaters shouting obscenities and glitter-coated skanks tripping on their hooker heels. At 21, I would be able to freely frolic through the strip and enter any building I chose. I felt that this must’ve been what it was like to be black after the Civil Rights Movement.

My excitement for entering the realm of the legally drunk went beyond bars and the booze — I really hadn’t changed since my 14th birthday party. Deep down, my one true aspiration was to be cool. This time, I was among a whole new league of popular kids.

All those people back in my hometown of Chattanooga, Tennessee, were now nothing to me. The popular girls there desperately tried to be Californian, bleaching their hair and baking in tanning beds until their skin fried orange. But they could have their country music, premature marriages, and hometown drama. I lived in a heavenly beach town. I had palm trees. I had beer bongs on the sand. I had the wildness of youth. My friends were thin, pretty, and naturally bronzed. They slurped vodka from the bottle while they drove. They roamed the streets in bikinis by day; by night, they wore skimpy dresses short enough to bare their ass cheeks when they bent over. They pushed up their breasts and snorted coke in the bathrooms of clubs before grinding their crotches into strangers until last call. And when the night came to an end, they romped through the filthy, gum-stained streets barefoot, too hammered to feel the broken glass. P.B. girls were wild, edgy, and dangerously carefree. I wanted to be exactly like them.

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Gekko4321 April 17, 2013 @ 10:20 a.m.

Great article! Takes me back to my own PB days. Good luck with finding yourself.


themaggieyoung April 17, 2013 @ 2:18 p.m.

Hey everyone! Thank you for reading! This is Maggie (the writer of this article). I'm also an author/ blogger. Feel free to check out my website www.themaggieyoung.com if you want to read more stuff or add me on facebook at www.facebook.com/themaggieyoung. :)

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john5 April 17, 2013 @ 2:52 p.m.

This was very, very interesting. I'm from the East Coast, so I understand the flakiness inherent in SoCal natives all too well.

However, what I found most interesting is something that could be very controversial. Near the end, you describe what can only be called female-on-male rape.

"As I maneuvered myself on top of him, I watched him slip in and out of consciousness. I continued anyway." This is the exact situation in which many men get arrested, when the roles are reversed.

I understand this was a tell-all, but you seriously just admitted to committing a rape. Despite that, I'm not here to criticize you (again, honoring the spirit of the story as a tell-all).

This was the most fascinating part of the story to me. I've never read about that kind of situation before, although I've assumed that theoretically it could happen with a woman as the aggressor. I look forward to your next story, in all sincerity.


jnojr April 19, 2013 @ 9:33 a.m.

Gotta agree... a male who "maneuvered himself on top of" a semi-conscious woman and proceeded to get it on would be pilloried. Nobody would rest until he was hunted down, locked in a cage for years, and branded with his scarlet A.


themaggieyoung April 17, 2013 @ 5:08 p.m.

Thanks so much John! Yes, this was years ago and it was a very bizarre time in my life (This took place years ago). This story was definitely meant to document a disturbing experience. Thank you for reading and there will be more in the future.


Jay Allen Sanford April 17, 2013 @ 6:51 p.m.

Nice to see another first-person autobiographical cover feature from Maggie Young - been quite awhile since your (excellent) "Phony Navy Wife" cover story!


stingray April 18, 2013 @ 9:48 p.m.

Writing is not bad, still with the limited outlets for writers in this town it's a shame to give voice to someone who has nothing remotely profound to say.


jnojr April 19, 2013 @ 9:34 a.m.

I really enjoyed this tale, too. Thanks for writing.


TBD April 19, 2013 @ 10:32 a.m.

The problem with this article is that it negatively stereotypes women who frequent the bars in Pacific Beach as "skanks," drug users, drunk drivers, and people who are incapable of having "real friendship." I'm a female, white collar professional (think: accountant, dentist, whatever) who goes out in Pacific Beach regularly because (1) it's walkable, (2) it's affordable due to several great happy hours, and (3) there are plenty of taxis to hail at the end of the night. I've met some interesting, successful, intelligent friends at bars in Pacific Beach (yes, they were women!). Perhaps it's just that the author couldn't see through the tunnel vision of her stereotypes, and her obsession with coolness, to notice that the crowd and the neighborhood can't be so easily pigeonholed.


kelowry78 April 23, 2013 @ 10:37 a.m.

