Shorebilly’s Swill: Syd Reflects on the Most Important Birthdays
I was having some trouble deciding what to write about this week. It’s a week or so too early to write about all the bizarre rituals associated with St. Patrick’s Day. I don’t want to start my next multi-part story because I’d have to break it up. And there’s not exactly a whole lot going on in the bar this time of year. So, as is often the case, I got the inspiration for this week’s column from my Old Soul eight-year-old daughter. She walked by me sitting at my desk and found me in the far too usual position of being hunched over staring directly at the floor. I had a full two-fisted firm grip on my salt and pepper hair, normally causing me to look just like Cosmo Kramer by the time I release it. My Princess walked up, removed the lollypop from her mouth and asked, “what’s wrong Dad?”
I explained to her that I was having a hard time deciding what to write about. Without a moment’s hesitation she responded, “Duh, it’s your birthday isn’t it? Just write about that.”
She could not possibly have been any more matter of fact about it. I tried to explain to her that I’m not really into birthdays anymore, and that I didn’t think it was a good subject for me to write about. She then said, “if it were my birthday this week, you’d write about that, wouldn’t you?”
I said, “Yeah, I probably would.” She briefly morphed into a college advisor, patted me on the shoulder and said, “You’ll figure it out. Just go with it.”
And she walked away. So now I have that kind of pressure put on me by the person who just recently realized what her mother and I already knew; that she’s the smartest one in the house. It was a lot more tolerable before she figured it out. Now, she’s still super cute but she really pisses me off.
So I got to thinking that maybe she was right. I didn’t necessarily have to write about my own birthday, which I’m not a big fan of. I could just write about the concept of birthdays in general and the rituals associated with them. This sent me steaming head long, and full speed down a long, winding, bumpy road of my twisted thought process proving yet again, that I look at the world a little differently than the rest of you.
I’ve always viewed birthdays with a slightly different take than most people. Even as a child, I thought of them a little differently. I don’t recall exactly how old I was, but I do recall thinking early on how strange it was to celebrate me on that day. To me then and still now, it seems that we should be celebrating my mother on my birthday, not me. I mean, when you get right down to it, she did all the work; all I did was show up and be a nuisance. To put it in perspective, let’s review the whole process. The first nine months, I was a real pain in her tummy and back. Then, for about twenty hours or so, I was an excruciating pain in her lower regions. Then for the next twenty years or so I was a complete pain in her ass. I’m sure that if my mom were alive today, she’d agree whole-heartedly with my assessment, but she’d do it with love and adoration. Then she’d say that she’d do it all over again, which is something I can’t comprehend. So the fact that we celebrate ME, and not HER on my birthday is completely outlandish to me. I’m sure most of you have never thought about it this way, but maybe you should from now on. Make sure to say “thank you” to your Mom on your next birthday. The funniest part about the whole concept is that the person who makes the biggest deal about your birthday each year is your mom.
The same, deep thinking daughter, who prompted me to write this piece, also provided me with this paragraph. I’m generally not one to associate the actual numeric value with the age. To me, it’s really all relative. For example, I have the body of a 74 year old, and the mind of a 13 year old. So whatever I am on paper is really for nothing more than legality and identification purposes. If the person who coined the phrase you’re only as old as you feel were ever in my room on a cold winter morning, I would ritualistically bludgeon them until I felt I had made my point. But, like I was saying, the numbers themselves generally don’t affect me. For some reason, I went through a brief spell this past year when I just didn’t like the sound of 42. There was nothing monumental about it, and it just didn’t quite roll off the tongue. So my daughter, who was seven at the time, gave me a perfect solution.
She said, “Dad, if you don’t like the sound of 42, then just tell everyone you’re thirty-twelve?”
Freakin genius! Why hadn’t I thought of this? So that’s exactly what I did. For the remainder of that year, I called myself thirty-twelve. That way, if someone wanted to know how old I was, they at least had to do a simple math problem to earn that knowledge. As of the other day, I’m now thirty-thirteen, which doesn’t quite have the same ring to it, but it still sounds better than forty-three.
