I don’t like birthdays. It really shouldn’t be a shock to anyone that knows me. I never anticipate my own, and I’m usually indifferent about everyone else’s. Sure, if you are a young child ask your parents to rent a bouncy castle and have a blast. But once you’re an adult I don’t feel it’s necessary to make such a big deal out of it. That is unless you’re over the age of eighty, then by all means party your ass off because it could be your last.
I want my last birthday to be like my first, a poetic symmetry of sorts. I assume I’ll be in the later stages of dementia, surrounded by unfamiliar faces, sitting in a soggy diaper. I’ll be sporting a suspiciously ecstatic grin across my face, and with what everyone around me prays is chocolate cake smeared across my lips.
Modern technology has made it impossible to skirt your birthday. With Facebook’s birthday notifications you can be reminded that it’s your first year college roommate’s hometown friend that you only met once at that party eight years ago’s birthday. And at the end of the day you will see the obligatory, “Thank you for all the birthday wishes” posted on their wall in response to all of the hastily typed birthday wishes.
But what are we really celebrating? What grand accomplishment occurred to garner such attention? You didn’t graduate summa cum laude from MIT, you didn’t climb Mount Kilimanjaro, aided only by dull pickaxe and a blind Sherpa. Hell, you didn’t even fill all the spots on your Sub Club card before Subway got rid of them! The only thing you managed to accomplish is not dying since your last birthday. As long as you are on this side of the grass, with blood in your veins and air in your lungs you will receive praise on the anniversary of your birth.
Was it always like this? Did people make such a big deal out of their birthday eighty years ago?
Old Timey Dock Worker, “Say Marv, did you know it’s my birthday today?”
Other Old Timey Dock Worker, “Well, 22 Skidoo!” (Said in a sardonic tone while pantomiming a masturbatory gesture with his free hand)
Old Timey Dock Worker, “After work do you want to go out for some margaritas and appetizers at the 1930’s equivalent of TGI Fridays?”
Other Old Timey Dock Worker, “Sorry, I’m a little busy. What with working 70 hours a week, and making just enough money to buy a pack of Lucky Strikes and cover my enormous electric bill because my only child is in an iron lung. And the tiny remainder of what’s left I place in a mason jar so that God willing one day I’ll have enough money saved up to line the walls of my 80 square foot shack with asbestos insulation to keep out the bitter frigid cold!”
Old Timey Dock Worker, “Oh…you busy tomorrow night?”
We live much easier lives now. Life used to be about survival, dealing with the constant struggles and pain that often plagued people of the past. Their reward, the brass ring, the shinning light at the end of their tunnel was literally the shinning light at the end of a tunnel. Death! Our forefathers and foremothers led exhausting lives that consisted of backbreaking work and devoted worship. And after a lifetime of toiling the grand pay-off was the sweet relief of death, and the subsequent journey to the eternal euphoria of heaven at the ripe old age of 45.
Now we live in the days of dishwashers, clothes dryers, me days, plasma screen televisions to watch Desperate Housewives of New Jersey marathons, the KFC Double Down, remote vehicle starters, Snuggies and leather heated seats. We live cushy lives with plenty of free time to celebrate even the most mundane things.
It’s good in a way. It’s nice that we’ve progressed. We are blessed with twice as many birthdays than our ancestors. Birthdays that we can avoid if we choose to do so. So when your special day comes along I hope it’s exactly what you want. Just don’t expect me to wish you a happy birthday, just as I’d want you to do for me.