I’m a little confused. I “celebrated” another birthday last week and for some reason it didn’t make me happy. After all, it wasn’t the opening day of football or Publishers Clearing House knocking on my door with one of those gigantic checks. I simply can’t seem to find the joy in turning another year older. In fact, I believe the last birthday that actually made me cheerful was when I turned 21. And that was only due to the fact that I could legally buy beer and go to Vegas without being booted from the casinos. There is absolutely no logical coherent reason for celebrating the mere fact that you are another year closer to spending eternity in a pine box. Actually I believe the proper greeting for anyone having a birthday over the age of forty should be, “I’m remorseful to have learned you’ve aged yet again dude,” or just “sorry for your loss sir.” That would be more appropriate, wouldn’t it?
One of the first signs that others view you as “old” is when you receive your first, “You’re sixty-six years young today.” Really, because you cleverly substituted the word old for young you think you tricked me into believing I’m younger and better off? Poppycock! Phony newscasters love dropping that corny tripe when there’s a 100-year-old lady from Billings, Montana celebrating her birthday who still irons her 106-year-old husband’s underwear and plaid shirts each day. “And Mavis Smithers, who turns one-hundred years young today (female co-host chuckles here as if she has never heard that stale bagel before) will celebrate as she does every year by enjoying a Denny’s Grand Slam breakfast with extra-crispy bacon with her husband Willard. Wow, one-hundred years young, that’s fantastic!” Then the bleached-blonde co-host chimes in with “I can’t wait until I turn one-hundred years young. She’s adorable.” Gag! Do I appear a little bitter to you? See what birthdays do to me?
I generally don’t announce in advance that my birthday is rapidly approaching. In fact, I consciously try to keep it a secret from most folks. If someone happens to remember the date and feels compelled to wish me a happy birthday in person or email fine, do it then move on. But please don’t ask me if I have something “special” planned. “Yes, I’ve decided to swim to Catalina Island, have a quiet dinner then swim back at night. Would you like to join me?” That should keep them quiet until next year.
I send out very few birthday cards and hope to receive fewer. Each card received creates an obligation to return the favor. Over the years, by design, I have systematically whittled down the number of regular receivers and senders to loved ones and family. Occasionally a random card slips through from a sincere greeter who somehow remembered the date. I never fall for the trap by sending a card to them on their birthday (I probably wouldn’t know it anyway). It’s a never-ending road if you drop that overpriced Hallmark memory into the mail slot my friends. You have now created a dangerous game of who will forget the others birthday first. It’s equivalent to not paying your taxes; there are consequences my friends. Oh what a tangled web we weave!
I thought I had prepared well this year. As the big day approached I hadn’t accidently mentioned my birthday to anyone; I was confident the occasion would uneventfully pass by. Unfortunately I had overlooked one critical source, Facebook. Although I seldom contribute to the site, I often check it out for updates on friends’ acquaintances I seldom see. Of course, Facebook informs all of your “friends” that the dreaded day is rapidly approaching. The evening before cake day I clicked on and there before me was the exact nightmare I thought I had avoided, oodles of happy birthday greetings. All the classics were thoroughly represented including, “You’re not getting older, you’re getting better.” No, sadly, I’m not. Also, “The second half is the better half.” Ya, maybe in a football game, but not in life. And, “Hope you could find enough candles for your cake!” I hope you catch the measles!
Do I sound a tad cynical to you? After reading the numerous posts and thoughtful words posted by friends, family and ex-employees from my years at the El Segundo Recreation Department, I may have to reevaluate my rotten attitude towards birthdays. Many of the salutations were expressive and truly inspirational. I believe the best greeting I received was simply, “Pete, may you always stay young at heart!”