Patricia Yarberry Allen, M.D. is a Gynecologist, Director of the New York Menopause Center, Clinical Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Weill Cornell Medical College, and Assistant Attending Obstetrician and Gynecologist at New York-Presbyterian Hospital. She is a board certified fellow of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Dr. Allen is also a member of the Faculty Advisory Board and the Women’s Health Director of The Weill Cornell Community Clinic (WCCC). Dr. Allen was the recipient of the 2014 American Medical Women’s Association Presidential Award.

by Patricia Yarberry Allen, MD | bio

I was born on Dec. 21, on the winter solstice, the longest night of the year. I have always wondered why the sign of Sagittarius included this day, the day of the least light for the hottest fire sign of them all.

As a child I never had a birthday party, but I convinced myself that all the decorations in the house, the community, the church and the town square were created just for me — and the Baby Jesus, of course.

Once I became a grown-up, I judged all the men in my life based on how they responded to my birthday. In hindsight, perhaps I could have used other metrics, but I was stuck with what mattered most to me. Was I important enough to someone that he would celebrate my birthday?

The husband gave me such a surprise for my 49th. All the bells and whistles with family and dearest friends at home. Who knew he had these talents? Music, wonderful champagne, flowers, candles, perfect linen and table settings. Great conversation and toasts to the birthday girl. It was magical. Since then, we have celebrated together at favorite restaurants, just the two of us, with a bottle of treasured champagne and a little caviar.

This year I will be 60, as the entire world knows. I usually begin discussing my birthday in June. “I’ll be 60 on December 21st,” I announce to the taxi driver as I enter the cab. “Yeah, lady, but where are you headed today?”

Oh, well. That is too much of an existential question for me most days.

I once knew a delicious former starlet and dancer who was the mother of a dear friend. What legs, what wit and, unfortunately in the end, what chronic lung disease from the cigarettes she would never give up. But, up to the end, such a gal.

We really liked each other in spite of a fundamental difference we argued about. “A woman must never tell her age,” she told me on more than one occasion, along with: “A woman who will tell her age will tell people anything.”

She came from a different time and from a world where the year stamped on your birth certificate was certain to be interpreted as, “Do not use after this date.”

In the end, she did leave us, age unknown to most. But she gave her daughter an amazing quote at the end: “Death can’t be that bad. I mean, Cary Grant did it!”

Women do have the opportunity to own and celebrate their birthdays and the years they represent in this century. We are creating an opportunity for celebration of the real days of one’s life, every single one of them. If I shaved off 10 years, as I might, considering the considerable time I spend on exercise, visits to the hair stylist and colorist and tiny tinkering with the facial contours, which 10 years would I eliminate?

Not all of my years have been easy ones, but each has been a gift. I would never Judas-like deny any decade. I have earned my age, and I will celebrate every minute of it this year.

The husband and two wonderful friends are doing something special for my 60th, and, yes, I found out. So, I know the date and I chose the guests. But the rest will be a surprise to the one who can never have enough birthday surprises.

A man who cares enough to honor that which his partner holds so dear is a gift for all the days. Perhaps I was right after all to choose a partner who would understand and cherish my need to be honored on my best day of every year.

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