I have an unhealthy obsession with my birthday. I think I'm a birthday addict. The sight of a pristeen white envelope or the rustle of a wrapped present send me into a frenzy. I love everyone else's birthdays too. Card shops are my favourite haunts.
I was born in June on the fourth. It is that perfect time of the year when peonies are in bloom and gardens are their greenest. Summer is on the way and everything seems rosy. Eton has its summer party and the Queen her own regal celebrations. June is also the perfect distance between the last great party in the year, New Year's Eve and the next one at Christmas. Am sure if I had been born in February or November things may have been different.
I thought that as I grew older my birthday mania would subside. In fact it got worse. This year is probably one of the most pressured. Today I am one year away from 40. I have the overwhelming feeling of time slipping and the need to "gather ye rosebuds whilst ye may". It is nonsense. My twenties skipped by without me noticing. My flirty thirties seemed a little scary but acceptable. The forties feel, well, just rather less than naughty and in truth a bit over the hill.
I'm not sure why birthdays became so important to me. My parents always made a big thing of it. Dinky presents all in pink tissue on the sitting room table that I took upstairs to unwrap as painstakingly as they had been wrapped. Then it was the excitement of people coming to YOUR party. I was bullied at school and so I guess it was the one day kids had to like you.
My birthday as a kid was always a military operation. Clowns and magicians. Discos and themes. Going home presents that were often nicer than the ones I receieved. One year the theme was pink bubbles, another flower power. The most memorable one was a tramp party at the age of 11. Yes, tramp as in people that live on the street. I don't what possessed me. I guess I was going through an anti-establishment phase. Of course the most popular girl in the class came dressed as a tart and won the costume prize - the American take on the word.
It was fine when I was kid and teen. I could get away with my burfday mania at uni where everyone liked an excuse to get plastered. I even stretched to early twenties. But after that I used to get the strangest looks of boyfriends and mates when I started to plan months before. My husband was so stressed during my first birthday with me that he bought me no less than 20 cards. Each had a chapter of our love story so far.
As I am 39 this year I am going for broke. Particularly as the Queen is holding one mighty celebration for her Jubilee. She has graciously given her subjects a four day weekend where the whole country is celebrating her anniversary in red white blue. I admire her style and am copying her. Like Queenie I will to stretch out my birthday over a few days. So the actual birthday, of course, is the main event but then a party on another day and maybe tea with my family on another. I'm even having a shagadelic night at a burlesque club (see my pole dancing blog a few weeks ago). Next year I have promised myself that I will have a grown up 40th dinner party like everyone else. Honest.
All frolics and froth aside, I think we grow out of our birthdays when we are ready to grow up and say good bye to the child inside us. Mine has taken a bit longer to deal with but am getting there. I am probably hungering for the early birthdays I had under the sun amongst orange groves in Greece.
My obsession is not about material stuff or expensive gifts. I like the wrapping paper more than what's on the inside. It's actually just the idea that I am special for one whole day. It is my day and it belongs to me only.
The truth is also birthdays probably cease to be so magical for you when you have a child. You then pass down the magic dust to them. I watch my sister prepare a dinosaur cake and miniature sandwiches with all the love in the world. I am waiting with great eagerness to see how that feels. In fact in all honesty I don't want any razzle dazzle or fuss this year. The greatest gift would be to become a mum.
Here's to birthday wishes coming true.