Just glad February is over

Today is my birthday, March 1, which makes me a Pisces if you’re into that kind of thing. I’m not doing much, just took the day off from work and plan to go shoot some pool with friends later tonight.

I kind of hate birthdays, but not for the reasons you might think. I don’t even much like other people’s birthdays, and can never remember the dates. I don’t think anyone in my family has ever received a birthday card from me on time, and I seldom buy them for friends. I feel guilty about this, because I know other people do like birthdays. I just really, really don’t.

It’s not about aging. I’ve never wanted children, so I’m not worried that some kind of clock is running out. I have never considered myself pretty, though experience suggests that there’s something attractive about me, and its influence seems to wane over time. This is annoying, in that I’m used to being able to provoke positive reactions with light flirting, but hardly devastating. I’m just not girly enough to care. Mostly it’s a relief to become invisible to men, frankly, at least to the kind of men who overtly notice women.

I don’t mind getting old. I love the feeling of knowing more than I used to. I don’t know how wise I am, but I’m certainly not as stupid as I used to be. There’s a lot of satisfaction in that. Every year I read more books, have more experiences, meet more people, know my friends better. It’s a good thing.

But I’m afraid of dying, so having that number – my age – go up by 1 on this day makes me a little uncomfortable. It’s a vivid reminder that the clock is always ticking, and there’s only one way this story can end. On the other hand, I used to be terrified of dying, so perhaps I’m making progress. Since my main goal in life is to ensure that the moment of my death is not full of horror and regret, I suppose how I feel about each birthday depends on how I think I’m doing. This year I feel pretty good, looking forward to going back to school, and learning a lot.

For a few years I went big for my birthday, and invited all my friends to share an experience all or most of us had never had before. Once I treated everyone to an evening in the Tactile Dome at the Exploratorium in San Francisco. Another time, I took everyone to a firing range – that was interesting.

One year we all went to a restaurant that featured flamenco dancing, which I’d never seen in real life. Unfortunately some people I knew from work took off without paying, and then a few other people didn’t put in enough, and the whole thing turned into a hideous mess. I was outside smoking to relieve the stress and missed the dancing altogether. I wish I could’ve just paid the whole bill myself, but I was temping at that point and couldn’t afford it. That may have been the last time I did anything on that scale for my birthday. It still makes me cringe to think about it.

Although my friends saved the evening not only by paying the bill, but by presenting me with a birthday cake in the shape of a coffin. This amazed and confused the restaurant staff and remains the best birthday cake I’ve ever had. What could be more perfect?

Normally, though, I can’t stand the whole cake-and-candles ritual thing. Cake is all well and good, but please, don’t get me started on the Birthday Song. What am I, five? I hate being the center of attention that way. I even hated it when I was a kid.

One of my closest friends sings me “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” every year as a compromise.

I hate opening presents, too. I get overwhelmed by a sense of obligation I know can never be satisfied. (I’ve worked on this, but it’s no good.) Last night two friends took me out after work and treated me to beer, pool, and a cupcake, and I swear I just about wept with gratitude at their thoughtfulness. It was precisely what I needed.

What I do like about my birthday is that it marks the beginning of an upswing in my mood. The stressful grind of the holidays is followed, for me, by my least favorite anniversaries. I was raped at the end of January, and my mother and my brother both died in February; my mother died a week before my fifth birthday. No wonder I don’t like to make a big fuss. I get so depressed in February now, especially since my brother died, that I can’t even begin to make birthday plans, and couldn’t stand it if someone else made them for me – I don’t need the pressure.

I wish I lived in a culture where birthdays aren’t acknowledged after, say, your 18th (with special allowance made for 21, perhaps?), but now I’m being a wet blanket. Now that it’s here, I feel good. February’s over, I have friends, and as I like to say when I’m feeling bleak about life:  at least nothing in my immediate vicinity’s on fire. Including birthday candles. Things could be a lot worse.

Time to get ready to go out, shoot some more pool, and get a little tipsy. I’m actually looking forward to this. But they’d better not have gotten me a cake.

How do you feel about your birthday?

3 Responses to “Just glad February is over”

  1. absurdbeats Says:

    I look at my birthday as an excuse to not care about rules, be they about money or calories or time or whatever.

    It’s my goddamned birthday, so piss off.

    Okay, so I wasn’t that pugnacious on my birthday, but I do think that if it’s supposed to matter (to whom? I dunno), I’m gonna do with it what I want.

    Indulge yourself, my sweet. Eat the cake, or not. Take the day, it’s yours.

  2. JazzRain Says:

    Came upon ur blogs by a complete accident.. but it’s worth it. I completely agree with what you have written. The only difference is that I’m not afraid of dying… well of course I am if i’m told that I’m told that I’m going to die in like a month or something, but i mean that it’s not something I think about all the time, and definitely not on my birthday.

    I don’t actually hate birthdays at all.. only that I unconsciously expect attention from other people on my birthday and when they don’t give it, I feel a tinge of sadness.. which is really pathetic, I know. But I can’t help it!

    Anyways happy birthday for a month and a half ago!

  3. Shanghai Guy Says:

    I remember that coffin-shaped birthday cake! Beautiful!

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