I had a birthday this week. It is likely that if you are reading this, you have never met me, but if you were a gambler would you lay your money down on a wager that I am the shy retiring type that hates to be fussed over and would prefer for my birthday to pass quietly, unnoticed, causing no inconvenience to anyone?
Have you finished laughing yet?
I LOVE MY BIRTHDAY! I love that I get a whole day out of the year during which everyone expects me to have unbridled narcissism and megalomania. Shower me with presents. Paint my house bright red with roses. Hire a marching band play my favorite song out side my window to wake me up. Serve me breakfast in bed with Russian table service. Sky write my name with the space shuttle. No gesture would be too grand, too showy to celebrate the glorious miracle of the day of my birth.
My mom was great at this and set me up for a lifetime of high expectations. Every year she would make me a cake in the shape of my favorite Sesame Street character. In the 8th grade she threw me a party in which we invited all my friends over dressed as their favorite pop star she filmed us lip syncing music videos, then piled us all in the station wagon and took us down town to parade the plaza and stop by the radio station where they played the music I requested (we lived in a small town during the days of real radio), then we came home to gorge ourselves on individual cakes each shaped like records. That party was epic and the music videos are still hauled out from time to time to embarrass me and my friends. In later years, working in an office was fabulous because on birthdays there would be singing and cake and coworkers would take each other out to lunch in a group. My sister and I (born 2 yrs and 2 days apart) would throw joint club parties. Friends have thrown me club parties. Friends have thrown me house parties. I filled my apartment with lights, people, and a DJ. I threw myself a New Orleans style Jazz Funeral to my youth. Birthdays are to be celebrated! Until I had kids.
My birthdays, that have always been the one reliable bright spot in my year to look forward to, but once I popped out a child the needle screeched off the record. The party ended. Guess who was left mopping the sticky stuff off the floor … for-ev-er?
Most of our marriage it has been an unfortunate coincidence that my husband has been traveling for work on my birthday. One year on my birthday I had my first one-year-old in arms so I took us both to a museum where I was mildly entertained. And that was the last medium good birthday I’ve cerebrated with my family in 12 years. Usually friends will come to the rescue and take me out to lunch or our for a pedicure or some other wonderful treat. Those are the highlights. But once I walk through the doors of my gilded cage Cinderella gets back to work. “Oh yeah, its your birthday. Happy Birthday Mom! I’m hungry.” Sound familiar to other people with kids?
This year was extra special. I had a bad cold and a sore throat. I got the kids shipped off to school then tucked into two hours at the laundromat because our washing machine broke this week. Afterward, I went over my friend’s house to drop off a birthday gift for a party I had to miss over the weekend because we’d been evacuated from our house due to wildfires (everything turned out ok with that – thank you Los Angeles Firemen, you are hot in so many ways). My friend treated me to lunch which was the highlight of the day. From there I went to my annual gyno exam and blood draw. Then over to the baseball field that has started to feel like my second home. (With 2 kids playing baseball, one week this season I spent 5 DAYS at the baseball field. Ugh.) Finally, back home to the loving embrace of my family, who assumed I was too sick to eat dinner so didn’t even bother to call me to the table when the burgers came of the grill. They just sat down and started eating while I festered resentments in the dying daylight of the living room like an archetypal evil villain in the making.
No cake. No balloons. No candle. No Happy Birthday sign. No parade. (I did get a bouquet of flowers and some Echinecea tea from my husband who cares.) My spoiled brat kids even forgot to give me the card my husband bought for them to give me. I knew this is how it would play out so I had the hard earned wisdom of forethought to stop by the donut shop on the way home and buy myself a sweet treat to enjoy on my birthday, a box of glazed donuts. Happy Birthday to me and may they all choke on the hole while scarfing down donuts after not singing to me.
One woman in a household of men is its own unique thrill and challenge. On the one hand, boys of all ages are lovely. They love “mom” with a deep, sweet tenderness that girls can’t equal. On the other hand, it is a lonely kind of life. Boys just don’t do FABULOUS birthdays very well. Have you ever watched the TV show “The Middle”. There is one episode in which mom of 3 boys is so disappointed in her birthday that she abandons the family and sets up shop for an extended stay at the batting cages to exorcise her aggression. They all follow her down there where she proceeds to scream at them all the ways she wishes they were more considerate. She says, “Can’t you just do that?” and the dad says, “No! We can’t! We’re idiots! We can’t do anything by ourselves. We have no idea what to do unless you tell us to do it. Please just tell us what to do and we would love to do it for you. We want to do it. We love you. Just tell us what to do!” Nailed it.
So, to mitigate the crushing disappointment that my birthday has become, I’ve taken to planning fun wilderness expeditions for myself on or near my birthday. I unapologetically take myself on “vacation” do something that truly inspires me, requires no parenting, and allows me to celebrate in a big fun way that satisfies me. This year it was a trip to Death Valley, which was absolutely ecstatically fun. At least this way my birthday can remain a bright spot and something to look forward to. “Sistas are doing’ it for themselves.” Or some empowering bullshit like that.
Happy Birthday, Geminis! May the world rise up to celebrate you!