I made a concerted effort this year not to mention my birthday to anyone, and I’m so glad that I did. I don’t like birthdays, and I definitely don’t like mine. I never have.
The only birthday I can remember enjoying was my 18th, and for reasons you can probably imagine. I really enjoyed that one, and it was probably the last one I had during which I did not care how anyone else treated me on my birthday.
I went to the store and I bought one of everything I could finally purchase legally: a scratcher ticket, cigarettes, spray paint, BB’s, a lighter, pipe tobacco, a rated-R movie and a Playboy. I might actually still have the BB’s somewhere, because I never wanted to get rid of them. That birthday was one that I enjoyed because it was symbolic, and I could enjoy that fact on my own.
After that, it was all downhill. I’ve worked all but one of my birthdays since, and most of them sucked. My 21st was one of the worst, as a really close friend of mine canceled plans we made three months in advance for a new squeeze she’d been dating for about two weeks. (I’ve since forgiven this person, and we are really good friends again)
Early on, I had this belief that everyone should be celebrated on his or her birthday. I never doubted it, even on my 21st.
But I must have reached a point, not long after that birthday, when I gave up. Everyone I knew, up to that point, would get something from me on their birthday. It might have just been a phone call, but it would be something. And I would soon realize that when my birthday came around, these same people were absent every time.
The number of those recognizing my birthday existed at all, pre-Facebook, never exceeded ten.
So pretty soon, I stopped caring. I became bitter about birthdays, as I was about Christmas and various other days.
Then when Facebook took over, birthdays always just seemed like a convenient way to pretend you care about someone. Your news feed tells you when someone is having a birthday, so no one actually has to know you that well in order to care. I now blame Facebook for this more than my friends, but I used to take it really personally.
It finally came to a head for me about three years ago, when the only people who even mentioned my birthday at all were the ones on Facebook. The only exception was a text message I received, and that was it. I thought, “Well, there’s no excuse. Everyone knows it’s my birthday, but all I’m getting is a post on my wall. No one’s even bothered to call me and ask how I’m doing.”
Yet so many of my friends don’t go through what I seem to go through on their birthdays. They either don’t care (as I now don’t), or they get huge parties thrown in their honor. People bake cakes for them and buy them expensive bottles of Scotch or tickets to a fancy theme park. Those are not things I get, and I haven’t gotten them in years. That’s just because it’s me, though. Or so I used to think.
Nothing much has changed in reality, but I’ve realized that thinking about this day as if it was any other day seems to make much more sense to me.
This year, I told no one about my birthday. Some co-workers at one of my two jobs knew that my birthday was coming up, but none remembered. I found some interesting results, though.
In my email, I received a birthday greeting from astrology.com, linkedin and Creative Cow. At work, the system greeted me when I clocked in, too.
Some of my family reached out to me on Facebook (where I removed my birthday entirely), and a client of mine sent me an email. But that was it this year.
And I felt this odd sense of relief.
I figure, if I don’t advertise my birthday and you STILL remembered it, and thought well enough about me to reach out to me on my birthday, then that’s something I want to hang on to.
One friend told me months ago that I should care more about birthdays, and assured me that mine would not be forgotten. Not only did this person forget, I just discovered that I was recently unfriended by them (I don’t know why or when). Par for the course.
But I’m not surprised that my family reached out to me, and I’m kinda glad because this proves the point.
Many frustrating things happened to me on my birthday this year. My smoke alarm went off for no reason while I was in the shower. I was almost late for work because I forgot my shirt. My bank confirmed it doesn’t know where my new debit card was sent, and I was over-charged for an omelette. A two-hour shift turned into an eight-hour closing shift because another guy quit.
And yet, only when I think this day should be any more special than the rest would I be tied to feelings of sadness and frustration. Why is this happening today of all days, I could have asked.
But yesterday was a day like any other. And I shouldn’t take it as personally as I have in the past that I won’t be noticed on this day unless I scream from the rooftops.
I’m with Humpty Dumpty on this one: Un-birthdays are the way to go.