The thing about birthdays is that they do not hold the same appeal or meaning throughout your life, and currently I think I am in the lull.
As a small child your birthday seems to take forever to come around. Birthdays are filled with endless possibilities and the thrill of gifts, parties and getting to a higher number. The anticipation of the day is sometimes more enjoyable than the day itself and coupled with the same level of anticipation that builds around Christmas your life is an endless countdown to the next big event.
Once you enter into your teens your birthday holds the key to the world of adulthood. Each one seems to bring a new set of possibilities and makes more of the adult world available to you, and you have yet to learn that the rush to adulthood is no great thing. Even if you do realise this, the fact that you can now have sex, drive, drink or vote (even if you don’t do these things for a while after they become legal, or if you have been doing them before) is something you want to celebrate and enjoy.
Your 20s, from 21 onwards, involve birthdays when you are trying out options for celebration. No longer in the ‘party’ time of your life you do the ‘going out’ thing instead. Out to a club, to a concert, to an event, for a meal, away for a break; these are all on the possible agenda and the world is your oyster.
Fast forward to 30, or 40, or 50, or 60 and these are the milestone numbers that involve larger celebrations. A party may be in order, or a holiday, or a really big sports or music event to attend. You try to bring the excitement back into these target anniversaries by planning and executing something memorable but it is coupled with an always present feeling of time marching on and a rush to make these memories count.
Then you start trickling towards the later part of life. Your 70s and 80s, when a birthday becomes something that seems to rush up on you faster and faster, when suddenly the greeting card companies think your only interest are flowers, boats and cottages. No one buys you exciting gifts anymore and your celebrations are focused on family visiting, having a nice cake and a cup of tea and you being make to feel grateful that someone bothered.
Beyond that, each birthday, is in itself a victory. You have won the longevity award and each year that passes gets you closer to the telegram from the Queen. (Also at this age you are apparently a staunch royalist even if you spent your life to this point as a republican. My mum is nowhere near 100 but when we were looking for a flat in assisted living locations I lost track of the pictures of the Queen I saw in the communal living spaces. It became a game we played at each viewing “Find the Queen!” She was always there….)
Post 100 and I am thinking that it is bonus level time. Birthdays are back to being ‘looked forward to’ I would imagine. However, with comments made constantly about how well you are doing and how good you look it might be a little tiresome. Mostly these comments are made to other people, above your head, like you have lost the ability to hear and comprehend. Worse still when people do address you directly they slip into baby talk with well enunciated words which are mostly kept to one syllable. Why do we all patronise the elderly when they know so much more than us?
But back to me (it is all about me after all!)
My birthday difficulty is, I think, partly the problem of middle age and partly just my circumstance. I am nearly 40, I just turned 39. This is not a milestone birthday and so it does not require a big celebration. We are on a self imposed budget as we try to save to buy a house (that’s one for another blog post) so I do not want money spent on things I do not need. Add this to the fact that Charlotte is only eight so we keep birthday funds for her, my birthday is a bit of a damp squib.
Before I seem like an ungrateful moaning whinger I had a couple of small, reasonably priced, gifts from hubby and daughter. Much appreciated. I also had cards from friends and some money from Mum. Again much appreciated. And my boss and work colleagues not only sang me happy birthday and got me a cake but there were chocolates too. I was really not expecting this and I was really chuffed. But then the inevitable question of what I was doing to celebrate came up and this is the rub. People feel awkward when you say “Nothing”.
It’s like how the only socially acceptable answer to “How are you?” is “I’m fine, how are you?” I felt like to should be making something up so that people could reply in the way they expected to.
This is what people want:
Them: “Happy Birthday. Are you doing anything nice to celebrate?
You: “Yes, I am going away for the weekend/out for a meal and a show/on a day trip to the races/for a massive booze up.”
Them: “Oh that will be nice. Have fun!”
What happens with me:
Them: “Happy Birthday. Are you doing anything nice to celebrate?
Me: “No not really. ”
Them: “Oh!”[Looking at the floor, awkward silence]
Me: [Trying to make them feel less awkward] “Well we might have a takeaway or something.”
Them: “Oh, that will be nice.” [Sigh of relief as social order is resumed]
But the thing is, much as I would love to have lavish birthday celebrations, at this stage in my life it is just another day, and I have some big goals I am working on in my career and private life. These are where I am focusing my attention and having my age increase in one number does very little other than remind me that time is trotting on and I need to get on with my plans.
It really is OK that I am not having a big celebration and it is really OK that I worked on the day (although I did try to make people feel sorry for me because we all like a little attention don’t we?).
I am 39 and I was 38. Next year I will be 40 and with it being a milestone one people will expect even more from me on the celebration front but unless I have got some of my big goals achieved it will be a quiet one again. But one day, when the big ticket items are sorted, I will do the following for various birthdays:
Go to New York
Go to Paris
Go to see a play
Go to Paperchase and buy everything I like (I have a massive love of stationary)
Go on a massive shopping spree
Have a party
Have a meal at a Michelin star restaurant
Go on a cruise
Go on the Orient Express
[Note to husband – this is a good list for you to take note of for when we have more free cash and you are not sure what to get me for birthday or anniversary]
But for now, I am very happy with what I got, I have a happy home life and a lovely family and I count myself extremely lucky to have friends and family who care enough to worry about my birthday celebrations (or lack of them.)
Whats more I got a free doughnut from Krispy Kreme so what more could I need.