My birthday is a week from today. I thought shopping at Forever 21 was the equivalent of drinking from some fountain of youth, but with Forever 23 looming on the horizon, it’s clearly not working. Pretty soon I’ll be just as deserving of chagrin as the desperate-to-be-hip moms embarrassing their teenage daughters by shopping there.

Image source: someecards
Image source: someecards

I really don’t care about my birthday. My Hapathy Birthday philosophy isn’t a tactic to convincingly gloss over my birthday to avoid the realities of aging (not yet, but we’re getting there…) or a means to ward off birthday wishes from Facebook friends I forgot I even had. My birthday brusqueness exists because I don’t like being the center of attention, and there’s no celebration more “HEY LOOK AT ME!” than the day you were bought into the world.

People react with horror and pity when they hear someone doesn’t care about their birthday. “That’s so sad! What happened? Did someone take a shit on your birthday cake as a kid? Oh… I bet no one showed up to your birthday party at Discovery Zone when you were young… Did your mommy forget your birthday one year?” …What? All my cakes have been delicious and shit-free; my Discovery Zone birthday party was off the chain, and believe me, as an only child, my birthday is the event of the year.

When you say, “My birthday isn’t a big deal,” some people think that by not making plans to go all out on your special day, you’re secretly begging for a surprise party ambush complete with cone hats, feather boas, and a whole crowd of people clearing their throats in anticipation of a rousing rendition of “Happy Birthday to You.”

Then there’s the matter of the birthday present. Let me go on the record right now and say that I have no idea what I want anymore. Better hair? More sleep? Shoes that don’t cause that gaping wound on the back of your ankle when you walk in them too much? I have no idea what to tell people. When you’re a kid, living well below the poverty line on an allowance that affords you only those sticky hands from the gumball machine, you can come up with all kinds of junk you want. If I want something nowadays, I’ll buy it myself when I can afford it (…okay, I might buy it even if I can’t). The older I get and the more money I have at my disposal, the weirder I feel about letting people buy things for me.

Oh.Image source: gagful
Image source: gagful

…And how about that awful birthday tradition of opening all your loot in front of everyone in attendance with the random flash of the digital camera–does anyone actually enjoy that? I feel like I’m the star witness at some birthday present trial, and I already swore to be honest about my gift reactions, and if I alter my reaction testimony (which I totally will when I open some weird gift I’ll never wear/use), I’ll be convicted of birthday perjury and go to birthday jail where I’ll be fed only stale cake, where the opposite of all my past birthday wishes will come true, and where I’ll be forced to do manual labor in the birthday candle factory.

But here’s the thing about birthdays: each year you get further and further from your actual birth, the less and less the day is all about you. Every year you’re meeting friends, significant others, frienemies, and co-workers who want to embarrass you and make you uncomfortable celebrate your special day with you. So as much as you want nothing more than to have an ordinary birthday, don’t be a jerk. Wear your dunce cap party hat without protest. Tolerate the four rounds of “Happy Birthday to You.” Make a wish when you blow out your candles. Let the people who care about you make a big, disgusting fuss over you for one day. …Even if it’s more for them than for you. You might even experience a warm fuzzy or two.

49 thoughts on “Hapathy Birthday

  1. At the end of each month at work, we have a “company party” to celebrate whoever had a birthday that month. I suppose it’s just any excuse to party, but often it feels awkward like, do I have to get these people I barely know (I haven’t been working here long) a birthday present that is clearly done out of obligation and not friendship…it’s weird. And on my birthday, I don’t want a fuss either. But we all just grin and bear it. I wonder if everyone is feeling the same and just not mentioning it…

    1. I have to imagine a lot of people are! I think a shared birthday celebration is good–it takes some of the pressure off of you to appear happy and birthdayish. In my family, I have the same birthday as one of my cousins, so that definitely helped. But since I’m younger, I still got my fair share of the fuss.

      1. Yep, birthdays are just one of those things we have to take. When you’re little, birthdays are cool – getting presents on a random day during the year – awesome! But as you get older, well I suppose all the fuss just doesn’t seem necessary. It is nice to see friends and family caring though. 🙂

  2. I get so embarrassed when it’s my birthday. Last year, I had only been at my job for twenty days before it was my birthday, and I didn’t tell anyone it was. Then boyfriend showed up with a bouquet of flowers and lunch, and so when my boss got back later that day, he was like, “What is it your birthday or something?” and I’m like, “Yes….” *sheepish*. My boss gets a lot of wine from clients, so he gave me a bottle. It worked out, but I was still so embarrassed. The Facebook comments don’t bother me too much, because I don’t have to field them face to face, but in person I’m kind of just like, “Thanks….” *turns red and doesn’t know what to say*

    1. This will be my first birthday at this job, so I don’t know what to expect. I haven’t told anyone, but obviously HR knows… We’ll see what happens.

      I get the most embarrassed when I admit I didn’t make any big plans, because I can tell people are thinking, “do you not have any friends…?”

