Today is Sophia’s birthday.  Most of my fellow blog-acquaintances know how much she means to me.  After all, this blog is 75% about her!  Clearly, she is one of my obsessions.  And why wouldn’t she be?  She’s a real babe.  Above is a childhood photo of Sophia.  She still has the playfulness of a child, only now combined with sexiness of a smart, exciting woman.  She’s taught me how to live it up, how to be assertive, and how to be a better partner.  Look at that smile.  Amazing, right?  And she’s funny, too.  You should read how boring my blog posts are until she gets her hands on them.  Today certainly is a special day for me and everyone who knows Sophia.  It is the day she was born!

I’m going to try to show Sophia a good time today, but it is difficult to compete with a culture that really knows how to party. 

I recently read this great post comparing the way Americans party to the way of Russians.

Americans are boring. They don’t know how to have a good time. Sophistication is often preferred to fun. A typical American wedding, for example, involves prim girls in conservative dresses, guys nursing the same glass of Merlot for several hours while talking to each other about the box score, and a bland choice between chicken or fish. Even a typical evening out is dull – a bar with bad music, or even worse, a lounge where you can “sit and talk.” Bah! If you want to have a good time, you have to hop on the train to Brighton Beach and party with Russians.

Since getting married to Sophia, I’ve gone to quite a few “Russian” celebrations, and I’m usually out of it by the second glass of vodka.  I’m the comic foil at these gatherings, as even the old women laugh at the way I sip the vodka like a glass of chardonnay.

The Russians are a “literary” people, and a birthday event is not JUST about drinking, eating, and dancing.  There is the tradition of “toasting.” 

In the English-speaking world, we might say something like “Cheers,” then drink our beer.   To Russians, only a certified moron would make a toast like that.  A toast is an opportunity to be as elaborate and poetic as possible. 

The first toast is devoted to the occasion, the second toast is usually in honor of the host or the primary person at the gathering (or, sometimes, to friendship), the third toast is typically in honor of women or love. After that, anything goes. You should be prepared to give at least one toast, and “to life, to life, le chaim” will get you only so far. The best topics for a toast include: to our parents’ great wisdom, to a woman’s beauty, to academic prowess, to financial prosperity, to health, and to world peace (especially if foreigners are present).  When you toast, it’s good to have a story. The actual toast doesn’t necessarily have to do anything with the story, as long as the story is sufficiently elaborate. Think along these lines: Once my 95 year old grandfather visited me in Odessa. I took him to the beach, and when he saw the water, he asked me, “what is that?” I told him, “that’s the Black Sea, grandfather.” To which he replied, “and what was there before the revolution?” So, let us raise our glasses so that we may live long enough to annoy our grandchildren with such stupid questions!

One important note:

Don’t drink without toasting, or you’ll be considered an alcoholic.

I’m usually too nervous to toast anyone during the beginning of the meal.  I wait until the serving of the 25th course, when I make the toast in English while Sophia translates.  Unfortunately, unlike on my blog, where I am considered “witty,” my jokes always fall flat.  I often get blank and bemused stares.  Luckily, I’m clever enough to throw it some Russian word at the end of the toast, giving everyone something to cheer about while they drink.

I’m going to make my toast to Sophia later, in person, but feel free to pour yourself a glass of virtual vodka and make a toast in honor of Sophia’s birthday in the comments.


Drink up!

A Year Ago on Citizen of the Month:  Happy Birthday, Sophia