Birthdays. Like Christmas, they come but once a year. They break up the calendar a little, and give you something to look forward to, right? You have drinks, catch up with old friends, overload your pals' Facebook news feeds with ever-changing event invitations. Presents are bought and you're showered with cards, right? My birthday, however, is the ultimate failure in celebrations. The Dannii Minogue of my social calendar, my birthday is always overshadowed by its big sister, the one everybody loves - Christmas.
Yes, my birthday is two days before Christmas. Not even remarkable enough to be Christmas Eve or the actual day itself. Oh no. It's the last 'normal' day before the big event. The world and his wife are Christmas shopping, arguing in Debenhams about what size pyjamas to buy Auntie Pat. There are work Christmas parties, big family get-togethers. People are on trains going home for Christmas. Save for a select, marvellous and self-sacrificing few, the world is too busy to help me celebrate my birthday.
And then there's the question of presents. Oh wow, the presents. Or, historically, the lack thereof. I don't like getting presents, bizarrely. They make me uncomfortable and I'd rather just buy things myself. I wonder if this is rooted to the fact that around my birthday, the presents would be fairly thin on the ground, aside from the ones my parents would give me, of course. Christmas is an expensive time of year, everybody knows that, and the focus is on festive gifts; nobody needs the additional stress of trying to decide what to buy a child for its birthday. If I did get one, it would be offered to me as a 'joint' present, for both Christmas and birthday, an unacceptable decision.
Imagine turning up to a child's birthday party in July, handing over a gift and telling them it was for Christmas too. There'd be mutiny. Carnage. You'd be eviscerated. And when the hell are they supposed tom open it? I didn't want presents in particular, or anything expensive; it just would have been nice to have it acknowledged that my birthday and Christmas were, ARE, two separate events. Anyone who knows me well enough now knows not to do it at all, but it took a while to get the message across.
Almost as bad as having a birthday near Christmas is having people remind you and really exaggeratedly sympathise with you, as if you've just lost a leg, or have been permanently disfigured.
"Your birthday's at Christmas? Oh, how AWFUL. That's terrible. I bet you get just one present, don't you? And nobody will ever remember it, right?"
"Yes, that's right. Please could you hand me that razor blade?"
With my birthday being so close to Christmas, I'm quite lucky if I even get a card, what with everyone being so busy (let's gloss over the fact I'm possibly not a very nice person either). Birthday cards are difficult to find in December as it is, what with that big bad bullying cow Christmas elbowing its way into every stationer, bookstore and card shop, aggressively pushing aside the birthday cards and relegating them to one pitiful shelf, usually below the 'In Sympathy' notelets.
In the past, some people have found a genius way of getting round this by referencing my upcoming birthday in a Christmas card." Happy Birthday, Happy Christmas, Happy New Year!" they'll say. I'm grateful for the thought, and the wish itself, but come on. No, seriously, COME ON.
What I used to moon over the most was that I'd never known what it was like to have a birthday at any other time of the year. I'd never had that feeling of being special and the day being all about me me me, with no other massive event lurking. It's the birthday equivalent of getting married and having all of your guests turning up in a bridal outfit, year upon year. Friends have previously suggested 'moving' my birthday and celebrating it in the summer. But it's not the same. It has to be on the day. That's your day. It won't work otherwise.
With no stopgap to make a dreadful year bearable, some years can be just 51 weeks of filler and then an absolute gang rape of events in eight days, with my birthday, Christmas and New Year pummelling me mercilessly before leaving me dejected and soiled, facing January alone.
But it is time to move on. I'm finally at peace with it. Things aren't going to change, and I almost enjoy the anonymity a Christmas birthday can bring. I don't have to make big, showy birthday plans because nobody will have the time to attend anyway. I'm saved the embarrassment of people accepting invitations then not materialising. As my birthday happens when people are away, it's generally forgotten that I have them, ergo I don't age. Nobody can ever say "Oh, I remember your 30th; it was years ago", because only four or five other people were there and they've all been silenced.
So I no longer envy the summer birthday parties, heaps of presents and raucous celebratory drinks. I still get to go to them, but I don't have to entertain anyone, or worry about arrangements. The fewer cards drop through my door, the less I have to think about the advancing years.
I think I'll leave all the adoration and attention to that other dude with the Christmas birthday. Looks like he needs it more than me.
So it's all fine. It's good. But potential parents, next time you're feeling frisky toward the end of March, stop and think. Do you really want an embittered Christmas baby sulking at your dinner table for the next 18+ years?
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