It’s not quite here yet, but I can feel it lurking just around the corner and I’m already terrified. That nightmarish day that only comes once a year. Ghosts of the past and ancient demons long buried but never completely forgotten rise again to haunt me once more. Sure, there will be some treats provided, but that is merely a cunning ruse, or trick, if you please, meant to distract me while all of my fears creep up and do their worst to tear me down psychologically yet again on a brisk Autumn day in October. Yep, It’s my birthday.
OK, maybe that description is a little harsh. Birthdays are actually more depressing than they are horrifying, but mine is really close to Halloween. Were it closer to say Lincoln’s Birthday, or perhaps Arbor Day, I could’ve painted more of a portrait of depression rather than my ghouls and goblins birthday nightmare scenario, but I gotta work with what’s there. Perhaps my outlook is a tad bleak, but as much as birthdays can be about celebration, they are also about reflecting on the years gone by. 36 of them. Holy shit, I didn’t think I’d last this long.
It’s not that I dislike celebrating a birthday, but they just don’t mean the same things that they did when you were a kid and the world was so much brighter. Everything is fun and amazing as a child on your birthday. The day is all about you. You get to have your favorite meal prepared just for you, whether it be some home cooked sloppy casserole concoction, or a sodium drenched cracker with cheese and pepperoni served to you by a rat wearing sunglasses and no pants in between gigs with his band at a video arcade, the choice is yours. The older you get, the less likely you will have the time to prepare, or the willingness to eat, a home cooked meal. And don’t even think about trying to get into the singing rat show. Take it from me, a grown man walking in there without a kid in tow leads to what the six o’clock news refers to as “an incident”.
All unfortunate misunderstandings with taser happy police aside, the absolute most disheartening thing about the sub-par birthday celebrating of adulthood has got to be the party situation. Nothing compares to the excitement of blowing out the big block number candles on your whale-shaped chocolate ice cream cake in front of your loved ones and knowing that you’re going to hear those words you’ve longed to hear this whole year. “Time for presents!” You tear through those colorfully, carefully wrapped packages with reckless abandon, without wasting even a moment to read the personalized greeting attached. You reveal all that which you had asked for in those anticipatory weeks leading up to this ever so meticulously organized gathering of classmates and relatives, some of whom you don’t like, but they bring gifts so you invited them anyway. Then spend the next several hours blasting your friends with lasers, bowling, swimming, or a myriad of other fantastical activities present in the settings of your favorite childhood birthdays.
Flash forward 20 years, and all the fun is just sucked right out of it. All those Nintendo games and action figures that I waited patiently to get? Now I just preorder and pick them up whenever they arrive. I can eat ice cream cake with every meal if I want to, so it no longer brings me joy. If I wanted to, I could go to a laser tag place or a bowling alley right now, and they would give me money just to come there all the time and help them do stuff. I can have pool parties whenever I want in the swimming pool in my backyard, but what fun would that be? It’s just not the same anymore.
Being an adult on your birthday is the worst. But part of being an adult is learning to cope with the loss of the luxuries of youth. So I must resign myself to yet another year of going out drinking at some loud rock concert, and everyone will probably be too out of control to drive of course, so we’ll have to take a limo because it’ll be the only thing that will fit such a large group of people. They‘ll probably argue with me about paying for any of the bill even though I make a bunch of money. It’s gonna be terrible. Birthdays suck.