      1. My birthday falls on a Saturday this year, and so I am taking the Friday before and the Monday after off. Probably won’t do anything big except sleep in and do what I want. Ohhh not a normal b-day celebration? *shrugs and goes back to reading*

      2. Mine is Thursday, and I did take off Friday to make a long weekend. No big plans, just think I deserved a little break!

  3. haha! I loved this! I just had a birthday as FIRST birthday in a office work setting. (ahhhh) It was especially awkward because most of my co workers have “friended” me on facebook…so while I am trying to downplay the excitement at work, they witness the actuality of it on my page…ohhh social media lol

    1. HA! I’m not friends with anyone from work on Facebook, so I’m hoping maybe no one will know? I guess I’ll find out next week and report back…

  4. I always wondered what the big deal about birthdays is…I always thought it should be more a celebration for the Mom! Anyway, glad to see someone else shares my birthday hesitation. I try to put up a brave front but just the idea of a bunch of waiters bringing over a slice of cake and singing a weird version of happy birthday makes me cringe a little.

    1. I am so lucky that the restaurant waiter scenario hasn’t yet happened to me. I can only imagine how red my face would be. I agree about the mom thing–she did all the work!

    1. I thought it was clever, myself. They’re alright, but spare me the pin the tail on the donkey and the excessive use of the “b” word.

  5. I freaking used to love my birthday and talk about it months in advance until other people ruined it. I used to love the adoration and gifts and parties held in my honor, until I got older and realized it is more about others than me. The stupid Facebook randoms, the calls by all 4 of my siblings, plus my parents, the need to take me to dinner, decorate my desk at work, make me cut the cake and deliver to everyone, the constant, “What are you going to do for your birthday?” and “How old are you? What are you like just turning 19 this year?” I’m going to tell people that it is a month later and celebrate my birthday the way I want. Eating pizza and getting expensive gifts for myself. I’m so bitter about my birthday now.

    1. Sometimes other people do make it about themselves. I love the, “what are WE doing for your birthday?” …We? Quit loafing on my date of birth! It’s also embarrassing when people ask you about your plans, and it’s like, “eating a cupcake I bought for myself and watching the Kardashians.”

  6. Hehe, my friend sent me that last picture on birthday 😀
    I don’t like being the center of attention either. But like you said, you have to suck it up (or nobody lets you have cake)

  7. LOL! I’m the total opposite of you with this. I LOVE my birthday…though not because I’m an attention ho…although I may be that, too. I don’t know. I’ve always just had fun on my birthday. Even with the big 4 Oh looming, I’m excited about it. I think maybe it’s always just signified a fresh start or something… (That and hubby and I have this rule that on our birthdays we totally pamper each other. Favorite food, check. Need something from the other room? Say the word. We become each other’s magic genies that day.)

    1. Well that I can understand LOL! I’m great at other people’s birthdays, I’m just not good at letting people make a big deal over little ol’ me. If someone said exactly what I wrote to me? I’d tell them to fuck off and buy them a lavish gift just to spite them.

  8. I’m on the totally opposite side of the spectrum, but what you’re saying makes perfect sense!

    I’ll concede that I do enjoy the birthday attention, but more than that, I like letting people know that they’re appreciated. I figure that birthdays are a good opportunity to do that; I’m a big proponent of the theory that modern life gets so hectic that we stop taking time to let people know how much they mean to us and how much we appreciate them. Birthdays seem like a great time to bust out a few “You’re awesome, and I’m really friggin’ glad you were born!” love-bombs. That said, I at least can understand now why a lot of people aren’t on board with big b-day festivities — so I can calibrate those little love-bombs accordingly (i.e., sans some big public celebration, but perhaps with a card that they can read on their own). 🙂

    1. HA! Oh, I love other people’s birthdays! I’m all about the card, the thoughtful gift, and the text message at midnight. I just don’t like it when I’m on the receiving end.

    2. HA! I agree with you. We really don’t take enough time to make people feel the love sometimes. I love other people’s birthdays! I’m all about the card, the thoughtful gift, and the text message at midnight. I just don’t like it when I’m on the receiving end.

  9. “I don’t like being the center of attention, and there’s no celebration more “HEY LOOK AT ME!” than the day you were bought into the world.”

    AU CONTRAIRE, my friend. Just wait til you get married!

    1. Oh goodness… I can only imagine.

      Maybe I’ll elope. Or I’ll tolerate it like the birthday attention. A little bit of “all about me” is okay…. But maybe just an hour’s worth.

  10. Haha, no shit I almsot wrote a post exactly like this. Seems that we share the same birth…date (FFS). Our birthdays were years ago. These celebrations are ridiculous. And I was born into a life of severe depression and chronic fatigue. Why celebrate that? *Shakes fists of rage in air*

    1. Your birthday is June 13th? Wow! It’s just you, me, and the Olsen twins.

      I mean, I’ll take the cake and maybe some booze, but the singing is always a cringeworthy moment for me. It’s all sweet, don’t get me wrong, just not by any means expected.

