Birthdays

I’ve always had a bit of an odd relationship with my birthday. It’s on 14th February, which isn’t the worst possible birthday date but does have some drawbacks.

For starters, it’s the cause of a remarkable number of people thinking that ‘I bet you get lots of cards on Valentine’s Day’ is an original quip, the evidence of which truism resulted in some confusion in my first year at University, when everyone else collecting their post from my halls of residence Reception that morning gave me some very odd looks indeed as I wandered back upstairs with an armful of cards and a presents (“Blimey, that woman from E floor’s gone a bit overboard on the pretending-she-has-a-Valentine thing!”).

It’s also a bugger of a day for celebrations when most of your friends are in couples and are therefore quite understandably wanting to be in Couple Mode for the occasion. I might be forgetting one or two, but birthday celebrations of even a modest variety after young childhood aren’t really A Thing.

I can’t actually remember what we did on the evening of that birthday in the first year of Uni – all I can really remember is curling up and reading the whole of The Hogfather while my friends wandered round Meadowhall all day in what I later found out was a rather sweet quest to buy me a present, probably because after mainlining Susan Sto-Helit all day in between wondering where on earth all my friends had vanished to (no mobiles in those days, kids!) I had a bit of a book hangover. And there was the time 13 years ago when I’d recently started work at a company full of fellow young nerdy types who, bless them, insisted on dragging me out for the occasion and so I spent it getting to know new colleagues over cocktails and ended the night in Pizza Hut with a plastic rose between my teeth because Valentine’s Day will out. I also have a vague memory from somewhen of a night out with a couple of other single people which involved us spending the evening somewhere that involved large pink heart decorations and getting irritated by people assuming we must be on the pull and therefore interrupting our conversation with inept attempts to pull us. Those occasions, though, are memorable because they’re the only ones I can bring to mind.

I gave up asking if people were
free-for-a-drink-or-something-sometime-near-my-birthday after hearing ‘can we have your birthday on another day instead?’ a few too many times and with my sister’s similar experience (her birthday is two days after mine) as confirmation, I suppose.

Even when in a relationship, at which point, particularly if you manage to make your anniversary around then too, there is at least one person who is more or less obligated to spend some time with you, evenings are a bit of a minefield of suddenly more expensive restaurants and Romantic Valentine’s Day Things. Not being a particularly traditionally romantic type, I’ve always preferred to go out for the day, maybe go for a walk or something, have lunch and then stay in with a Chinese takeaway and a bottle of something interesting in the evening – just a *something* to mark the occasion.

I suppose it’s silly, really. Plenty of people don’t give a toss about birthdays, and in terms of the whole getting older thing neither do I. I’m not particularly bothered about gifts – things are just things, although a well-chosen thing will always be appreciated for its thoughtfulness. And the urge to celebrate is flagrantly selfish in a way – it’s basically ‘would like to see fun people for fun times’ with a hefty side order of ‘oi! make a bit of a fuss of me!’. But still. That last thing is not something I say very often, and, dammit, I’m *worth* a bit of a fuss once in a while! (I say that; it was really bloody difficult to type that sentence without heaping on enough maybes, modifiers and disclaimers to suffocate the sentiment entirely and I still couldn’t let it stand without this parenthetical waffle. Asking for the things I want is hard, I’m working on it.)

That said, most folk I know don’t really seem to do the birthday gathering thing – especially not for birthdays that don’t end with either a five or a zero. But having attended other people’s yet failed to muster more than one person for my own 25th, 30th and 35th birthdays perhaps all that means is that I should take a leaf out of Lori‘s book and make plans for a 40th bash in a few years’ time?

After all, it’s pretty much impossible to muster people at all when you don’t even try.

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4 thoughts on “Birthdays

  1. Not sure if it’s a cultural thing, but it’s not at all uncommon to do something for your birthday here in Australia, even if it’s just “a bunch of people go out to dinner together”. I do think that planning a big bash for your 40th is an awesome idea. You absolutely deserve to be the centre of attention for at least one day every year.

    • I suspect it’s not uncommon to do a small-birthday-gathering-for-dinner/drinks type of thing here, it’s just that my closest friends have for a long time tended not to do gatherings that extend beyond significant other and children, IYSWIM? So not that they’re not celebrating, just that the celebrations aren’t friend-gathering sorts of occasions. Exceptions are most likely to be ‘significant’ birthdays, I find.

      • Yes, I see what you mean. I think most singles here still go out for dinner with friends or something, but not a big shebang and cake is not necessarily involved.

  2. Late to this conversation but, as someone who certainly hasn’t had anything like a birthday gathering for yonks, I HEARTILY recommend planning ahead for your 40th. I’ve just recently firmed up plans for mine: we’ve booked a ski chalet for a week. Perhaps a bit OTT but I have to contend with friends being scattered across two continents, so. That’s still a whole year away but I’m getting fantastic mileage out of the anticipation. Also: I never plan holidays. I’m not very good at *taking* holidays, under any circumstances. Suddenly here I am, with a holiday planned and a chance to see all my favourite people *at the same time* and it’s amazing. Make it happen.

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