I've always made a huge deal out of my birthday. People at work and casual acquaintances look at me funny when I announce loudly exactly how many days are left until my birthday during meetings, phone conferences and passing hallway encounters.
I send out printed invitations by actual snail mail for my parties, make or commission psychotically complicated cakes and construct elaborate themes so that I have an excuse to wear tutus and tiaras and rhinestones. I'm the only grown-up I know who does this.
This month, when I turned 30, was no exception. I threw myself a slightly offensive “Funeral for my Youth” party, forcing everyone to wear black and bring me sympathy cards. I got flowers and put all the food in a coffin-shaped ice buffet. Ridiculous, sure. But it was my birthday -– and on my birthday, I’ll be ridiculous if I damn well please.
(Cake courtesy of Auntie Em Sweets.)
All the other grown-ups in my life seem to be satisfied with quiet dinners out. Screw that: If I find out someone around me isn't planning to do something special or at least get shitfaced for their birthday, I'll at least sneak them a cupcake with a candle when they're not looking. Everyone keeps telling me I'll stop caring about birthdays as I get older, but it just ain't happening.
Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I have no kids. From what I hear, having children somehow magically transforms all holidays into ALL ABOUT THE CHILDREN. This means Christmas is no longer a family affair, it’s a child-centered affair; the only people with birthdays are the under-11 set. I’ve never understood this, since I am somehow magically able to concentrate both on making a big deal out of my own birthday AND making a big deal out of the birthdays of the people I love. I even make a big deal out of the birthdays of people I only casually like. Office sing-a-longs for my favorite co-workers, wrapping desk chairs and staplers like little presents, crepe paper-covered cubicles –- if it’s obnoxiously festive, I’ve done it.
My birthday obsession probably stems from a deep-seated self-centeredness. But if you think about it, most holidays have at least one or two things about them that are crappy. Christmas leaves out everyone who isn’t Christian or doesn’t celebrate it; Rosh Hashanah leaves out non-Jews; Thanksgiving is kind of all about imperialism and brings up uncomfortable thoughts about smallpox; Valentine’s Day is, well, Valentine’s Day. You get the picture.
But birthdays. Birthdays are pure. They’re the ultimate secular celebration, and everyone gets one. Birthdays are the special unique snowflakes of the holiday world –- each one is different. You decide exactly how, when and for how long you want to celebrate your birthday (if at all), because it’s YOUR birthday and you can do whatever you want.
Birthdays are the only chance a lot of people get to have a day that is solely all about them. And I, for one, really enjoy taking the time to make the people around me feel really, really special –- even for just one day. Thus far, I haven’t found any occasion more well suited to spoiling awesome people than a good old-fashioned birthday bash.
We spend most of our lives feeling extraordinarily ordinary. Except on our birthdays. And everyone deserves to feel awesome, if only for one day a year.