My birthday is this week and that used to be a good thing.
But now I am an “adult” and I have been subtly informed that it is no longer socially acceptable to be happy about that..
Growing up, my mom always made a big deal of our birthdays. No matter how rotten we had been or how deep the tension was when we were teenagers, my mom celebrated. I would wake up to my mom at my bedside saying “Wake up Nanny….it’s your birthday!”. There were always two cards…a funny one and a sentimental one. Then presents, a special breakfast and anything you wanted for dinner. My mom is an amazing cook so my birthday always meant fried chicken, mashed potatoes, biscuits, green beans, followed by chocolate pie. That was just the family birthday. My parents would also throw us a birthday party right up to the age when we decided it wasn’t cool to have a birthday party at home anymore. Anytime someone in my family had a birthday we banded together and made it great.
When I lived in New Orleans, my birthday was a big deal. It always fell around Mardi Gras so there was always a party and/or parade to attend. The people of New Orleans love to celebrate and will take any excuse to do so. The tradition was, the first person to see you on your birthday would pin a dollar bill to your chest, give you a kiss, and wish you happy birthday. Throughout the day strangers and friends alike would pin dollars to you and wish you happy birthday. When your birthday is around Mardi Gras time there are many new strangers to meet and they are all happy to have one more thing to celebrate. It was great! …And not because I got dollars on my birthday. Every year on my birthday I would make new friends. Every other day of the year there was an opportunity to make a new friend for the low, low price of one dollar. The best was when you encountered a couple of other people who shared your birthday and your people came together with their people and we could all celebrate together. I can’t count the many great nights I had out celebrating the birth of someone I just met. It was my favorite thing about New Orleans. We celebrated ourselves and each other at every opportunity. ****
Nearly fourteen years ago I moved to New York. Now, instead of having a Mardi Gras birthday, I have a birthday in the coldest, most depressing month of the year. Every year I would still have a little get together at a bar or at home, but it never felt great. I knew that nobody really wanted to go out in the snow for a birthday. Not to say that I don’t have great friends. I do. They went out in the snow to come to my birthday party. But over the years so many people have said to me, “I don’t celebrate my birthday anymore.” or “I don’t want to think about it.” or my favorite one, stated with a judgemental sneer, “Who actually celebrates their birthday after 30?”. Apparently it is considered immodest and tacky to tell people it’s your birthday, or so I’ve been told.
Finally, this year I gave in and decided to go along with the crowd, ignoring my birthday, deciding to work that day and do nothing of note. Though I stated to everyone “I’m just not feeling it this year” that was only half true. The truth is I was dealing with a fairly rough bout of depression and that just made it easy to feel awful about celebrating myself, especially in a place where that just isn’t done.
Now I am both mad and depressed..
The more I think about it the more indignant I feel.
I have had a gun held to my head.
I have escaped a terrible car accident miraculously unscathed.
And countless other near misses I will never even realize.
I AM STILL HERE AND I AM REALLY FUCKING HAPPY ABOUT THAT!!!
YOU ARE STILL HERE AND I AM REALLY FUCKING HAPPY ABOUT THAT TOO!!!
Despite the depression, despite the anxiety…at the end of the day I am really happy that I am still here.
So I am declaring right now that there is NO SHAME in taking one day out of the year to say, “Hey, I made it another year and that is SO FUCKING GREAT!”.
You deserve to be celebrated!
And if people don’t want to celebrate with you,
I will always want to celebrate with you. You write to me and tell me when your birthday is and I will remember you that day and tell you “Happy Birthday! I am so glad to know you!” when that day comes.
Give yourself a birthday present and know you deserve it.
I am making myself pajamas with little pink castles on them for my birthday.
Maybe I’ll even spoil myself with a second pair with unicorns puking up rainbows on them because birthdays and pajamas are just that great!
I am 47 years old and that is amazing! I have 47 years of memories, wisdom, and experience to share and enjoy.
I am in good health, I am loved, and I am not ashamed of that number or of shouting from the rooftops
“IT’S MY BIRTHDAY Y’ALL!!!”
My birthday playlist-Hope it makes you smile on yours!
*****I recently discovered that the money-pinning tradition comes from a Nigerian tradition.Many, many NOLA traditions come from West African roots due to the slave trade that unfortunately once thrived there. Check out this great piece by Oonkas Boonkas on FB https://www.facebook.com/OonkasBoonkas/posts/the-cajun-tradition-of-pinning-money-onto-the-birthday-boy-or-girl-is-the-most-p/10152321751568172/