Birthdays: we all have ’em. They’re the best day of the year when you’re a kid, but the excitement drops off rapidly after age 21.
Perhaps adults try to artificially recreate that childhood joy with lots of birthday festivities extending far beyond one day. Hence the oxymoron “birthday week” entered common parlance. You know, you go out with your friends the Friday before your birthday. Then your spouse takes you on a special birthday date, or perhaps throws you a party (good spouse!). Then your parents take you out to lunch, or invite you over for dinner. Then the in-laws want in on the birthday action. At each point, gifts and food are lavished on you and countless hours are spent celebrating your mere existence.
I’m all for celebrations and even gifts. But what if you just pretended not to have a birthday? After all, birthdays are about growing up, and growing up is largely about realizing life is not about me.
Downplay the B-day
Let me confess I was a bit spoiled in the birthday department while growing up. Of the five kids in my family, I was the only one who got to celebrate my birthday with a full-on birthday party every year. I attribute this not to favoritism, but because my grandparents had a pool. And who doesn’t want to close out summer with another pool party?
My son was born 10 days after my birthday. His impending arrival overshadowed my day somewhat that year. The next year his first birthday did the overshadowing. Last year it was my trip to India.
And you know what? I really liked it.
Sure, family and friends wished me well and I received some gifts. But there was no drawn-out festival surrounding what amounted to just another day of my life.
I don’t want to sound ungrateful for all the birthday wishes, calls, gifts, or parties I’ve received over the years. And I’m no humbug about other people’s birthdays. I’ve thrown parties and baked cakes and all that. I’m just not going to make much of my own anymore. If only this could slow down the aging process as well 🙂
Don’t Pretend Others Don’t Have Birthdays
If you want to celebrate with someone close to you, here are some ideas for keeping it special, yet simple. Just pick one or two!
- A call or card. Call, ask about birthday plans, but don’t keep the person on the phone too long. Or get a simple card and write an encouraging, meaningful message about what he or she means to you.
- Make them a cake. I inadvertently brought a friend to tears one year simply by making her a cake. My husband doesn’t like cake, so I’ll make him a favorite food. One year I prepared an epic nacho bar for him & his friends.
- A small, thoughtful gift. I don’t believe in buying birthday gifts just to buy them. You will not see me stocking up on Bath & Body Works stuff to hand out to random friends throughout the year. If I have a great idea or know they need something, I’m more likely to spring for a present. Neil and I do exchange gifts, especially since we don’t shop much for ourselves.
- An outing together. To avoid birthday week, this should be reserved for the SO or BFF. Some of my favorites have been going for ice cream, a free concert in the park, going to a beach, or watching the Perseides Meteor shower. My condolences if your birthday doesn’t fall during this awesome spectacle. Oh, and when my friend took me to see A Midsummer’s Night Dream at a gorgeous outdoor venue! That was fancy.
- Leave them alone. When Neil asked me what I wanted for my birthday this year, I might have accidentally said this. For the introverts in your life, alone time could be the best gift of all, especially if they have kids.
- Babysit. We were so grateful to have a babysitter so we could eat delicious Nepali food in peace. Free babysitting is one of the best gifts you can give a parent.
In summary, I try not to make a big to-do about my own birthday, and try to make a small to-do about others’ birthdays.
How do you celebrate your birthday? What do you do for others’ birthdays?