You don’t usually hear somebody talking about retirement at their 15th birthday party, but Barbie Muños says she’s ready for it. That’s because Muños is a Leap Day baby.
On Feb. 29, she turns 60 — or 15 in leap years, depending on how you’re counting.
To celebrate, Muños — who’s worked the same job for more than 40 years — is planning a quinceañera with about 150 of her closest family members and friends.
In Latin culture, a quinceañera marks a 15-year-old girl’s transition to womanhood, with fanfare frequently on the level of a wedding. In the traditional ceremony, girls wear elaborate ballgowns and choose a court of honor composed of 14 of her best girlfriends and 15 of her best guy friends to symbolize every year of life. The girl’s mother puts on her lipstick and a tiara. Her father changes her shoes from flats to heels.
The celebration for Muños will be a little different. For starters?
“You know what — I’m wearing tennis shoes,” Muños said.
Muños, who works in the culinary department of a senior care facility, decided with her friends to throw a delayed quinceañera celebration during one of their regular women’s weekends. They booked party space at DeGidio’s Restaurant and Bar in St. Paul nearly four years ago and they’re likely to cram the room to capacity.
It’s going to be “the event of 2020,” said Muños’ friend, Denice Marruffo.
Not all families celebrate a quinceañera and not all traditions are followed when they are held. Muños couldn’t recall the last quinceañera she attended, nor could a few of her friends and family. Neither Muños nor her older sister, Tomina Tacheny, celebrated a quinceañera when they were growing up in St. Paul in the 1970s.
Muños’ party will have elements of a traditional celebration. She’ll have a court of 18 women and 18 men. The women are choreographing a dance to “24K Magic” by Bruno Mars. Muños will be front and center during the dance.
“I think we’re gonna surprise them with our dance skit that we’re doing,” Muños said. “I told them we’re taking a Zumba class … no one knows. We’re surprising everybody.”
She already has the traditional crown and scepter. She’ll wear a long dress in blue, her favorite color. That surprises her sister.
“Barbie does not wear dresses,” Tacheny said. “She’s only worn a dress, I think, at my wedding.” That wedding was 30 years ago.
The rest of the court will be wearing black. Friend Terry Vasquez said her 86-year-old mother is the most excited to see Muños all dressed up.
Muños said her dress will help her with the dance moves, too.
“I told the girls I don’t have to be doing all the movement on my legs because I have a long dress,” she said. “I can cheat a little bit and just use my arms.”
Her friends and sister are still cooking up a scheme to get her to wear heels. They even considered having her start the night in heels and then change into sneakers — a slightly different type of coming-of-age statement.
Growing up, Muños usually celebrated her birthday on Feb. 28. As an adult, she’d spend her Leap Day birthday with kid-themed parties that she’d dedicate to her nieces and nephews, “because, by Leap Year, they’re older than me,” Muños said. She’d take them to Mall of America or they’d have a pool party.
Muños is one of 187,000 leaplings in the United States, with about 4 million around the world, according to online publication Bustle. The chances of being a Leap Day baby are about one in 1,500. Muños shares her leapling-ness with the likes of rapper Ja Rule, born in 1976; Pope Paul III, born in 1468; and life coach Tony Robbins, who shares a 1960 Leap Day birth with her.
Muños and her friends who are helping to organize the party have a regular girl’s weekend where they “do it all up,” Marruffo said. They love to have a good time. When a bunch of the women turned 50, they went to Playa del Carmen, Mexico. The group wore light-up jewelry and matching lime green T-shirts that said “forever friends.”
“We wore ’em on the plane and you should have seen all the passengers on the plane like, ‘I hope they’re not sitting by us. I hope they’re not sitting by us,’ ” Marruffo said.
“I guess we like to be noticed.”
J.D. Duggan (J.D.Duggan@startribune.com) is a University of Minnesota student on assignment at the Star Tribune.