Monday, September 2, 2013

A Birthday Tale

   Last Thursday was my birthday and my aunt suggested that I write a blog about a birthday from the past that I hated.  My childhood birthday's were all very lovely, with parties, cake, presents, friends and family. None of them qualified as a hated birthday.  During my 20's and early 30's, my mother-in-law took it upon herself to give me a birthday party every year when they lived in Connecticut.  I would feel like a boob teetering over a fancy cake lit with candles, while the drunken party goers cheered. I loathed opening the presents in front of everyone. It felt like a gross display of greed on my part, though I hadn't asked for any of it.  I never could get my MIL to throw the party sans gifts. She felt like it was important for people to bring gifts.  Eventually, I learned to make sure I was half crocked at gift opening time so I could get through it all without somehow feeling like a petulant brat, screaming "mine, all MINE!" as I stood in front a pile of brightly colored boxes with extravagant bows and ribbons.

  I don't know why it took me so long to figure out the birthday that I hated the most. It's quite obvious to me as I look back. Turning 40 was by far the most traumatic, crappy, bum me out birthday ever. Bar none.  My dog Izzy had become very ill early on in the summer before my 40th. I was depressed about her steady decline, despite the numerous medications she'd been put on. I stopped coloring my hair that summer. Soon my natural roots appeared and the silver ribbon along my scalp began to creep down my skull. Faded brunette ends became overtaken by the silver (I prefer calling it silver to grey, it just sounds more exotic and less...old).   I had to say goodbye to Izzy on August 1st, 2009. It was a horrible, emotional drain and still "the birthday" loomed in the upcoming weeks.  I cried over Izzy on a daily/nightly basis, which didn't help my state of mind. When I looked in the mirror I saw The Bride of Frankenstein hairdo and deepening wrinkles on my face. It made me cringe. And I was still on the cusp of turning 40.

"No party!", I shrieked at Jonathan every day. "No gifts, either! I just want this damn birthday to pass with no acknowledgement."

   He would nod and give me a wan smile. And he respected my wishes to a T.  My 40th birthday was a non-event, as birthdays go. I can't remember what I did that day, other than most likely cry at some point about Izzy.  Jonathan made me a fine dinner, which he does almost every night of my life. He got me a cupcake for dessert, but no candles to blow out, no smartly wrapped gifts, no clever cards.  Later that evening, I began to feel even more sorry for myself that I'd turned 40 without an ounce fanfare. It was a milestone that I was sure didn't need to be marked with joyous celebration, but it turned out that no recognition was even worse.  And it was all my doing.  I'd been so stubborn in my approach to turning 40 that I cheated myself out of the one day of the year when you're entitled to be celebrated for being born. Isn't that funny? We don't make the choice to be born. Our parents do that for us. We should celebrate our lives and our parents for bringing us into the world on our birthday's.  Well, it was too late for celebration on that hot August night so I climbed the stairs on leaden legs and went to bed a very sad, newly 40 year old woman.

  Total bummer of a story, right? Ha. Turns out that turning 40 was a great thing for me. A week went by after my non-birthday and I decided to call my hairdresser and make an appointment for cut and color.  I emerged from the salon with shiny, sleek brunette locks. I felt like me again, not some two tone, silver haired sea hag.  I faced the reality that I wasn't going to get carded again, but I didn't really care. In fact, turning 40 took away a lot of stresses in life.  I learned that stressing over money is a completely stupid waste of time. I'd spent a lot of my 30's worrying about making ends meet and where had it gotten me? Guess what? The ends always meet, because we make it work, not because I'm up nights wringing my hands.  I stopped caring about what other people think of me. I bought a pair of bright purple corduroys that make me laugh when I put them on. I have a Hello Kitty bathrobe. My iPhone case is Barbie pink. It turns out that turning 40 was a liberating moment for me.

  This last birthday wasn't filled with exorbitant fanfare. My Mom had come for a visit so we'd gone out to dinner the night before to celebrate, which was really fun.  Jonathan and I went to Lowes to purchase a new wheelbarrow, which I jokingly referred to as my "present"and in actuality, I'm totally cool with that. It's a kick ass wheelbarrow.  And as a total random act of kindness, a FB friend whom I haven't seen since 8th grade graduation gave me a $5 Starbucks gift card. How bloody cool is that??  I'm so skeptical about getting sent things on FB that I originally thought it was a scam, but it turned out to be real. I redeemed it today and am currently jacked up on a tall latte. Thanks FB friend!!!

 So, there's the story of the hated birthday, Aunt Judy. I hope you liked it. Thank you for the writing prompt!  Happy Labor Day everyone! (and if one more person tells me it's the end of the summer I'll cut them!!)