I turned 44 years old on Friday.  As if often the case with the timing of my birthday, we had the party goers already pre-shipped in for Thanksgiving, giving us a ready-made group of revelers willing to extend the celebration just one more day.  Even though we knew there would be a crowd, we had no special plans until Wednesday when it came to me – the perfect birthday venue:


Those from the Philadelphia region likely know this place of which I speak.  For 33 years, this back alley Moroccan restaurant off South Street has been serving up the same prix fixe seven course experience for all ages.  From the moment you ring the bell for entrance to the time you situate yourselves on soft cushions around a center table in a crowded dark space, you feel as if you are part of a clandestine dining event.  If that isn’t enough to entice teenagers and foodies alike, there is the fact that the entire meal is consumed utensil-free, family style.  Large bath towels are handed out as you sit down at which point you drape them across your lap and hope for the best, checking any double-dip-a-phobias at the door.

Both Dave and I have been to Marrakesh many times.  Back in the day when we were at Penn, it was a pre-formal, pre-party, pre-anything destination where the Moroccan wine, served in big jugs was legendary for having mystical powers over all those who consumed it.  (So did Mad Dog 20/20 but the Marrakesh ambiance raised the stature of this moonshine to epic levels.)  We had taken the brothers and my mother/father in-law there last year. Now with my sister/brother in-law and niece and nephew in town, it seemed to be the ideal place to go.  We even convinced Doug, Mo and their kids to join at the last minute.  It was a party for sure.  And did I mention the belly dancing?

Of course I did.  To anyone who would listen.

“Are you ready for the belly dancing?” I quipped.  The newbies looked at me with half smiles, not quite sure if I was serious.  Those who had been there knew that I was.  Approximately every hour on the hour, the gently piped-in Moroccan melodies are suddenly pumped up to rockin’ levels and said belly dancer appears, inviting anyone who wishes to join her in celebration of the evening – or celebration of cellulite — to give a little shake.

Which brings me to the point of this post – because I do have one:

Near as I can tell, there are two types of people in this world:  Those who will stand up and join the belly dancer – and those who won’t.

You know which person you are.  And you can probably guess which person I am.  In fact, one’s BDP —  Belly Dancing Profile –  is probably one of the most predictable character traits out there.   Now before self-classifying, keep in mind the following elements of this particular scenario:

  1. We were in a private room with very close family and friends.
  2. There was no need to show your belly.  In fact, given that the average age of our group was… uh..  close to 40, it was silently discouraged.
  3. Camera phones were indeed at the ready.

So… what would you do?

If you have a positive BDP, you would have joined about half our group including yours truly, Dave, Noah, Doug, Ben, Maddie and Papa Mike who did our best to mimic this lovely young woman whose mid-section was clearly disconnected from the rest of her body.

If you have a negative BDP, you would have been a slightly amused, slightly mortified spectator who took joy in watching the rest of us try to keep up.  But there was no way in hell you were ever getting up there to try your luck.

I do hope that there weren’t any in our party who elected not to dance, but secretly wanted to join in – the dreaded “false negative BDP.”  These are the folks who despite considerable encouragement just couldn’t muster the courage or climb over the table to get to the tiny strip of floor where all of the festivities were taking place.

Because with the false negative comes deep, deep regret. And there is no worse feeling than the one that comes with missing an opportunity out of misplaced fear.

It is the fear of this regret that will forever put me in the positive BDP category.  And the positive SDP (Skinny Dipping Profile).  When a feeling comes over me that I might not ever have the chance again to do “this thing” with “these people” I take it.  Now granted, “this thing” and “these people” have to have some meaning and everyone has limitations.  I would never choose to “bungee jump” with “the real housewives of Orange County” even if it was my last chance on earth.  But happily playing the fool and dancing with my family?  That was a memory that had to be made.

But to each his own.

To Noah who was the first to jump up and join the fun on Friday night:  I love that, like me, you have a positive BDP.  I never tire of watching you perform because of the joy it brings you and others.  Thank you for being such a sport.  I’m not sure many 15 year old boys would be so comfortable in their own skin in the situation.   You are far cooler than I will ever be.

To Chase whose smile never left his face and tush never left his seat:  I knew from the get go that you would love taking it all in, but would rather stick hot pokers in your eyes than dance with that strange woman.  I have so much respect for you knowing your boundaries and abiding by them.  And I know that there have been and will be other opportunities – ones that really speak to you — which you embrace wholeheartedly and jump in with great  enthusiasm.

It was a terrific evening with everyone choosing their own path of fun.  A good mantra for a birthday.  A great guideline for life. And, most importantly, no regrets.

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