Another way I throw people off of my numeric trail is by telling them that I’m celebrating my 22nd annual 21st birthday. This poses a slightly more difficult math equation for my inquisitors. If they want my age, they have to earn it. While we’re having fun with numbers, this most recent birthday brought with it another alteration in my numeric status. I just recently joined the ranks of greats: Jim Brown, Sandy Koufax, and Magic Johnson. The thing I have in common with them is that I am now retired from wearing the number 32. Unlike these legends though, who wore 32 as their jersey number in their respective sports, I had the number 32 adorning the tag on my waistband. Yes folks that pant size enjoyed a long, illustrious career spanning twenty-nine years. But now it is officially retired from its post on the tag of my jeans. Unlike Magic, it more than likely will not be making a comeback. So while most of me turned the big four-three this week, my waist turned the big three-four. I really hope that my pant size being the reciprocal of my age does not become an annual tradition heretofore. If it does, then I’m going to swell up like a deer tick in the next twelve months.
I’ve done no extensive research on the subject (or any other subject), but I’m reasonably certain that humans are the only species that even acknowledge and celebrate birthdays. You don’t see a golden retriever walking around going up to his friends saying, hey, only twenty shopping days left til my 6th /32nd birthday. Let’s assume for that last point that I do in fact speak canine. Yes, only humans annually partake in strange celebratory rituals to mark the anniversary of the date on which they dove slime covered, lassoed, and head long into an Earthly existence. I’m not saying we shouldn’t celebrate birthdays, just not ALL of them.
Depending what point in life you are, should determine the vigor with which, and the manner in which you celebrate your birthday. Your first birthday should be the absolute biggest, and most monumental. This one should be the biggest party with the most guests, and the most gifts. This is to celebrate the fact that you successfully conquered your first year as an air breather. One year ago at this very moment, you were still tethered to the inside of a woman who was in the most pain she’ll ever experience in her life, and now you’re strapped into a hi-chair smearing icing all over your face and head. You just learned more in the past year than you will ever learn in any single year again—lots of reasons to celebrate this one. The only downside to your first birthday party is that you really don’t know anything about it or what’s going on around you. Not until years down the road as you watch the videos from that day will you grasp any of its magnitude. At which time you’ll find yourself asking questions like: Did you seriously wear your hair like that? and Did you use to smoke?, and Who the hell is that? You’ll find as you grow older that this is the start of a theme. Like this one, the biggest and most important of your birthdays will be the ones that you don’t clearly remember and need video evidence to piece together.
Now birthdays two through nine should be celebrated with vigor and theme parties because you’re still a child. You’re still developing daily and viewing the world and its inhabitants with hope, fascination, and enthusiasm. That sort of delusional positive thinking alone is worthy of a Batman cake. You can still invite all of your classmates because they’ve not yet split up into judgmental cliques that will rob you of your self esteem over the next several years. Tenth birthday, you’re now in double digits, congratulations, celebrate it and enjoy. Eleven and twelve, you’re almost a teenager and that’s call for celebration. You’re not quite too old for theme parties, like bowling, roller-skating, or Spiderman decorations everywhere, but you’re not quite old enough for spin the bottle to take the place of pin the tail on the donkey.
Now comes thirteen, you are officially a teenager, and nothing could ever be cooler than that. As you grow older many years from now, you’ll realize just how accurate that is. You still deserve a party, but the rituals are starting to change a bit because now you’re too cool for them. For ages 14 and 15, you deserve a party just for dealing with all the messed up changes your body is going through and the equally screwed up emotions you’re dealing with. So happy birthday, now instead of a cartoon character on your cake there’s a picture of your favorite pop musician. Next comes 16, which is definitely party worthy. If you’re a girl, it’s your big Sweet Sixteen—which I never quite understood the significance of. The party games are starting to change and now involve things like closets, timers, dares, and mononucleosis.
For 17, all you get is dinner at Applebee’s with your parents after which you’ll get a gift bag with Clearasil, boxer shorts, and an itunes gift card. There’s nothing notable about this age, and more than likely you were such an ass this year that you don’t deserve a party anyway.
18 is a big one. You should, in theory, get the biggest party of your life for your 18th birthday. You are now legally an adult. You can go to war and die for your country. You can buy cigarettes at a ridiculously overtaxed price. And you can even vote for the D-bags who sent you to war and overcharged you for smokes, but you still have to wait three more years to have a beer. At 19, you may as well not even exist, so don’t expect a party. At 20, you start a new decade, so enjoy your party. And 21 is HUGE; you can party like a rock star, and finally get to do it legally.
After 21, birthdays should only be recognized on the tens. For the most part, no one who doesn’t share a bathroom with you gives a damn if you’re turning 28, 34, 46, 59, or 65. On the other hand, anyone who claims to hate birthdays, secretly enjoys having them acknowledged. I could very easily have gotten another full week out of this, but that’s all for this week folks. Thanks for playing along.
Until next week,