Growing up, I pretty much knew what my birthday was going to be like. There would be presents involved, I would have to try and make conversation with my grandparents, a few friends would come over and I’d be suspicious that it was more for the cake than for me, and my father would snap more pictures than US Magazine at a movie premiere. My sister’s birthday followed a similar template and so did, I believe, most other kids’ too. There is a very clear picture of what a child’s birthday is supposed to look like. Parties, balloons, funny hats, perhaps a clown, lots of crying – these are the staples from the birthday parties of our youths.
But what does an adult’s birthday look like? It’s a far more varied and foggy image. This past Friday I had the misfortune of turning 34, and in doing so, I tried to concentrate on what a birthday for a unmarried man in his 30s (with no kids to ruin things) is like. Here, presented below, is what I found:
1. Somehow, when New Deal legislation revolutionized labor, getting your birthday off was left out: Nothing makes me whine like a baby like having to go to work on my birthday. And the whining will intensify if my boss is demanding of me in even the slightest of ways. I’ll say to myself, “Wow. Just wow. He gave me an extra task to complete ON MY BIRTHDAY. What a jerk!” I will also use my birthday as an excuse to slack off. “I suppose I should get that report done…but eh…it’s my birthday. I think I’ll treat myself by reading relationship blogs on WordPress instead.” By the end of the day, the report isn’t done, I hate my boss, and I have a better idea of what not to do on a first date.
2. For proof that today is special, check your Facebook timeline: “Wow! 68 friends posted on my timeline! I’m loved! Wait a second…I have 364 Facebook friends. What happened to the other 296? Why didn’t they wish me a happy birthday? This means over 2/3 of my Facebook friends neglected to say anything at all! What kind of ‘friends’ are these? Whatever. Better make a post and thank everyone. And to think, people used to use cards! Ha! Suckers!”
3. We could sing you Happy Birthday, but we choose not to: I, like most people, have grown a little tired of the Happy Birthday song. However, I would like to stick with it until there are some better alternatives. Every year, despite my best intentions not to, I always inevitably end up at some chain restaurant, hearing a terrible re-imagining of Happy Birthday, altered in clever ways that befit TGI Friday’s or Applebee’s. It’s a terrifying ordeal for me; I start feeling queasy when I see the entourage of waiters and waitresses heading my way. The chain restaurant birthday song always seems to be sung with some sort of army cadence, with lots of clapping and ‘sound off/one two/sound off/three for’ type stuff, making me wonder if I’m waiting for fajitas or to be deployed to Iraq. Even worse is when somebody forces me to listen to that awful “Birthday” song by the Beatles. “They say it’s your birthday!” Well, 68 of ‘em say that at least.
4. There’s always that one friend who wants to paint the town puke green: “Dude! It’s your birthday. Let’s do a shot!” “No, that’s okay. Thanks though.” “Oh come on! JAGERBOMB!!!” “Really, I’ll pass. I don’t want to get too banged up.” “What? Stop being a little bitch. TEQUILA!” “No? Please?” “What’s up with you, man? Yo, why do you only have one beer? Let me get you another. You should be double fisting. In fact, to hell with beer – I’ll get you two bottles of whisky and you can double fist those! After shots!” “Oh, fine. You win.” “Great! I’ll go get a syringe so I can inject vodka straight into your liver! Happy birthday, bro!”
5. I am old and you need to see The Ghost and Mr. Chicken: Every year I tell somebody the same stupid little fact. I have the same birthday as Andy Griffith, and by some strange coincidence, my father shares his birthday with Don Knotts. Ten years ago, when I hung out with people my own age, this little tidbit of knowledge would generally get a chuckle. But now that my friends are mostly younger, the reaction is, “Who’s Andy Griffith? And who’s Don Knotts?” I use this to demonstrate my final point – when you’re an adult, part of your birthday is feeling old. Now there’s a station called TV Land that airs older television programs. During my youth, every station was TV Land. Sigh.
Birthdays are important. They’re not as fun as they used to be, but that’s okay. Really, I’m only turning one year older. It’s not a big difference. The days of parties and clowns have passed, and now it’s work and Applebee’s. I can accept that. I never really looked good in those funny hats, anyways.