Courtesy of Iman Hariri-Kia

This Creative Birthday Surprise For My Partner Was SO Extra, But Worth It

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How do I put this? When it comes to my dating life, I'm more extra than the guacamole at Chipotle. Truly, I can never give an anniversary gift or plan a creative birthday surprise for my partner halfheartedly. If I've committed, I'm going all the way. I can't deny that I enjoy the challenge of taking on a big project, as well as the rewarding feeling of pulling off something audacious. But at my core, my enthusiasm is a testament to my feelings for my partner. I love going the extra mile when I know it'll bring a smile to his face because making him happy genuinely makes me happy. So when life threatened to get in the way of celebrating my partner's last birthday, I wasn't about to let it slide.

My partner's birthday is in early May, a rare time in New York when the weather is no longer cold and wet and not yet sticky and humid. In other words, it's the perfect weather for a weekend away in the woods, and that's precisely how we planned to celebrate. Last year, we had hoped to rent a car and drive upstate for a couple of days of hiking and camping (OK, fine. Glamping. But, like, same difference), however, my partner works a volatile job that often keeps him at the office late at night and holds him to irregular hours — including on the weekends. When he told me last minute on that Thursday night that he'd no longer be able to go away for his birthday, I was crushed. But I reminded myself that the most crucial aspect of the coming days was ensuring that my partner felt celebrated, cared for, and loved. If I couldn't bring my partner to the great outdoors, I'd have to bring the great outdoors to him.

Since my partner and I live in New York City. this was no easy feat. However, I was determined to make sure that the key aspects of our original weekend getaway were emulated, even if that meant forgoing the forest and settling for the concrete jungle. While my partner worked late into Friday night, I convinced his roommate to lend me the key to his apartment. His building has access to an incredible roof with panoramic views of the city. It was essentially as close to hiking a mountain top as we could get. So, I snuck onto the roof around 5 p.m. and pitched a tent. Well, I attempted to pitch a tent — the actual process took me about an hour and a half. What can I say, I'm a city girl! The closest I'd come to camping before was my fifth-grade class trip to Storm King Art Center. But after a couple of hours and a few extra sets of hands (thank you, kind strangers!), the tent was set up in the corner of the roof, overlooking the East River and Brooklyn skyline.

The next step was setting the mood. I had brought a furry blanket to line the bottom of the tent, as well as sleeping bags (although I fully intended on sleeping indoors in an actual bed, thank you very much). I rang twinkle lights around the poles of the tent to create the illusion of stars and lit candles to allude to a rustic fire. The entire vibe was warm and cozy, as if we were out in the Adirondacks and not, in fact, the noisy neighborhood of Murray Hill. I had also picked up all the ingredients for making s'mores: gluten-free graham crackers, marshmallows, and lots and lots of chocolate. But to make the evening even more special, I had also picked up a few of my partner's favorite things. This included sushi from his favorite restaurant, a homemade charcuterie board, and a specific bottle of wine called Benziger. We had tried it once at a wine bar on Valentine's Day and gotten hooked — my partner had declared it the best wine he ever tasted! I had tracked down the vineyard several weeks earlier and ordered a bottle for delivery.

When my partner finally got off work, he texted me, asking where to meet. I told him that I'd pick him up at this apartment, and then lead him to a surprise location to celebrate. He thought we were going out to dinner. Little did he know, the party I had planned was just upstairs. He arrived to an empty room and a note to walk up to the roof. He was surprised but amused and followed my directions. But nothing could have prepared for what he found: our weekend in the woods, reimagined on his rooftop. When I turned on the tiny speaker I had been carrying around all day and began to play a mixtape he had made me on our first anniversary, he teared up. He shared that the sentiment had touched him, and his contentment made me feel overjoyed. The evening ended up being even more special than we had originally imagined.

In conclusion, I know being "extra" can get a bad rap. The word is often associated with grand gestures that veer away from the romantic and sonnets performed by unrequited lovers without their subject's consent. But sometimes, going the extra mile can mean never even leaving your rooftop or backyard. At the end of the day, going over the top for the people you love can mean meeting them precisely where they're at.

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