When the birthday is just an OK-day

“Death smells like birthday cake.” — Maggie Stiefvater 

My annual birthday plea goes something like this: Don’t get me a birthday cake. Please. And hold the balloons. God, hold the balloons. 

A scarcity of gifts is apt; a token thing (or two!) will do. Cash, books, booze — you’re getting warm. Otherwise, let’s dispense with festive rites, chirpy congrats and that piled frosted sugar loaf festooned with wax and flame. 

Tomorrow I sing the birthday blues with a warble and a plaint (and perhaps a banjo), a tragicomic melody pocked with twangy hiccups and gallows giggles. It’s not so much that I’m getting old. It’s just that I exist. Play in the key of D minor.

Don’t feel bad for me. Antisocial and anti-tradition, I luxuriate in birthday dread, meaning I get an antithetical kick from the “special day” than do normal people who clamor for attention, throw confetti-smattered parties, encourage conspicuous consumption and the lavishing of gifts.  

What then do I do on my birthday? I dwell on death and dying, the brevity of this vast charade, toe-curdling thoughts of cremation and the definitive absence of a higher power. (On that note, blow out the candles.) That’s part jest, but not really, because I reflect on all of that stuff daily. I wake up and see skulls. 

But the birthday is admittedly more frilly. Along with its black Grim Reaper robe, it arrives with cardboard cone hats, noise makers and other “fun” items I’d like to smoosh. It’s practically inescapable, the printed party napkins and peppy paper plates. Friend or family, someone’s going to get you.

I grew out of pointing the spotlight on me very early. As noted in the prior post, the last time I actually celebrated my birthday was on my 13th. It was a modest surprise party, featuring a new puppy, a motley gaggle of guy pals, and some very spirited doorbell ditch across the darkened neighborhood. 

It was fine, but I inexplicably never wanted to do it again. Going out for a drink or a good meal has since marked many a birthday, tiny gatherings all but foisted on me but that I thoroughly enjoyed. It’s not like I slip under the car in the garage and hide on the big day. I’ve just never actively encouraged celebrations. I find them fussy and embarrassing.

People can be movingly kind and generous on my birthday, and I let them, of course. The attention is appreciated but unwanted and unwarranted, All this for little ole me?

It’s pleasant as long as we don’t go overboard. Like cake, which always seems such a waste. No one really finishes their teetering slice and most of the cake (especially the white kind) goes face down in the garbage. Talk about death.

And what’s this? Balloons. Once upon a time, they were blasts of helium hilarity, when anyone could suck and sound like a Munchkin, or Truman Capote. Now they bob in your face, buoyant environmental time bombs, all shimmery mylar and pretty poison.

I look at them, much like the day as a whole, and I think: No, really. Don’t. 

5 thoughts on “When the birthday is just an OK-day

  1. I don’t like my birthday – I find it very stressful having one “special” day that never seems to live up to expectations – but I do absolutely still want a cake every year (although I don’t ever have friends over to eat it with me, and certainly no themed napkins!). That’s the best damn part as far as I’m concerned, and it never goes in the bin!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love celebrating mine with my close group of family or friends. Mostly just family and later on with friends. I don’t like spending on pointless gifts but I’ve been very lucky to have friends who appreciate my clumsy handmade gifts and try to in return make something for me too and god knows how much I love that! Especially surprises, it’s probably immature of me, but I can’t help squealing with joy everytime someone does something unexpected for my birthday. I’m pretty shy but on this day I usually love the free pass I get to do things as I like and be pampered. :3
    Also, love the ocassion to hype up my friends on their birthdays. But i understand what you feel and I would respect that too. Belated happy birthday though, I didn’t know when it was before. 🙈🙈💜

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This is wonderful. I’m so glad you get so much out of the big day. I wish I did! A lot of it has to do with my own shyness; I have a hard time at the center of attention. While you squeal (with joy), I squirm. Thank you, Shruba, for the birthday wishes and the comments!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You’re welcome and yes, I can understand! Even I have my limitations, I’d be extremely uncomfortable if anyone chose to make one of those things where people at the restaurants come and stand over at your table and sing birthday songs etc lol. I would want the earth to eat me up haha. I’m only happy when I’m around my group of familiar people. It depends. ☺

        Liked by 1 person

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