      1. Woops, time difference. I’m June 14th. Though, I guess it’s more similar in cyber land. Cake, booze, and a dark room = perfect. Just no singing or false flattery, please. *cringes*

  11. creeping up on the age of Seniordism, although I’m not sure when that really starts. It could be coming soon and that’s when I might concede to celebrate my birthday in a big way again. After all, with the world in the state it is, who knows what age we will reach I used to celebrate, but I’m not sure when that was. Certainly as a child, teenager, young adult and mid adult. I think I stopped around 50ish when living alone, and then it was my own party, dancing by myself and then it became a much simpler experience. No more hats and funny faces or fart pillows and creepy spiders on long strings. Now it’s about a nice dinner with the couple of people I know here in Mexico. Actually I have about 5 friends here, including my dog Mini, and that’s more than enough for any one person and makes a perfect setting for dinner which is about all I do. It’s fun in Seniordism…you get to do, say and think what you want and not give a flying pigs ass who cares….much better than the f word don’t ya think???? Happy day Sassy…….whoops, I do have a friend taking me for breakfast so I’d best get some clothes on. I would go naked but it’s raining….

    1. I think when I’m old, I’m going to be that person who has a cake that’s more birthday candle than cake. They’ll need a blow torch to light them all up, and I’ll need my oxygen tank in order to blow them all out.

      I’m hoping by then I won’t feel as uncomfortable with people making a big deal about it. It’s a nice day, sure, I just have always feel guilty hogging up the spotlight for any reason, even on my own birthday. Weird, huh?

      1. Not weird at all. I hate spotlights unless it’s dark out and I’m walking….I end up in the same place as you and I hate it. Not so much now that I’m retired, but when I was working I seemed to attract attention continually. I used to hide in the washroom sometimes. My partner at the time told me it was because I had an Aquarius rising so people saw me as a bit eccentric and weird although he said different. I’ve never been part of the ‘norm’ so to speak…makes life interesting to have a few odd balls around don’t ch think?

  12. My birthday is a closely guarded secret because I hate cards, forced words, and forced presents. I hate it when people feel obligated to treat me differently. If someone wants to do something nice for me, I’d prefer them to do it on a day of non-obligation. Last year I actually forgot is was my birthday, and that made me very happy indeed. Plus the whole co-worker present thing makes me want to shove my head into a blender.

    May the next year of your life bring you more joy than the previous years combined! That’s as close as you are getting 😉

    1. Luckily I think I’ll be safe from the coworker gift experience this year…

      I don’t mind a nice card, but getting gifts now just makes me squirm because I keep thinking, “I could’ve bought that! It’s okay!”

  13. Do you know what I’ve had enough of? People assuming that just because you don’t want to make a big deal of your birthday (and by big deal I mean go out and get completely rat-arsed) it means you want to ‘forget’ about it. No, I don’t want to forget it’s my birthday, but as I don’t enjoy getting drunk and would prefer to conduct myself in a more civalised manner, I would rather have a quiet acknowledgement. And it would be quite nice for you to remember seen as how I’ve had to suffer your parties and I’ve spent my hard earned money on thoughful presents only for you to never once return the sentiment. Friends. Who needs them? (PS – sorry if I sound a bit bitter).

    1. HA! I hear ya, and I’m with ya!

      I’m just not a big party person. A nice, intimate dinner with the people in closest to is sufficient for me. A gift is thoughtful, but not required by any means.

  14. I tell my family on birthdays and Christmas. Take what you were going to spend on me, and buy yourself something. I’ll do the same. There… Now we have avoided giving each other crap gifts that will just collect in the back of the closet.

    1. Good plan! I generally find that if you hear someone saying, “I don’t know what to get you,” it’s best to encourage them not to give you anything or to give you cash, because you’re going to end up with something really weird.

  15. I guess I’ll have to cancel that giant balloon bouquet I sent to your office then. Sorry, my bad.

    I love celebrating my birthday, but mainly because that means there’s cake and gifts. I’m pretty simple. However, I do share your dislike for the forced socializing at work, the FB greetings from people you barely remember, and the awkward pause while you wait for the birthday song to finish. Skip the song and just let me have my cake, for crying out loud.

    1. Oh gosh, I would die. I get embarrassed for people who get flowers at work.

      I love the cake and gifts if they didn’t come along with all the people asking me questions I don’t know how to answer. My favorite one: “Do you feel any different?” …What?

      A birthday celebration totally has the makings to be great if all the people in attendance don’t have any expectations for your reactions or how you should be behaving. …I’m hoping no one at work will know it’s my birthday. I hope I don’t regret not taking that day off…

  16. I like having birthday parties. They’re just drunkfest in my eyes and since it’s my party, I can get drunk as hell and act as belligerent as I want. Which I use to full force. How dare you want to be surrounded by people that you love huh?

    1. Basically, yeah.

      That’s interesting, because you don’t impress me as the type to need a legitimate reason to get drunk. Or is the added legitimacy just a bonus?

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