“Shirt-Shopping,” but with Surprises: How to Plan an Action-Packed Day for Someone Who is Turning 51


If shirt-shopping at the mall is your mate’s way of saying, “I’m turning 51. Please don’t do anything special,” blow those plans to bits and pieces with an action-packed itinerary that takes at least 6 ½ hours to complete—leaving your mate bleary-eyed and stumbling into the night. Sure, fifty may be nifty, but fifty-one’s a ton of fun. That’s the message you’re sending. With Alex as my trusty helper, we were able to give Nate—the supporting beam and load-bearing wall of the Fixin’ Leaks and Leeks Team—one heck of a wild ride.

Here’s the itinerary:

  • Get to the mall and make a beeline for the shirt store. Make up an excuse about why you can’t help Nate pick out shirts—and why Alex can’t, either. Something like this: “We both forgot our emergency mustaches. We need to labyrinth our way back through Macy’s, several sky bridges, and a giant lobster that only lets you through to parking space P5 NN if you can answer a series of riddles and open the secret sliding door.”
  • Plan to search the stores for something green and buy it because that’s Nate’s favorite color—and then throw it at him as he walks out of the store with a rack of shirts—all while yelling “surprise.”
  • Arrive at the store you have in mind, only to have Nate walk through a few minutes later because he was dissatisfied with all of the shirts in the shirt store, and now that’s it. His birthday is ruined. But it is not! Because Alex and I found something green: a book with handy information about get-away spots in the state of Washington—and there’s a smile on Nate’s face! Walk up to the counter, pay for it, and then throw it at Nate yelling “Surprise!” (The smile on Nate’s face begins to fade.)
  • Let Nate in on the next activity: Find something weird and strange and take a picture of it. We found all kinds of things:


–This outfit. Is this what we’re wearing now? I don’t understand. I like the pop of color for the jacket, and I don’t mind the sports bra look, but the whole thing looks so drab—like white, long underwear that’s been washed too many times and then cut up because it’s too hot outside or something. And is that a fanny pack/foil blanket for emergencies? However, I can see how the look is inspired, given Global Warming and the pandemic and all—so clearly this is a statement: we’re hot, we’re tired, we’re sick, and we’re taking our frustrations out on our underwear.

–A book for children called Get Dressed, Sasquatch!


–Emergency mustaches! AND something called “Handerpants.”


–A dish towel with a slogan I can only hope to live up to: Do One Thing Every Day That Scares Your Family.


–Hunky “Drinking Buddies,” which I would not have seen, had Nate not pulled this item off the shelf and held it up to me. Great job, Nate!


  • Write a story about one of the things you’ve photographed. Amazingly, I am the only one who wants to do this, so I think of plots while we wander around Nordstrom’s. Here’s one I remember: Several hunky “drinking buddies” wander into Nordstrom’s and convince me to do tequila shots at the bar near the men’s clothing department. (The men’s clothing department is guarded by mannequins wearing a lovely tweed-like formal-looking jacket paired with some skin-tight sweatpants with the draw strings hanging past the coat. Seriously, what’s going on?) They’ve challenged me to name every song that’s playing on the sound system in the bar, and I’ve gotten them all wrong because I don’t recognize them because they’ve been sped up into thumping disco beats. “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers” sounds like “Hot Stuff” to me, and I confuse “Wonderful Tonight” with “Drop it Like it’s Hot.” My punishment is to dress the mannequin guards in something more stylish, but all I find is thermal underwear on the clearance rack for $500. After actual human security guards find me loosening the drawstrings on the mannequin’s pants, I run for the store with the emergency mustaches. An emergency mustache, slapped firmly into place above my upper lip, convinces me that I am now invisible, so I can buy the shiny fanny pack that doubles as a foil blanket, wear it proudly, and no one will see me. They’ll just see a floating, silverish fanny pack, which will brighten their day in a super creepy way. The end.
  • Grab some appetizers and a drink for sustenance. Encourage everyone to try an appetizer they’d never normally order, but the choices are soft baked pretzels, fried pickles, nachos, wings, and chicken in lettuce cups—which we’ve all ordered before. However, we have NEVER dipped fried pickles into the peanut-butter caramel sauce for the pretzels, so we did that. We will never do it again.
  • Burn off precisely two calories with a rip-roaring round of putt-putt on the third floor, which includes really cool putting greens (we’re talking digital koi ponds and a unicorn/rainbow station). There’s also a full bar and lounge/restaurant. It’s designed so that you could try a new drink at every station—but we resisted that temptation. We figured a drink in a cute glass would not survive any of our putting attempts. We’re also lucky that no one was eating at the booth near station 9. They should also move the unicorn to another floor if we return.
  • Realize that it’s only 7 p.m. and you have an hour and fifteen minutes to wait until your dinner reservations at the steak restaurant on the top floor. Find a scenic spot, sit, and count the firetrucks that go by: There is only one. Count the skateboarders on the street below. There are three. It’s now 7:15 p.m. Just 61 minutes remaining. You. Can. Do. It.
  • Get to the restaurant fifteen minutes early and realize that the “dining experience” will take a full 2 ½ hours from start to finish because it involves a story about famous cows that sired entire Wagyu beef lines. The waiter rattles off names of cows and stories about far-away places—prompting you to order the most expensive cuts, but you order the sirloin steak and sea scallops. They are divine. Dessert comes misted in a fog of dry ice, and Alex, caught up in the quiet beauty of the moment, claps loudly and sings happy birthday—he then asks the waiter if the dessert is free. I, however, want to know the name of the cow that made it, but it’s already 10:30 p.m. The shenanigans are over.

Time to put the mustaching and putt-putting away.

Birthday 51 is nearly done.

Tomorrow brings promises of curds and whey,

And Birthday 52 will soon be in view,

Coming to hit you with a fun-filled shoe.

Happy birthday, Nate!

In Other News: I have a short story (“Toxic”) in the anthology: Handmade Horror Stories from Frost Zone Press. Here’s a link to the anthology—and there are lots of other great stories in here as well: Handmade Horror Stories.

Your Turn: Do you like birthday surprises?

27 thoughts on ““Shirt-Shopping,” but with Surprises: How to Plan an Action-Packed Day for Someone Who is Turning 51

  1. I always know that I will chuckle when I read your posts. First that outfit was something, but I do like the jacket they had go with the confusing clothes. Drinking a new drink at every hole of mini golf could make it a lot more energetic? or lethargic depending on what effect alcohol has on the people. I’m glad you were able to create a fun and memorable experience for all of you.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s