A Birthday Conundrum

My birthday’s coming soon, and I couldn’t feel more stressed out. Not as stressed as my co-worker, who decided to propose to his pregnant girlfriend on his birthday, but pretty darn close.

To be honest, I could care less about my birthday, but everyone around me is trying to make it a bigger deal than what it is. Hence my stress. Birthdays stopped being important after 21, and once you pass 30, they only serve as cruel reminders that you’re getting old and have nothing to show for your uneventful life.

When you’re a kid, birthdays are exciting. You spend the days leading up to your birthday anticipating what presents you’ll receive. Maybe your parents plan a Disney themed party at your house and invite all your friends from school, or maybe you celebrate at the arcade, or the pizza place, or the children’s museum, or the McDonald’s Play Pin (do those even still exist?), or any other place where young children gather. You and your friends eat all the cake and ice cream you can cram into your tiny little stomachs until you pass out on the floor, bodies contorted in strange positions, with brightly colored blue, purple, red, or green tongues, and dried frosting crumbling around your lips.

Once you reach adolescence, the next big birthday is 16, the age also known as the peak of teenage-y-ness (because 17 is merely an afterthought). Maybe your parents buy you your first car, or you throw a wild, outlandish party like the ones on MTV’s Sweet Sixteen. Maybe you’ve decided that this is the day you lose your virginity, although if you’re smart, you’ll wait until prom, because good things always happen on prom night. (Did you catch the sarcasm there?)

Two years later, you’re 18, an adult, eager to do everything you previously needed a parent’s permission to do; get a tattoo, stay out late, date that no-good boy who will definitely shatter your heart (if you still live at home and have strict parents, this may still prove challenging), buy cigarettes—a friend in high school made this a huge deal on her eighteenth birthday, only to have the cashier deny her the privilege because her ID was expired. Maybe you’re gearing up for college, to finally be free of mom and dad (although not completely, because they’re more than likely flipping that hefty tuition bill), become your own person, discover you!

And lastly, there’s 21. The only thing cool about this birthday is that you finally get to drink . . . legally . . . but we all know you’ve been “turning up” since 16.

So what’s left after 21? Well if you’re me, you have the displeasure of having your brother’s girlfriend (a college student who still parties like she’s 21) feel sorry for you because she thinks you have no friends and you never get out of the house to do anything fun (probably because that’s what your insensitive brother—who’s mind is perpetually frozen at age 16 because of all the weed he smokes—has told her), and now she feels obligated to make you her charity case and drag you to the club with her uptight friends—who think they’re too cute for clothes that fit—to “turn you out.”

Well, excuse me for assuming when I graduated from college, I left behind the constant peer pressure to accept that “fun” meant drinking like you have no liver, dressing like you’re about to make your vixen debut on a rap music video, dancing in the dark with some sweaty man breathing down your neck, and going deaf from the noise they have the audacity to call music these days.

Call me an old soul in a twenty-something-year-old’s body.

That kind of “fun” has never interested me, not even when I was in college. My kind of fun is watching a classic horror movie marathon while eating a huge bowl of popcorn, going midnight bowling with my girlfriends (yes, I do have friends) and between games having a beer or two and sharing a plate of chili cheese fries, going to the bar for the hot wings and home chips and to watch the game and maybe even find someone to teach me how to play pool.

Notice how going clubbing with my brother and his girlfriend was not mentioned. Why? I because I’d rather not be miserable on my birthday doing something I hate with people I don’t particularly like. Don’t get me wrong, I love my brother, but we have nothing in common. The things he likes to do for fun I absolutely abhor, and the things I like to do for fun he thinks are boring and lame. Is there a way we can find common ground? Probably. We just haven’t found it yet. And we won’t find it by my birthday. And that’s perfectly fine, because like I said, I really don’t care to do anything but eat some cake and go to bed.

The last few years I’ve spent my birthday with a gang of squealing children. You see, I basically share a birthday with my friend’s (yes, another friend) five-year-old. She was born two days after my birthday, and since the baby shower, I’ve celebrated with her and her family, and have had so much more fun. Why? Because I can actually be myself. My family tries too hard to control my birthday—my brother is always trying to make me be “cool,” my granddaddy always has something more important to do, my mom always has to have a “plan” to go by, and if by some miracle I do come up with a plan, everyone wants to change it!

Wait a minute, whose birthday is it, again?!

Then there’s the issue of presents. If I don’t care to have a party, I don’t care to get any presents. Of course, my granddaddy is probably going to try to “make a statement” of not getting me anything simply because I only bought him a card for his birthday earlier this month.

According to what’s he whined to my mom in private, I didn’t get him anything. Apparently a card with a beautiful message doesn’t count as a present?

And what exactly do you buy an 88-year-old man who already has everything? He has enough shirts, he has enough ties, he has enough power tools. I’ve yet to see him wear the hat I bought him last Christmas (as in Christmas 2015). And if you ask me, my brother didn’t give him a present either, just a wad of cash in card that I bought! Does the thought not count anymore? Only the dollar bills? Well I’m sorry my money’s all tied up in a summer cruise to Alaska and a $1400 doctor’s bill that my bogus insurance won’t cover.

If he tries to give me a long drawn out speech about “being a good family member” and buying presents “to show that you care,” I swear I’m going to lose it. At the end of the day, presents are just things—they break, they tear, they stop working, they get worn, and eventually we throw them away. I can do with less things. We all can.

I’ve considered disappearing on my birthday. Maybe I’ll take a spontaneous road trip down to Georgia to visit my best friend, make a pit stop in Charlotte to pick up my other best friend, and the three of us spend my birthday together. Or maybe I’ll just go off on my own, take a rest and relaxation getaway to the beach or the mountains. Hey, I live in the Piedmont of North Carolina, both are equal distances away.

But the most logical solution will be what I always do. Suffer along with my controlling family, and then party with the five-year-olds. One more year won’t kill me. But the planning for next year’s birthday getaway trip starts TODAY! Don’t ask me what I’m doing for my birthday. I’m already gone.

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