Birthdays are sort of like New Year’s Eve.
Or maybe even like love.
Whatever my impression of them are, they’re off base. Manipulated by either images from television and movies or unrealistic expectations connected to attention seeking and proof that I’m special to someone which will never truly be fulfilled.
In junior high, it was the custom that on your birthday, your best friend(s) would “kidnap” you. They would blindfold you and dress you up in something ridiculous that you’d wear to school all day. It was the best. You felt loved AND everyone knew it was your birthday.
When my best friend showed up, I tried to dictate my outfit, which annoyed her and defeated the purpose. I don’t recall anyone really even noticing when I got to school.
My best friends in high school threw a duel surprise sweet “16” for me and another girl. The highlight was my crush showing up and us going for a drive at some point. He was or wasn’t dating someone else and was or wasn’t really into me anyway. This is indicative of something when this is my takeaway of that night.
My 30th was at my then-boyfriend’s apartment. I had started dating him right after the break-up of my first serious relationship and didn’t have many friends at the time. Most of the people who showed up were his friends. I wanted to have an “old-fashioned” party with boxed chocolate cake and balloons and games like Pin the Tail on the Donkey. Remember when just going to a birthday party was fun? I guess that’s what I was going for.
Most years I’ve tried to throw a birthday party for myself. And each year, it’s never all that fun. Maybe it’s because I have friends from all corners of my life who only see each other when I have a get together. Maybe it’s because I never get to spend any kind of quality time with any one person. Maybe it’s because I feel like it’s my responsibility that everyone is having a good time. Maybe it’s because sitting around at a bar with friends who don’t know your other friends all that well doesn’t make for a super entertaining evening.
Maybe your own birthday party isn’t fun when you’re throwing it for yourself.
Maybe asking someone to do this for you takes away from it all.
Then again, I’ve woken up to balloons and donuts and presents and that still didn’t seem like enough. Perhaps birthdays actually depress me.
I’m turning thirty-eight in six days. It’s the first day of spring and every year I hope, and sometimes believe, it’s going to be sixty degrees and sunny and flowers will be blooming. Yes, I was born in Chicago and have lived here many, many years and I still think this is a possibility. This year especially, with the unseasonably warm February. Yet, here we are, inches of snow on the ground, which has happened at least 50% of the time in the last thirty-seven years.
It’s selfish to care about your birthday this much and yet, I’m scared if I stop caring about it, so will everyone else. By larger extension, I think I connect people’s enthusiasm over my birthday directly to how much they care about me.
We are all searching for someone to love us as unconditionally as our parents do/did/didn’t. Birthdays are the most outward expression of acknowledgment by those that know you because it’s a Celebration of You.
Or perhaps I’ve just bought way too much into the pretend romance and magic of it all.