I don’t do my birthday. I do other people’s birthdays, but I find my own to be annoying.
Perhaps it’s because my birthday is in the dead of winter and snow storms – like the one that happened on my birthday this year – are possible and, inevitably, no one wants to go outside.
Or maybe it’s because I’ve always shared my birthday with a younger cousin whose birthday is the day before mine. So joint birthdays, often celebrated on my cousin’s birthday, the day before my actual birthday, was the norm. One cake was served that may or may not have had both of our names on it, and we’d sing once with both of our names yelled out. Maybe.
Unless my cousin, who is the same age as my brother and, because my mother and her sister pooled parenting duties and raised them more like twins than not, decided to have a birthday party in an effort to carve out a little something for herself. Those years, because my mother felt badly for my cousin who had nothing to claim for herself – not her birthday, not the first day of school, not first communion or confirmation, not graduation days – decided it would be poor form to force recognition of my birthday. Even if the party fell on my actual birthday. Even if the party was happening in my house. Even in our entire family was there.
Then there were the other years where someone would suggest relighting the odd number of candles – never enough for my age, or my cousin’s, and some years was just a rogue number-candle that my mother used (say the number 7, which reappeared more than made sense) for the big birthday party she threw my brother that previous June – to sing me happy birthday.
Or maybe it was because, until 9/11 changed the football schedule, there was a 30-85% chance (depending on who was playing that year and how many cocktails were consumed) that my father and uncles – and even some of the women in my family, who were generally much better at remember things like birthdays – would just ignore the fact that my birthday – or my cousin’s, depending on the year – ever happened.
Or maybe it is because HC, whom I’ve been with for 10 years, only just learned the actual date of my birthday a few years ago.
Whatever the reason, I don’t do my birthday. For most people, this isn’t a problem. But for those who are thoughtful and are of the position that you sorta have to recognize someone’s birthday, there have been hiccups.
A few years back, when we were in law school, ALJ did the super-nice, super-sweet thing of baking me birthday cupcakes. Which she brought to our 8:45 am Crim Pro class that, although I loved the class, I couldn’t manage to get to much before 9 am. So after class, ALJ gave me the delicious cupcakes she made. I think I ate one and then didn’t know what to do. She said something like, “You should bring them with you and give them to people you like.” For whatever reason, this seemed like a trick to me.
Pause for a second.
In elementary school, there was this ritual of bringing cupcakes in for your birthday to give out to your class and to teachers around the school. Think, what we do now as adults but instead of everyone coming to a conference room for cake and adult beverages, you did cupcakes and then got to miss class to pass out sweets to teachers who wanted nothing more than a distraction – and treats. (I didn’t realize the distraction/treats part right away. Until third grade or so, I thought maybe they just liked seeing kids and wishing them a happy birthday. I suppose even I was naive once.)
Anyway, you got to pick a friend to walk with you around the school, giving them out to the other teachers.
One year toward the end of elementary school, my mother made – homemade, not store bough, which was amazing – like 35 cupcakes for my class and “others.” She made them the night before but, because she had to work, my grandfather was bringing them to school in the afternoon. Good plan, right? That’s what my mom and I thought…
Until my grandfather showed up at school with like 12 cupcakes, most of them jacked up. Dented. Smooshed a little. At the very least, not the delicious, well-frosted cupcakes I saw that morning as I was leaving the house. And most definitely NOT enough for my class, let alone for the ritual pick-a-friend-walk-around the school bit. I was puzzled because I knew my mom made more than enough cupcakes. But whatever, we were kids and any sugar-related break from the school day was welcomed without question.
Until my mom found out about it…
So my mom comes to school later that day or the next day – to pick us up or deal with some mayhem my brother or I got into (sadly for her and us, we did a lot of that) – and asked my teacher how the cupcakes were. The teacher said, “Oh, they were good…. We made due.”
Made due? My mother had no idea what this woman was talking about. “What do you mean?” my mother asked, indignantly, as she is apt to do in a moment of confrontation/confusion. “No big deal. We know how busy you are. We just cut them in half and made sure there was plenty to go around,” the teacher responded.
