It’s my birthday and I’ll smile if I want to

I love birthdays: mine, yours, anyone’s. I love birthday cake. I love candles. I love champagne (well, of course). I love the way “Happy Birthday” sounds… it’s such a celebratory little phrase, uttered with a lilt. I love birthday gifts, giving and receiving tokens in celebration of just being born. (Birthdays aren’t about getting older; they’re about living). A birthday is a birthday is a birthday, no matter what your culture or religion or sexual orientation, and birthdays aren’t overshopped like Christmas is. They’re egalitarian! We all have belly buttons; we all have belly-button birthdays.

There’s something so nicely personal about a birthday, something that makes it feel like it’s especially yours, even as there’s that little jolt of kinship with anyone you meet who shares your day. Dessert places are fun specifically because of birthdays: on any given night party after party of revelers pass through, cramming their tabletops with mint velvet cupcakes with sparklers on top.

Luckily, I don’t have any cringe-inducing birthday memories. Please don’t remind me, ever, of the Christmas of 1989 or New Year’s Eve 1986, 1990, or 1996 or, please God, Valentine’s Day 1998. I have a Hallowe’en I’d rather forget and a couple of sketchy St. Patrick’s Days (I was in Chicago, after all) but no bad birthdays. All good with the birthdays.

I’ve always given myself funny little holidays on my birthday. When I lived in Chicago it was easy to take a day off in the dead of winter: lay in provisions, crank up the heat, rotate from the bed to the bath to the couch and back again. Broken up only by an icy cold weather jog, just to say I did it. And there was always something to look forward to: at least four of my friends had close birthdays, so at the weekend we’d throw ourselves a big to-do. It was the time of year when it got dark about 3 and there was always snow on the ground and the air had that crystalline winter quality so everything glinted as if off of glass and at night it was all ice so the lights twinkled in the black trees and I’d sit in my window, nine stories up, watching evening drift down and feel glad to be alive.

Birthdays are more prosaic these days. This year it’s coming on the tail end of a week-long family-size battle with strep. I can say with authority that no surprise parties await me (I’ve had two of those in my life, both just so fun) and a jammies-all-day-day is not an option. I can’t even sneak off for a massage or an afternoon movie with a great big bucket of popcorn, not this year. But I have plans, nonetheless. I will leave the dishes in the sink and I won’t count a single calorie and I’ll read trashy gossip websites and I won’t force down 64 ounces of water like I do every other day and I’ll beam at anyone who wishes me a Happy Birthday and I won’t feel guilty for the housework that doesn’t get done and I’ll take a nap with Anna and maybe, just maybe, I won’t even floss.

And it’s gonna be a great day.

Published in: on February 1, 2011 at 10:25 PM  Leave a Comment  

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