In any case, my feelings about celebrating birthdays have not changed much since this was first published. Steel yourself and enjoy.]
My birthday bugs me. There are people who loooooove their birthday with every fiber of their being, love parties, presents, and being surprised. These people are generally positive people, and when I look at them, I see rainbows and butterflies and smiley faces. I love people like this. I am NOT one of these people. I see the approaching thunderstorm under every silver-lined cloud. I see too many presents at Christmas as a waste of wrapping paper. I see the first day of school not as a new beginning, but as the sad end to waking up late and guilt-free margaritas at noon. And I see birthdays in terms of the likelihood that someone will tell the wait staff at lunch that it is your birthday, and twelve apathetic twenty-somethings will emerge from the kitchen and sing a terrible rendition of a happy birthday song that involves clapping and shouting.
If you’re like me, every passing year is the reminder that your life really hasn’t made much of a dent in the ways things work in the world. Despite the reality that we Americans are blessed beyond anyone else in any nation in the world, we are taught to think that we as individuals are to do Big Things with our Big Talents and make Big Money doing them, and anything less means that we are Big Losers. You might feel that you’re just idling by, maybe working at a dead-end job that doesn’t showcase your abilities or talents, or catering to the needs of spoiled children and family members who suck all your time and energy, thus stripping you of the opportunities to cultivate your creativity, or lazing around and wishing hours away on things that weren’t meant to be. Any of these things result in feeling trapped in the inevitability that we are just one step closer to the end of our lives, the one thing that we foolishly dream we can change without actually having any control over. Cruelly, each year that passes marks us in the form of another wrinkle, another gray hair, another inch of drooping skin.
Maybe you’re thinking, “this definitely does not describe ME or how I view my life or my birthday, I’m a star and I love myself and my place in this world!!!!” My response to you is: Good for you. But this is MY birthday, MY perspective, and MY list. There’s a song about this very moment, and YOU KNOW what it is.
Despite all this gloom and doom, I actually had a very, very good birthday this year. There were no fireworks, no extravagant gifts, and no parties. In general, there was no big fuss. It was just nice. I chalked this nice birthday up to a few effective strategies I used this year, and I’d like to share them with you:
- If you have children, about a week before your birthday, emphasize through stories and exaggerated emotions how much you love something you like a lot. This year I talked to my children for 7 days before my birthday about how much I love chocolate and how my favorite gift as a child was a bag of chocolate, how my favorite holiday was Easter because of the chocolate we eat, and we had conversations about whole cities and worlds made out of chocolate. Guess what my kids gave me for my birthday this year.
- If you have a husband, and he wants to get you something for your birthday, you must tell him exactly what you want, because if you don’t, he most likely will take you to a baseball game someone gave him tickets for that day, and try to pass that off as your gift. Provide websites, addresses and phone numbers of stores, or pictures from catalogs. If he must order your gift, tell him the day he must order it so you get it on time. This year my husband gave me luxurious bath products. About a month before my birthday, I forwarded the link containing the items to his work email, telling him that I wanted these items for my birthday, and told him how much it would cost. About a week before my birthday, I asked him if he placed the order. You might think all this work takes the fun out of getting the gift, but you are wrong.
- If you have friends who like to take you to restaurants and ask the wait staff to serenade you with embarrassing songs or make you wear silly hats or tie balloons to your chair on your birthday, mention as often as possible how much these things throw you into a fit of anxiety every year when your birthday approaches, and tell them how embarrassed you were at the last birthday party you attended where the birthday girl was forced to stand up in front of everyone and wear a coconut bra and dance to Mony Mony while shaking a pair of plastic maracas. Then claim previous plans when they ask you out to dinner.
- On your birthday which falls on a Tuesday, go out with your family to the fancy Italian restaurant in town where nobody goes on a Tuesday and you and your family are the only people in the restaurant. Then silently high-five yourself as the owner brings you five shots of Sambuca to celebrate your birthday, while your kids eat the third loaf of bread you’ve asked for. Then go home and take a bath using your new luxurious bath products.
|Happy Freakin' Birthday To Me.|