You Say It’s Your Birthday

asian cakeWell, it’s my birthday, too.  The fact that I can state that is pretty amazing.  I have a strange and complicated relationship with my birthday, as I do with so many things.    When I was a kid, I did the whole slumber party/ballerina cake thing (stop laughing, I did).   I enjoyed the presents part, but I never quite got the whole hoopla over me being born.  

As I became a very depressed teenager, I hated my birthday.  I didn’t want anything to do with it.  I don’t remember the reason for hating it other than I just did.  When I was a teenager, I hated pretty much everything, so why not my birthday?  In addition, I didn’t have many friends as a teenager, so my birthday seemed yet another way to underscore that fact as I struggled to think of something to do.  My parents, of course, insisted I celebrate my birthday (a fantasy they hold dear until this very day.  I expect a phone call from them later in the evening).  It was, needless to say, a painful time in my life.

Somewhere along the line, in my late twenties, I started actively disliking my birthday.   I refused to tell anyone when it was, and I certainly didn’t celebrate it.  I began to see it as a marker of all the thing I hadn’t accomplish that year, which would immediately put a damper on any celebratory feelings I might have entertained (which, admittedly, weren’t many).  I would sit and think of how wasted my life was and how time was slipping away.  I would castigate myself for being such a failure, and that would send me further into depression.  Needless to say, it was not the most conducive mindset to embrace in order to move forward.

In addition, I didn’t see the fuss because it was my mom who did all the work.  Every year, she would call and make a big fuss about my birthday.   My dad would ask if my brother had taken me out to dinner or how I celebrated it.  My answer was always the same:  I didn’t.  It would upset my parents and hurt my mother.  Then, I would feel guilty because I hurt my mom.  Despite all her accomplishments (and there are plenty), being a mother is her highest (in her own words).  Then I would start to think about how my mom must also be deeply unhappy because my life is pretty much a refutation on what she holds dear.  She is a devout Christian who believes in the sanctity of marriage and kids.  She believes in standing by her man (my father) for better or for worse.   She made dresses for me when I was a little girl and made me wear them.  In exchange for her love and care, what does she get?  A bisexual, unmarried, agnostic, tattooed woman who is unabashedly pro-sex for pleasure and against having children (for myself).  What a spit in the eye that must be for her.  

Actually, I am still bothered by the latter idea.  I have thought (for a second) about having kids because it would make my mom feel better.  Fortunately, that insanity passes fairly quickly.  There are many valid reasons to have kids–pleasing your mother is not one of them.

Ok.  So those were the lost years.  I hated my birthday as they just reminded me how much I sucked.  I was with someone who didn’t care for his birthday, either, so the idea of not celebrating my birthday became somewhat normalized.  Yeah, I still wasn’t telling people my birthday (and I lie about it online), but so what?  Birthdays as an adult didn’t really matter, anyway.  

It was still pathological, though, because it had to do with how much I felt like a failure.  It was never the big number years–thirty didn’t matter much to me–and thirty-five was harder than thirty.  Thirty-one and no real job.  Thirty-two and no book published.  Thirty-three and no blog started.  Thirty-four and no sex.  It didn’t matter what I had done in my life until that point because it was never enough.

Then, at thirty-six, things shifted slightly.  I still didn’t celebrate my birthday, but I wasn’t dreading it, either.  I didn’t voluntarily tell people when it was, but I didn’t lie about it, either, or refuse to say when asked.  I still disliked the actual day, but it was pretty mild in comparison to the years before.  I still had the blues and got grumpy (grumpier) the day before, but it was manageable.  

This year, today, I am thirty-eight.  Yes, I was grumpy yesterday, but I expected that.  Today, I am sulking slightly, but other than that, I don’t particularly care.  I still grapple with all I haven’t accomplished, but I feel like I may actually finish one or two on my list before I die.  Ideally, it would be meeting Alan Rickman, but I think that is pure fantasy.  I have become, birthday-neutral.  Well, as neutral as I get.  I am not pro-birthday, and I may never be.  Still, I am not spending my birthday apologizing for being born and for not having accomplished anything.  I’d say that’s a step in the right direction.

The video for you today is not The Beatles’ Birthday song as quoted by my title and lede sentence.  By the way, why can’t that be lead?  Why a whole new word for it?  Anyway, it’s the much cooler Happy Birthday by Concrete Blond.  Enjoy.


P.S.  Notice the two black cats in the beginning.  This song was made for me!

12 Responses to You Say It’s Your Birthday

  1. Happy Birthday!
    I am glad your parents had you and gave me a great friend to talk back and forth with.
    You are the SAME about your bday as I am about mine. I will do you a favor thought and tell you what no one told me. (It actually came as a gut wrenching shock to me) We at 40… have a midlife crisis!
    I thought only men have them and found myself at 40, living at home, starting school and not in a position to make it on my own, I didn’t own a house to live in, I didn’t have a boyfriend to upgrade on and I went off the deep end.
    Happy Birthday!

  2. Heh. Hey, whabs. I bet there are many people who do not care for their birthdays, whatever the reason. I am aware that women have midlife crises, but I believe I had mine when I was in my late twenties/early thirties. Therefore, I am prepared if I have another. Thanks for the well-wishes and the warning. I am ready.

  3. Happy birthday! I am also glad you were born 🙂

    A good friend, now in her sixties, said she’s had a mid-life crisis about once a decade. Good thing you’re prepared.

  4. Choolie, thank you, thank you. Yes, I would agree with your friend. Once a decade sounds about right to me.

  5. Happy Birthday my friend!

    It’s just another day. I didn’t even notice mine, haven’t for years. Nobody makes a fuss, I don’t make a fuss, and I don’t know why some people do make a big deal about birthdays, but hey, it’s a free world.

    Regardless, you are a blessing to many people in this big world, and I am thankful to have you as a friend.

    Life is short, every day gives us another chance to meet our goals & lower our expectations!

    I’m reading a book right now (it’s seeming kinda crap, will let you know) it had a great quote. Adlai Stevenson said of Eleanor Roosevelt at her funeral: she was the kind of person who would rather light a candle than curse the darkness.

    So, light up 38 candles and carry them forth.

  6. oh yeah, I just finished a great book, talk about triumph of the human spirit. I’d be a psychotic flesh-eating monster if I’d had her childhood… but it’s an uplifting book. weird. anyway, it’s called The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls.

    If she can find the bright side ANYONE can.

  7. Thanks, SMR. I like Adlai’s quote about Eleanor. I will figuratively light the candles. Yeah, the fact that I can be birthday-neutral is a big deal for me. I am satisfied with that, and I don’t care if I never grow to love my birthday. Thanks for the book recommendation. I will check it out.

  8. Yes, Iratwo, being birthday-neutral is good. Unfortunately, I think there have been after-shocks of negativity. See my latest post.

  9. I’m so glad you’re not into birthdays since I never remember them. My father’s family never celebrated them and mine didn’t make a big deal of them. I think the only card I got for my birthday was from an old lover/friend. My husband didn’t even get my anything and that was cool by me. I find them to be a little obligatory. I’d much rather receive a gift just because.

  10. Xteen B., yeah, I’m with you on this one. I’d rather give a gift just because than because it’s been mandated. As for my own birthday, I don’t think you’ll ever have to worry about me wanting anything for it.