If you are considering not celebrating your birthday this year, the second most important thing to remember is that you should not, under any circumstances, go to Atlantic City by yourself. But, we'll deal with that later. Right now, let's focus on the first most important thing to remember. Don't pretend it's not your birthday. It isn't a secret, you jackass.
I have a long history of keeping my birthday a secret, and it has resulted in a number of depressing or unremarkable birthdays.
I had absolutely no problem with people making a big deal of their birthdays, but when I thought of doing it myself, I couldn't help but see it as self-promotional.
This had been the case since I was a sophomore in college; that year, I originally had no intention of keeping my birthday to myself, but five days before I turned 20, one of my best friend's fathers died. My friends and I made arrangements to go down from our college in Boston to the funeral, outside of Philadelphia. I, of course, felt too weird to try to arrange a self-centered birthday celebration on the week of a death and a funeral.
I ended up going to a random keg party on the eve of my birthday. I got drunk in a basement and then stared at my watch waiting for for 12:00 AM. Just as the second hand was approaching the 12, my friend nudged me with his elbow. I looked up, and he gestured toward a girl across the room who was smiling at us. She had a gap in her teeth. "I could drive a mack truck through there," he said. The second hand hit twelve, and I was officially 20 years old.
I continued the tradition of unpublicized birthdays after that. But, by the time I turned 26, I decided that this was weird, and that I should organize an actual thing. The problem was, I decided this one day before my birthday.
I figured it was a "go big or go home" moment. I sent an email to about 30 of my friends trying to play a trip down to Atlantic City that would take place in about 16 hours. Some responses to this email included "Noah, what are you thinking?" and "How about we all go to a bar in New York and pretend we're in an awful place in New Jersey?" Perhaps the most concise response was from my friend, Sarah who wrote, "haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa. [sic] really? haaaaaaaaaaaaa. [sic]"
Nobody could go on such short notice. Obviously. So in defiance of no one in particular, I went by myself. I took the two-and-a-half hour bus ride from New York, spent a few hours there, won a little money, ate at a casino buffet, and came home. I actually had a pretty good time. And, that was the problem. Because I had an okay time, I decided this would be my new tradition: I would go to Atlantic City every year by myself alone. What an idiot.
The next year, I got excited as my birthday approached. I looked up bus schedules weeks ahead and mapped out all the casinos I wanted to visit.
But, as soon as I was actually on the bus, I felt intensely lonely. There was traffic on the way there, and the lady sitting next to me took up most of my seat as well as her own, a grocery bag full of.... things... on her lap. I say "things" because there was no cohesive narrative for what was in there. Among other objects were a takeout carton of chinese food and a bottle of bubble solution. On the very top of the bag, sticking out, was a tube of denture cream.
After three and half hours next to denture cream lady, I arrived in Atlantic City. Over the course of the next 45 minutes, I lost $300 dollars playing blackjack at the lowest stakes table the Taj Mahal had to offer. Deciding I did not deserve a birthday meal after being so irresponsible, I got on a bus right back to New York. So, the way this all broke down was as follows.
Fun Alone Birthday Gambling Time: 0 Minutes
Compulsive Lonely Losing Birthday Gambling Time: 45 Minutes
Birthday Bus Riding: 6 Hours
Like I was saying, don't be stupid about your birthday. Definitely don't go to Atlantic City by yourself . And, more importantly, tell your friends it's your birthday. They might not take a six-hour round trip bus ride with 16 hours notice, but they'll probably take you to dinner, and you won't lose $300.