Getting shit from the teacher for being too busy to make sure that the right number of cupcakes got to the school when she knew full well that she had made – herself, not store-bought – and had plenty of? This was too much for my mother to take.
“Cut them in half?! My father brought in like 35 cupcakes! How was that not enough?!” Voice raising. Adrenaline racing.
“Oh, well, your father only brought us about 12 or 15 cupcakes,” the teacher explained. The teacher was now, clearly, worried and perplexed. She thought she was being sensitive to my overworked mother who had to deal with me and my brother, whom she hadn’t yet met but definitely heard about. My mother was known for being sweet as velvet, unless she was mad. Then you had a totally different woman on your hands.
My mother blew up. Seriously, the woman, standing there in her waitressing uniform, coming off a shift where my father was the wheel man (i.e. cook), smelling like her job, blew up. “WHAT DO YOU MEAN HE BROUGHT 12 OR 15 CUPCAKES?! I MADE 40 CUPCAKES LAST NIGHT!”
What had happened, we would find out later, was that my grandfather put the cupcakes, which were securely placed on a cookie sheet with nothing more holding them to said cookie sheet than a piece of tin foil, had dropped the cupcakes on the ground on his way to his car to bring the cupcakes the whole 4 blocks from his house to the school. Most of the cupcakes were lost. But, being my grandfather – a guy who believed it best to just deal with a bad situation on his own, without alerting anyone to the problem, a la Ed Norton from The Honeymooners
tried as best he might to salvage what he could and brought the sorta-okay-but-still-jacked cupcakes to school. No one would ever know, right? Wrong. The cardinal rule in my family is that they will always find out; they always do.
Oh, and they did.
Long story short (too late!), my mother forgave my grandfather and my birthday turned into a family story… and a cupcake nightmare.
So ALJ didn’t know what her whole “I made you cupcakes; share with your friends” would spark for me.
ALJ still hasn’t gotten over the trauma. Nor have I. But I think I’ve grown. This year, when ALJ made me a delicious birthday cake – chocolate cake with chocolate frosting and colored sprinkles on top – and when AM got me an ice cream cake and – wait for it – sang happy birthday to me, I think I managed to be gracious. But we are dealing with years of baggage here.
Anyway, because of all this, I rarely just offer up my birth date to people. Really, it’s just to save myself from having to deal with the fact that someone – perfectly well meaning and sweet – wants to acknowledge my birthday. Yet for reasons that remain unknown, I listed my birth date on Facebook. Perhaps it was because I just looked at the information section like I do a doctors’ form – you just fill it out, lying as little as possible/necessary. For example:
Do you drink alcohol? Yes. (Is this a trick question?)
# of drinks per week? (Lie.) 10. (No.) 7. (No, wait.) 5. (No, that’s wrong.) 3.
Do you smoke? No. Sometimes.
# of cigarettes per week? (G-d, must lie situation.) 2.
Okay, maybe I lie a lot. But that’s for another post as well. Anyway, because my birthday is listed on Facebook, all of these non-Facebook friends knew to wish me a happy birthday. I still don’t know what function you use to find this info, but it’s there. Clearly.
As the happy-birthday wished poured in over Facebook, I asked ALJ what to do. Her advice? Put something in your status line thanking everyone who wished you a happy birthday. Knowing that ALJ is a prankster, I should have known better. But like a lamb-to-slaughter, I did it.
What happened, you ask? A new wave of birthday wishers appeared.
WTF?! This is what I was trying to stop. I was trying to say “Thanks, everyone, for the weird wall-to-wall postings wishing me a happy birthday, even though we haven’t spoken in 15 years or so… and by the way, please stop this madness.” Instead, I seemed to send the message, “Hey, you assholes who forgot it was my birthday, please send me birthday wishes now.”
But, I’m sure, ALJ knew this. And I fell for it hook-line-and-sinker. This is why ALJ should not be trusted. She preys on the innoncent. I will remember this the next time she leave me alone with her children.