Maybe I’m bitter because my birthday falls on January 2nd — the worst possible day to have a birthday. Coming down off the holidays (#BenderThroughDecember), everyone’s in New Year’s Resolution mode trying to undo everything they ate, spent, and did between Thanksgiving and when the clock struck twelve to end the year.
Maybe it’s because I’m still bitter that I nearly went bankrupt trying to avoid a fight when my ex-girlfriend insisted we tried a new restaurant every night of the week leading up to her birthday, culminating with a five-course meal at an overpriced seafood joint that nearly required me to take out a small loan to afford the bottle of wine I couldn’t pronounce.
Or maybe it’s because I’m getting old as hell and starting to realize how much I dread celebrating my own birthday, let alone the celebration of someone else’s who will probably end up crying at the end of the night because the dinner party didn’t live up to her expectations.
You know, I’m not sure. But one thing I do know? These birthday celebrations need to stop.
Birthdays traditions can be described in pretty simple terms.
An individual’s birthday is celebrated by a party where a specially made cake, usually decorated with lettering and the person’s age, is presented. The cake is traditionally studded with the same number of lit candles as the age of the individual, or a number candle representing their age … Presents are bestowed on the individual by the guests appropriate to her/his age … “Happy Birthday to You” is typically sung by the guests at some point in the proceedings.
Cake? Check. Candles? Yep. Presents? Sure, we’re all friends here. “Happy Birthday” song? Yeah, I’ll be mouthing that because I don’t believe in non-professional singing.
But nowhere in that description does it have the following: the phrase “Birth Week,” obligatory triple-figure dinners with so many people that you can barely see the guest of honor sitting at the end of the table in a sash and crown, or guilt trip-induced destination parties that eat up your weekend and a Friday of PTO.
Oh, it’s your 21st birthday? Your bar mitzvah? Your dirty thirty? Your quincea-fuckin’-ñera? Wonderful, you’ve got my utmost attention for one night and one night only. That doesn’t mean a bar crawl, progressive dinner, or morning-after brunch. That means I show up to our reservation, put in my time (and my card), and I can leave guilt-free and return home to my bed where I can enjoy the rest of this non-holiday night in solitude. If I’m dropping beaucoup bucks on something, it’s going to be called a “Ryder Cup” or “Kentucky Derby” — not a weekend-long celebration for someone that managed to stumble through another year of their life without getting arrested or put in rehab.
Birthdays have become more of an obligation than weddings. If you can’t make a wedding, it’s no skin off the bride and groom’s backs. “Oh, they’re busy,” they’ll say in passing (if they even realize you didn’t show up). But tossing an RSVP in the mail that says I regretfully cannot attend? Totally acceptable. But if I skip Blaire’s birthday dinner on a Friday in the middle of February? She’s going to throw me under the bus and read the Riot Act to every attendee before someone forces me to formally apologize the next time we see each other out and she’s had a few too many happy hour proseccos.
“Just be the bigger person and apologize for missing Blaire’s birthday,” they’ll say. “Tell her you’re sorry and this’ll all be over,” they’ll plead. And I will. I’ll be the bigger man and I’ll express my empty regrets so my buddy won’t have to go home that night to a cranky girlfriend who keeps repeating, “I can’t believe you’re still friends with that asshole.”
Well guess what, toots? The only people that care about your birthday are you, your parents, and insurance companies. Try this — deactivate your Facebook, take a backseat in the party celebrations, and tell me if your birthday is as extravagant as you’d like it to be when it’s out of your control. It won’t be up to par, because as I said before: no one cares, because the only thing birthdays are good for are having an extra excuse to get drunk and for you to get some of the shit that’s been sitting in your Zara cart for the past month. And the bigger deal you make about your birthday now, the more you’ll regret it when you try to shave off a couple years when you’re inching closer to 40.
Do yourself a favor and try staying in for the night with a bottle of red and a dinner for two. Save the fireworks for the Fourth of July and save your friends the hassle and financial suffering of observing the random-ass day on the calendar that happens to be the day you were born.
Hit me up if it’s an open bar though. .
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