Having a birthday is really quite nice. It's a special day, just for you. Well, unless you happen to be a twin or your birthday falls on December 25th (NIGHTmare!).
I've always liked celebrating the anniversary of the birth of me. I always get at least a couple of cards - some with cash in, thanks to very generous aunties, which (take my word for it) is always very welcome, whatever your age. Thoughtful texts, the odd gift, some birthday flowers - lovely. I do my best to never work on my big day (my sister's savvy London employer gives everyone a day off on their birthday - that's forward thinking) and I always, always have cake (candles negotiable). Very special is the 2pm call or text between my mother and I to mark the time I was born, my favourite birthday tradition.
Being an August baby, I was always accustomed to being on summer school holiday when my birthday came around. This suited me absolutely fine. The summer was a time when, as a youngster, I could hide out a little. Although I always got along just grand at school, had lovely friends and enjoyed their company, my personality is such that I enjoy a good balance of solitude too. Up until the age of 13 or so, my summers were for disappearing into home life, maybe a holiday to my cousin's and days at my Granny's. The idea of having a birthday party and inviting my friends to it just never crossed my mind - I just wasn't into it. Other people's parties? Love it, I'm there. Reciprocation? Sorry - I'll be hiding out in the pre-back-to-school frenzy. It's my party and I'll pass if I want to.
If this seems mean, then that's because it probably, kind of, is. Am I bothered? Not particularly... it's my birthday after all.
So the one thing about having a big birthday - you know, a 'milestone' or a birthday with a 'zero' in, are all the questions about what you're doing for it and when and where the party is. This to a person who didn't have a party when she turned 10 or 21. Well-meaning friends, casual Facebook acquaintances and family members alike all want you to celebrate and celebrate big. They're not satisfied when you mumble about perhaps going for a walk on your own to mark the day (very worthy in my book), they don't believe you when you say you're not into big occasions - no. They want a party and they're not letting you off the hook till you've committed. Pesky party pushers, the lot of them.
But it did make me think.
I'm sociable - why don't I want a party? I couldn't really work it out.
A good friend called over to me a couple of weeks before the big day. Our conversation went something like this:
Her: "Well, are you going to have a party"
Me, fumbling: "Oooooh - I don't think so"
Her: "But sure, it's something to celebrate"
Me: "I suppose so..."
Her: "I had a party for mine and I really enjoyed it"
Me, earnestly: "Well, what made you want to have a party?"
Her, after taking time to think (she's very thoughtful): "I like marking milestones and I love having all my friends together"
Me, relieved: "I'm not into marking milestones at all, and I HATE when all my friends are together"
Her: "Sure, grand so. Will we go for lunch or something?"
So there you have it.
I'll be honest, the thought of having all my friends, all my nearest and dearest together in the one place gives me the sweats. How will I possibly chat to them all? Will they get on? Are they having a good time? I know when it's your party you're not supposed to care, but I care. I'm sorry!! I'm a CARER!!!
When we got married we had a huge party for pretty much everyone we knew - and some people we didn't really know at all - and it was just fantastic. While a lot of people lament the fact that they don't really get to chat to people on their wedding day, this suited us just fine. We wanted everyone there - we wanted to share the day, we wanted their love and support, but did we want to be having deep and meaningfuls with friends and family on that particular special day? No way - that's what brunch is for!
My birthday is kind of the same - send me a message, it'll make me smile, and I'll see you soon for a coffee and the goss. Not everyone gets this lack of a party thing, but the truly great thing about turning 40 is that I couldn't give a flying flip!
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