“This world may be but a set of symbols for a higher form of existence” from The Secret Language of Birthdays by Gary Goldschneider & Joost Elffers
“Those laughing green eyes, who could resist? That deep soft voice, that sincere laughter… Marie-Sophie is a strong woman who is also disarmingly sensitive, which, I suspect, is where her inner beauty shines from. An avid cyclist, a knowledgeable food critic and witty journalist, she juggles words and ideas like it’s her purpose in life. When we went to that beach together where, many years ago, her parents had met, it led to reflections and confidences I want to say thank you for. It is a privilege for anyone to be in your presence and I look forward to meet again! Happy birthday, Marie-Sophie!” – Mélissa P
Image © Mélissa Pelchat
An Interview with Marie Sophie
Q. What is the best memory you have from a previous birthday?
A. My 30th birthday, 3 years ago. Since I was born in the beginning of the year, the year 2012 was going to be the most beautiful of all to me. I just had gotten a new job, my now ex-fiancé had asked me to marry him a few days prior on Christmas day and I was joyfully jumping into 2012, full of optimism, joy and hope. My ex-fiancé had gathered a good number of my parents, close friends and ex-colleagues in a restaurant for a little celebration and, at each table, there was an empty seat for me to be with the ones I love. It was, of course, the fact of it being a surprise that made this party unforgettable, but to me, back then, it was first and foremost even more endearing because it was not typical of my ex-fiancé’s personality to organize that kind of event. Sadly, we never did get married that year and we went our separate ways. But looking back, with all of his qualities and flaws considered, he still achieved what, thus far, no one had ever achieved until that day.
Q. How about the worst? And why?
A. Ironically it’s also a birthday that involves my ex-fiancé. My 2014 birthday, at 32. My ex-fiancé and I had tried to patch things up between us multiple times, but without any great success. We epically failed despite the genuine love between us. That day, in 2014, was a whole mess of miscommunication from early morning until late night so we almost didn’t see each other that day. Ironically, my greatest and truest wish of all was to patch up things « once and for all » between us on my birthday. But I ended having a very strange and hurtful birthday despite the fact that I had spent the whole day with my wonderful little sister and the rest of my family later on. We finally got in touch in the late evening, and he hung up on me on the phone, saying he had tried to make a surprise for me in the morning and that I had ruined HIS surprise. In the morning, we were supposed to brunch on his invitation and I hadn’t still got news from him about 30 minutes before the supposedly brunch and I was damn hungry. Since it was my birthday, I found extremely justified to go eat instead with my sister, who was also my roommate at that time. He then seemed to say that I pushed him away from me because he was « only an hour late without notice to our breakfast ». Me, I didn’t want anyone, especially my ex-fiancé, with whom I was trying to get things back on track between us, to make me feel like the last concern of all his on my own birthday after what was already 2 break-ups at that time… So all our communications that day seemed to be a big power struggle between us. I didn’t want to give a chance to someone who had tons of chances already to me on other days than just my birthday, and he didn’t want to talk to a woman he loves and that was seemingly pushing him away from her. Big fight on the phone, hung up on me. I then went to his place 5 minutes before midnight and we finally saw each other but everything was ruined and I went to bed with him with a lot of bitterness and sadness. I didn’t want this birthday to be ruined, especially not like that, and most of all, not by both of us at the same time. I was counting on us and then, it was rather a time where I saw clearly that maybe the best gift was finally to start unwrapping the illusion of this relationship, which was really not the kind I wanted.
Q. What was the present you’ve received for your birthday that surprised you most?
A. A metal detector. I was about 8 and I had asked for this, since we were spending every Christmas or so in Florida, on the beach. Early in my young years, I realized the importance of being financially independent from anyone. And I saw those men pacing the beach during our Christmas time with their metal detector. When one found a jewel in the sand, I was amazed by him like if I had seen a pirate finding a huge treasure and my litle pirate mind started wanting a metal detector. I would be rich, I was dumbly saying to myself! I would be so rich I would never need to count on anyone for money! To me, it was a revelation. So my father and I went to Fort Myers RadioShack, and looked at different metal detectors. He found one and said : « You have to realize that this gift will be both your Christmas and birthdays gift, huh? Your birthday is Jan 5 and we will leave Florida around that time back to Montreal. Do you want to wait till your birthday till you get it or you want it now? Because else you won’t have any other gift on your birthday. » I took the metal detector right away. Being rich couldn’t wait and I certainly wouldn’t use it in the Quebec’s snow! The beach would be mine for 2 weeks! (Yes, I realized since that money wasn’t happiness… but I’m still independent with this now).
Q. Is there a food or dish that you insist on eating on your birthday?
A. Insist, no, not at all. Like, yes. I’m a seafood and a hibachi lover. My January birthday in Montreal was therefore often taking place at Red Lobster or Toyo (a japanese hibachi restaurant). Generally, I have some seafood on my birthday. And a good cake is always important, just for the symbol (and the icing).
Q. What do you believe is the most important aspect of celebrating a birthday?
A. We’re all responsible of our own happiness, but especially on our own birthday. If you don’t get what you truly want from others – it could be gifts, celebration, friends, but also the most simple respect, love, consideration, empathy – on your own birthday, don’t wait – and really, don’t wait! – for anyone to provide it to you. It’s a day that belongs to you and only you and you have to take the lead as how you want to live it in the way you think you deserve it. This advice is especially intended for people who, the other 364 days of the year, always try to « make nice » with everyone else, are kind, generous without making counts, feel the guild too easily on anything, have a hard time being assertive to say what they truly want… On your birthday, maybe yes, you’ll be a bitch or an asshole to others, but to you, you’ll have given yourself your right to exist on that very particular day, which is a delight. After all, it’s your birthday. I like gifts, balloons, candles and cake, but I think the most important aspect of celebrating a birthday is to just be in touch with significative others, may it be family, friends or lover. To me, it’s the matter of life, and it’s therefore the purpose of a birthday too. But moreover, being in touch with significative others includes… being in touch with yourself. We don’t have all the chance to be well surrounded these days. So be in touch with your true self, your true « you », your true wishes and needs, on your birthday.
Q. Do you have any traditions or thing you always do to celebrate a birthday? What is it?
A. Not really, we are a typical north american family, so everybody’s busy, has their own schedule and we try to make a moment that fits everyone’s agenda to have dinner together at home or in a restaurant. Especially with recomposed families, we have to give our best shot to be all together, which we never really are, but it’s great anyway. Gift, dessert and hugs are part of the tradition. Isn’t hug a great tradition in 2015, when everybody is behind their screens all day long?