Why I Usually Don’t Wish People “Happy Birthday”
It’s an age thing. Okay, yes, birthdays are an age thing, by definition, but my POINT is…
I was a late-November baby. For many years this was great, because once I started school, I had a 57% (four-in-seven) chance of having my birthday off from school, due to Thanksgiving, the day after Thanksgiving, or the weekend. Very cool, as a kid.
The morning of my birthday, I would wake up to find the handle of my bedroom door had a really long “Happy Birthday” streamer, leading down the stairs to the dining room, where we would have breakfast, and I got to open my presents and birthday cards. And 57% of the time I could stay in my PJs for hours after that!
My mother would make me German Chocolate Cake¹ for my birthday dinner, or for a birthday party where I would have friends over. I could have whatever I wanted for the main course. That day, it was all about me.
Time passed. I got older. Birthdays marked that. (Yes, I understand that’s how the system works. Shush!)
The downside of having a birthday around Thanksgiving is that it’s the beginning of “the holidays,” and life gets busy. Or busier. Sometimes there isn’t time to make (or buy, or find) a German Chocolate Cake. But candles in a pumpkin pie are almost the same thing. And I like pumpkin pie. And it’s the thought that counts. Right?
And “whatever you want for dinner” is, well, a nice thought, but really, I like turkey, so turkey is fine. Let’s have turkey, okay? Leftovers are good, too. Better in some ways, right?
So the day that was all about me became the day that included me, when people would sing Happy Birthday. Not necessarily on my birthday.
But that’s fine, because when you get older, you learn that things can’t really be all about you anymore. Not even on your birthday. Just part of growing up, right?
On my 21st birthday, my mother wanted to surprise me. She and my father and my sister drove to the town where I was going to college, rented a suite at a nice hotel not far from the school, and threw me a surprise birthday party! They coordinated with my college roommate to have my friends come. My roommate couldn’t make it, because of sports practice, but he spread the word around, and everybody knew when and where the party was. I went to the hotel to see my family for my birthday, and Surprise!
Nobody showed up.
It was my fault. I had said things that caused my mother to believe I had more friends than I did. Plus it was a holiday weekend; people had plans. Other things to do. Totally understandable.
There was cake. I think. Pretty sure. I don’t remember what kind. Doesn’t really matter, all things considered.
So birthdays. After my 21st, I didn’t really make much effort to celebrate them. My girlfriend/best friend took me out and treated me for my 30th birthday, which was especially nice because I had never had a girlfriend for a birthday before. For my 33rd birthday, she (now my ex-wife) and other friends (including the woman for whom she divorced me) took me out on the town, which was sweet of them. For my 40th birthday I had no wife, no girlfriend, and no best friend, so my mother insisted that my father (retired) come visit me to cheer me up, which was well intended except we tended to get on each other’s last nerves when kept together for too long. On my 42nd birthday I still didn’t have a girlfriend, strictly speaking, because after knowing her for several months I had upgraded her to fianceé, but she was also my best friend (and still is), so she knew not to make a big deal of my birthday. And she still doesn’t, because she knows me and loves me. And why have just one day that’s all about me, when she makes most days like that?
I recently turned 65. I got the best present ever, when I rolled over and got to cuddle with my best friend and partner and wife. I know, she gives me that present a lot, but somehow it just never gets old. I also got cards from my family, which is a lot bigger than it was when I was young, what with marriage and all.
Anyway, I’m not big on wishing other people happy birthday, so when I don’t wish you one, it’s nothing personal. I’m just not into birthdays in general, is all.
¹FYI, “German” chocolate cake is a chocolate cake with coconut-pecan icing. It’s named after an American baker, Samuel German. I haven’t had one in decades.
I was motivated to write this after a grade school classmate, Sarah Simmons, asked why I didn’t like birthdays and I told her it was a long story. OK, Sarah, I guess not so long after all. 😊