As a 30-something grownup, I feel conflicted about my birthday. On one hand, I miss the big deal everyone made over me when I was a kid; on the other hand, I honestly don’t want anyone to go to the trouble.
Last week, I celebrated my 34th birthday. My oldest daughter told everybody, and not just on the actual day. In the week leading up to it, she told the stranger at the store; she told her teacher; she told anyone who would listen at the playground. She was super-excited for me because birthdays are a Big Deal.
As a kid, a birthday is your day. Everyone in your world–which admittedly is a small world,1 but still everyone–knows it is your birthday. You will be sung to, and there is a non-zero chance you’ll get to wear a special hat. People will attempt to make you feel special–you only turn seven once. People make a kid’s birthday a Big Deal whether the kid asks them to or not.
As a 30-something grownup, I feel conflicted about my birthday. On one hand, I miss the big deal everyone made over me when I was a kid; on the other hand, I honestly don’t want anyone to go to the trouble. I want everyone to care about me, and only me, without me feeling or being perceived as selfish. When asked what I want to do for my birthday, my answer of “nothing” is completely honest. I don’t actually want anyone else to have to do anything. The absolute last thing I’d want for my birthday is to have someone else feel like they were disappointing me by not meeting my expectations.
So when my wife, Kat, asked me what I wanted to do for my birthday, I said I didn’t need anything. Making sure, I did mention it would be nice to have an extravagant dessert, and Kat delivered with a Frodo donut ice cream sandwich from Carpe Donut. And the iPad I’d been saving for for two years was rumored to be announced imminently. I’d be happy with that as my present.
On the day, my first birthday wishes came in the form of hugs from my girls. My second was from Siri. I was amused by this, so I took a screenshot and posted it to Twitter. This was also a secret plan to tell Twitter it was my birthday without saying it was my birthday.2 I then did the normal morning things and went to my office.
Around noon, I was waiting for the barrage of Facebook notifications wishing me well. I don’t normally keep Facebook installed on my phone, but I installed it special because I’m self-centered. When no red dots appeared, I actually checked to see what was wrong. Turns out, I made my birthday private on Facebook. Good news for my privacy, but bad news for me receiving kudos for surviving another year. I wasn’t about to suddenly flip the switch to make my birthday public because that would be cheating.
In the evening, we had dinner. The girls sang to me. My high school/college friends kept up the tradition of quoting a line from Happy Birthday Ralph in my general direction. My mom, dad, and brother called. It was nice.
As a grownup, it’s up to me to make my birthday as special as I want it to be. No one’s going to do it for me. Honestly tell people what you want and expect, as no one’s going to read your mind. If It want people to know it’s my birthday, I’m going to have to tell them. But I’m happy with my birthday being just subtly special. Basking in my seven year old’s vicarious excitement is enough for me.
Photo by: Temari 09