It’s my birthday next week and I am virtual-party planning: a culmination of so many life lessons that squeezing them all into this column may be tight. But I shall try.

From a year of remote parties and working from home, I’ve learned to keep the party small to prevent overtalk; short to respect screen-time exhaustion; tight with ice-breaking activities; and to aim to do something quick, sweet and life-affirming.

Of course, some lessons can never be learned. Like starting the planning earlier. And knowing that although I say I want to do nothing – that I don’t want a fuss or for people to spend money – my mother will never let it happen.

“Don’t be selfish, your birthday is not just your day,” she says, knowing guilt works, and that I’ll enjoy it in the end. (Another lesson: Mother knows best.)

And one lesson has been a long time coming: that letting people show love can’t always be convenient. For years I’d have my birthday celebration at venues close to where friends lived to save them the commute (and guarantee attendance). But if they were going to come, some travel wouldn’t make a difference, and if they couldn’t, they could find some other way to show their love – so why not design my day around where I want to be?

Which is why this year my virtual party will be talent show themed. Everyone will have to perform for 60 seconds – whether it’s playing the tin whistle or juggling satsumas. I figure it will be entertaining and make a change from me being the tit of my party. I remember once, at a low point, a dear friend listed off a dozen names of my loved ones and said: “All of these people would jump through hoops for you, woman.” Hoops, eh? Now there’s an idea.

This content first appear on the guardian

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