Why Birthdays Simultaneously Rule and Suck

17 Sep

Day 7 of the 90 in 90 blog challenge.

A few days ago, I had a birthday. I went from being 22 to 23, all in one magical day that revolved around me. And looking back on that day, I started to realize how ludicrous and selfish the entire experience is.

Birthday magic happens immediately. You wake up like every other day, and then- SUDDENLY- you remember! It’s your BIRTHDAY!!!! It’s like Christmas- But only for YOU. NO ONE ELSE’S CHRISTMAS. MY CHRISTMAS!!!!!

The first person you see on your birthday is the first reminder of how freaking awesome you are today. “Good morning!!!” They’ll croon, “HAPPY BIRTHDAY!” You’ll smile sheepishly, and suddenly feel really special and proud.

Do you see what I’m saying, readers? You’ll feel “really special and proud.” But… for what? For the fact that 23 years ago you existed for the first time? That, by some miracle, you managed to escape death for a another year? 

Then, you check your phone. Dear. Sweet. Text messages. And Facebook. Notifications. I mean we’re talking “You have 38 unread messages.”  People it’s only 9:00 am. It’s been my birthday for exactly nine hours, and you’re already writing on my facebook wall!?

And so I reiterate: You will feel incredibly special and loved… for no reason, other than the fact that you exist.

Seriously. I’m convinced that even if your life is a complete wreck- you left your family to go deal crystal meth and now you’re addicted, starving, and living in a box under a bridge next to some flea-infested bum who is convinced your name is “Peter the Pancake Provider”- you still feel AWESOME on your birthday. Because there is something really awesome about having a day devoted to you, simply for the pure fact that you were brought into existence.

There is also something sickeningly satisfying about having a day that is YOURS and NO ONE ELSE’S! It’s like you get to go up to a stranger and say, “It’s my birthday today.” And suddenly, everyone just knows their place. YOU are awesome today, they are significantly less awesome today. It’s just how birthdays work.

Thing can get pretty awkward if you run into someone else with the same birthday as you. This can happen if you’ve ever been out to a restaurant on your birthday. There you are,  just sitting there eating the appetizer, just waiting for the off-pitched chorus of jaded waitresses to come around and sing to you, when suddenly, you hear the CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP train somewhere in the back of the restaurant. No, you think, This can’t be right. We’re only on our appetizer… And the entire place erupts into cheers and cries of glee because it’s someone ELSE’S birthday. And you suddenly feel cheated. And jealous. And really, REALLY pissed off. How DARE they be born on the same day that YOU were?! THIS IS YOUR DAY NOT THEIRS! THIS IS NOT FAIR!!!!!

By the middle of the day, the novelty of the Birthday Magic will wear off. You’ll have already read 4,000 “Happy Birthday” messages on your phone. Your best friends from high school and college will have already called you. Your mom and dad have called you. Everything is going your way. Only now, you start to realize just how special You are today, and with that specialness comes power…

“It’s my birthday,” You say proudly to anyone who will listen. Even strangers will say, “Oh my GOSH it’s Your BIRTHDAY!? HAPPY BIRTHDAY! WE HAVE TO CELEBRATE!” People will just suddenly give You free shit. Bartenders especially.

“It’s her birthday,” your friends will tell him with a knowing gleam in their eye.
“OH MY GOSH IT’S YOUR BIRTHDAY!?” He will exclaim. “HEY EVERYBODY! IT’S THIS LITTLE LADY’S BIRTHDAY! SHOTS ON ME!”
And the whole place will explode with cheers, all because of You. They don’t even ask how old you are. I guess if you look a day over 21, they just stop asking, for fear of offending You. After all, it is YOUR day. You don’t want to be reminded that You are now one year closer to death.

Soon the sun sets, and You’re feeling really weird. On one hand, You realize just how many people on this planet know about your existence and aren’t pissed off about it. And that if anything were to ever happen to You, You’d probably have one kick ass funeral or something, one where everyone is saying how great You were, how much You mean to them, all of the great shit You managed to get done while you were alive…

Birthday’s start to have this effect as you get older. They really start to make You think. Before when You were a little kid, You just realized that You got gifts and everybody loved You. Now, You’re like, “Oh wow, so many people love me! So, I’m 23! Wow. That’s only two years away from 25. I’m old. I’m OLD! Holy crap I am so OLD. And yet, I’m still so young. Life is so funny that way… What if I were to just get run over by a car tomorrow? What would happen? Would all of these people who are contacting me today be sad? Or are they just wishing me a happy birthday because Facebook told them to? Have I accomplished everything I want to accomplish with my life? What could I be doing better? Am I a good person? What is my life? What am I DOING? What is the POINT OF ALL OF THIS!?!?!?!” And in one existential swoop of understanding, you’re sitting there, on YOUR birthday, suddenly depressed as shit because everyone loves you and you’re still alive.

Soon, midnight rolls around, and You go from being You to just you again. It’s no longer YOUR day. It is no longer your own personal Christmas. And on one hand, you’re really sad. It’s nice to feel really special and loved for a whole day, and when that day is over, you feel the absence of that love and attention hit you like a brick on the end of a chain. And yet, on the other hand, you’re just grateful that it’s all over. For one thing, your FRICKEN’ PHONE has stopped going off! That’s a good thing! And another thing, you’re no longer feeling special for no reason. While feeling special is great, feeling special for no reason is just confusing and frustrating. “HAPPY BIRTHDAY!” everyone screams at you all day. They light up like a fricken’ light bulb just to LOOK at you, and you’re left there all like, “Thanks! …I didn’t do anything…”

And then you go to bed and wake up the next day, and you’re not special. No one is calling you to tell you how awesome you are, how much they love you, and how great it is that you’re a living breathing human being. Nope. Just another, regular day. Only now you’re one year closer to death.

Yep. Everything feels perfectly normal again.

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