The problems with birthdays

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 7, 2012

I had a birthday this week. It wasn’t a big one – as in it didn’t end in a “0,” but it was farther past 40 than I really care to admit.

Some people don’t like birthdays because they don’t like the notion of being older. Let’s face it. It’s way cool when you turn 15 and get a permit; 16 and get a taste of freedom; or 21 and are legal. After that, the only joy in getting another year older is that it’s much preferable to the alternative. At least that’s my what my daddy keeps telling me.

It’s not the getting older part of birthdays I don’t like. I really don’t like to be the center of the fuss, although I’m happy to make a fuss over your birthday if that’s what you like.

When I was a child, an overzealous (or perhaps insecure) mother called my parents and chewed them out for not including her child at a very small birthday party for me. That was the end of those. And on my last birthday that ended in a “0,” there was a girls’ gathering. Two’s enough for one lifetime, don’t ya’ think?

And then there are presents. I am opposed to obligatory gifting for any occasion. Like the time my husband “forgot” it was about to be my 30th birthday until local retailers were closed for whatever it was they closed for on Thursday afternoons. Lucky for Honey, the florist was open. So unlucky for me.

For what I found in our living room was a rattan plant stand shaped like a tricycle. I was 30, remember? Young and dumb and thinking you had to be polite about gifts, whether you wanted them or not.

I was irritated every time I looked at that darn thing, but it took me two or three years to get rid of it in a clever game of dirty Santa.

Did he really think this was something I wanted? Of course not. He was thinking he needed a birthday gift, pronto, and anything would work. We laugh about it now.

But sometimes it feels like I’ve gotten more than my fair share of those kinds of gifts, a fate shared by my sweet mother, who asked for Estee Lauder for Christmas and got a Fry Daddy. It was not, I add in his defense, from my father.

In general, most of us have more things than we need. If we want something, we find a way to get it, and have a gracious plenty of “stuff.”

Buy me a gift because you see something you think I’d like, not because it is the anniversary of my birth, or Christ’s birth, or St. Valentine’s Day, or any other obligatory occasion.

It was a greeting card and text message birthday this year, and it was more than fine. I loved all of the sweet sentiments from friends and family members, even the crazy cousin who called and sang to me.

It’s taken me 40-some-odd years, but I finally convinced them what I really like.