Birthdays: The Big Lie

So, yeah, birthdays'll get your attention. They like to pose as an innocuous little date on your calendar each year but you know better. You're hip to the fact that they're scheming little scoundrels with a menacing gaze and a sardonic smile, boldly daring you to click off the months, then weeks and finally days until the fateful moment when you're forced to carve another notch in your age belt. Make way for yet another candle on that firestorm you call a birthday cake. Somehow reconcile that fact that you're a whole year older than you were just yesterday.

And how frustrating is it to realize how powerless you are in their presence, that there's absolutely nothing at your disposal to stop them? Writing your congressman won't do it. A host of signatures demanding a recount isn't gonna get it done. You can't contact a friend who knows a guy who, for a price, can make it all go away. And you can't pretend it isn't happening as your texts and emails are blowing up along with an alarming amount of Facebook friends--half of 'em you can't quite place--all wishing you the best on your big day. Hell, even the mailman's offering you congrats as he greets you with a handful of chintzy birthday cards from your bank, insurance company and car mechanic (right, like that offsets the $2k you dished out last month to replace the electrical system).

What's most disturbing about birthdays, however, is how they introduce themselves, sidling up to you with that unctuous Eddie Haskell personna before you even know what's happening. Think about it, your first couple years on the planet, solely dependent on adults, not quite sure what's going on around you as you take in all the streamers and balloons, everyone smiling your way and singing, plying you with cake and ice cream as they try to coax you into blowing out the candles. You sitting there in your high chair, awestruck, baby-talking to yourself, "Wow, this birthday thing is fantastic; I'm a rock star!"

And that, my friends, is just the beginning; it gets even more insidious. Suddenly you're of school age, able to think ahead and realize exactly when your next special day is about to occur, ensuring that the whole world knows well ahead of time. "Hey, it's my birthday next month!... Guess how old I'm gonna be?!" And, of course, you're gonna have a big bash with lots of friends. Friends who'll be bringing you presents and making you, literally, the life of the party. And even better?... you're gonna be one year older. And how cool is it to be older? It's what you've been waiting for all year. I mean, everyone wants to be older, right?!

And there it is, birthdays' secret weapon--the ability to make you totally love them right out of the gate--starting at year one and coasting on through to adulthood. Two solid decades they're workin' it, establishing their message, spreading all that positive goodwill until the indoctrination is complete. Until they can stand back and observe with maniacal glee, the sudden wokeness on your 21-year-old face as you start to grasp that you're now fully grown, of legal age, an official adult with no real benefits to getting even one year older. And that's when it all finally hits you, that the birthday--your one-time bff--has metamorphosized into some kind of Chinese water torture with each drip signifying yet another year in passing.

Some slippery slope, eh? Wait, it gets worse 'cause looming right ahead, closing in like a lion on its prey is your first "dreaded birthday ending in a zero". Gone is the "Hey, guess how old I'm gonna be?!", replaced with you in the fetal position trying desperately to conjur up your "Happy Place", knowing full well it has nothing to do with turning thirty. And suddenly it's come and gone, the next year in its stead and then the next and the next until--you guessed it--another year ending in a zero. And even worse? So much worse?... These years, they seem to fly by with each decade exponentially faster than the last! I mean, what sense does that make; how the hell is that even possible?! What's happened here?! Where did all the good birthdays go?!!...

... So yeah, I just had to take a little break. I'm pretty good now. Those breathing exercises the therapist recommended really seem to work. Likewise the ample adult beverages I'm consuming at a semi-alarming pace. So, no doubt, you've surmised that yours truly has had to endure a birthday recently and that just maybe I'm not as young as I used to be (like the Eddie Haskell reference didn't tip you off?). But what the heck, it wasn't one of those years ending in zero so, like, I've got that. And now that the day in question is over I've got a bit of a reprieve. For a little while. Until, ya' know, the calendar pages start turning over again. Oh, and I can always go with one of those lines that people of a certain age rely on to bolster their confidence: "Hey, I'm still standin'!"... So, yeah, there's also that.