I am also a white collar professional who has resided in Pacific Beach for over 8 years. While I do admit that many of the senarios described do exist, they are not the norm and are easy to avoid. Pacific Beach is a wonderful place to live and stories like this one only perpetuate the negative stereotypes of this community.


maria52 April 19, 2013 @ 4:21 p.m.

What I don't comprehend is the writer's lack of insight into how she became so stupefyingly shallow. I have no patience for women that are hung up on their looks, then blame society for making them that way. Perhaps if she admitted to being caught up in this dangerously empty lifestyle only because she was an alcoholic and it kinda went with the territory. . .or that as a child, she was told relentlessly she was worthless. . .that would explain embracing this vacuous lifestyle.

There are plenty of places you can go where people won't judge you by your looks and you can make connections that are meaningful and substantive. This writer is not dumb. . why didn't she pick better places to hang out? And has she had any kind of epiphany about the utter lack of importance being hot is in the big picture of life?


ImJustABill April 20, 2013 @ 8:57 a.m.

I think going through a "wild youth" stage is OK and can be fun (although I can't say I would condone slurping vodka while driving).

What surprises me in PB is that there are people in their 30's and 40's still living that kind of lifestyle - I don't think that can last forever.


LWeiss April 20, 2013 @ 7:03 p.m.

I read the article and thought it was great and well written, I was hooked and wanted to know what happened. I also wanted to give an opinion about Pacific Beach and your constant reference to Southern Californians and their supposed flakiness and superficiality.

I was born and raised in San Diego, though I grew up in a humble, small beach town. I HATED Pacific Beach and hung out there very few times, and I will tell you why- it did not feel like San Diego. I realized more and more that it was actually a place full of Americans from other states running away from and wanting to find themselves in a party beach environment that they themselves have made larger. This story is emblematic of what I am talking about- you arrived with insecurities and like thousands of others, drank away your problems and issues, acting out to find yourself. The few times I saw girls/men acting like you, I felt embarrassed for you and it also made me never want to return to PB, and I love the beach! You immersed yourself in a superficial microcosm with others just like you, and immediately pegged it as Southern California lifestyle.

PB does not represent San Diegans, nor Californians, nor the San Diego lifestyle. Some may agree or disagree, but that is my opinion.


themaggieyoung April 21, 2013 @ 4:53 a.m.

Coming from the writer, to answer a lot of questions and comments, this story took place when I was 21. It's actually based on a piece of a book that I wrote with a much larger/deeper story. But in a nutshell, I was 21 when this took place. I was a baby. Remember how important being pretty and cool was back then? By no means am I condoning that mind frame. I'm just bringing attention to its reality. Thanks for reading, everyone! :)


maria52 April 21, 2013 @ 1:37 p.m.

Thanx for explaining...i also agree with some of the other comments: your writing shoes a lot of promise...like your use of analogies. other than your lack of insight into physical appearance, your other insights are really quite excellent..


cyclette April 22, 2013 @ 3:03 p.m.

Maggie, I think you need to be more careful about your historical comparisons: "I felt that this must've been what it was like to be black after the Civil Rights Movement." You have no idea what it was like or what it is like to be of color or assume what it feels like. I think rather than use a comparison like this, you might want to examine your white privilege and perhaps use a narrative that better describes yourself in the context of your own life as a young, white woman. I think the comment is a poor choice and rather insulting in conjunction with your story. I understand the hyperbole and your frame of reference, but it is worth investigating alternatives and reading some Richard Wright, Dorothy Cotton, and bell hooks on white privilege.


beenthere53 April 25, 2013 @ 12:42 p.m.

Great read. Those comments about you "raping" that Navy Seal are ridiculous. They are not looking at the context of the evening. Everyone knows that P.B. is the place for hook-ups. You can get me drunk and take advantage of me anytime! u is fine!


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