My birthday was earlier this week, and I’m bloody old—but that’s beside the point as it was a great day anyway. I’ll tell you why:
I got up and went to the gym like I do every day.
Then I came home and sorted the animals.
Then I went to work, and while at work I worked.
Then I left work, and went home to walk the dogs.
Then, I had a couple of glasses of wine and played The Gin Game of the World with Matt before eating dinner and going to bed.
Fabulous day. Just like every other day of my life. Shocking admission: I enjoy the things I do every day, and that includes going to work. If I did not enjoy my job, I would not do it—same goes for the gym and walking the dogs. My birthday, just like every other day, was fantastic because I am a happily married DINK living in Boulder, Colorado and I have shit all to complain about. (I often do find things to complain about, but that is because I an a selfish human who often struggles to see her own privilege and lets herself get caught up in the driveling whinge-culture that she is surrounded in.)
So regarding the birthday part. Here’s the deal: I’m quite the introvert, and it took me a good thirty years to work out that there is no-way no-how that I like to do anything “special” on my birthday. I’m not a shy person, and I like to be the center of attention but only if it is warranted and earnt. I.e. I love public speaking about something that I have demonstrated knowledge on or worked my butt off to achieve “expert” status in,” but hate attention granted to me for anything other than professional context.
Birthday attention bemuses me. There is no part of my being that understands it. When I try to explain this, people seem to assume that means that I do not like my birthday because I do not like myself—this is not the case. I love my birthday, I just don’t need external anything to make me appreciate myself more. When I am given a ton of attention just for being born (something that had nothing to do with me) I feel awkward. It’s really not a big deal, and furthermore, its kind of private.
But regardless of how I feel about my birthday, I live in an extravert culture where birthdays are to be celebrated whether one wants to or not. For thirty years allowed myself to be talked into birthday celebrations because that is what is normal, and for every year after about the age of 10, I spent half of September dreading my looming “big day.”
My first birthday with Matt he did all this stuff for me, and I awkwardly accepted it because I didn’t want to seem rude, weird or abnormal. I soon got over that. Second birthday I forewarned him:
Matt: What do you want to do for your birthday?
Me: Nothing special, just hang out.
Matt: Okay … We’ll do something …
Me: Don’t get me anything … please.
Matt: Right (wink wink)
Me: No, really.
He got me something, of course. I tried to look excited and surprised then took it back to the shop about three weeks later without telling him. I am really not into things and stuff at all, and if I want something I tend to go ahead and purchase it, which makes me impossible to buy gifts for.
Seven years in, Matt gets it. He still insists on buying me something, but this year he nailed it with the perfect gift: a bottle of wine and a wedge of stilton cheese. I love gifts if I can make practical use of them; food and alcohol fit the bill.
The last time I had a birthday party was for my thirtieth, and that one really nailed the coffin shut for me. I was surrounded by wonderful people and given gifts in public (something I hate) and all the evening people had to be nice to me which is another thing that puts me on edge (as I wonder if they are genuinely being nice or if they are just being nice because it is my birthday). Worst part was about an hour in I wanted to leave and couldn’t because:
- It was my birthday party and it turns out that one cannot bail on ones own birthday party.
(Actually this is untrue, once when I was 18 I had a party at my parent’s house and drank so much that Mum put me to bed around 9pm. Thankfully everyone else partied on with my parents and had a great time (Mum and Dad are kind of hip like that.))
- It was in my house. Dammit Tabs, why don’t you ever learn?
So yah, after everyone had left I swore to never have another birthday party. Ever since then, birthdays have been fabulous. I do what I want; that just happens to usually be the same shit I do every other day of the year.
The point is, that I am not being miserable by not celebrating my birthday. No, I just don’t need external gratification for being alive. I generate enough of that internally, and for me my birthday is about me, myself, and I.
The cringeworthy realization: I am more than happy spending my birthdays alone (with Matt) because I like myself enough that I am enough.