Birthdays. They used to be so awesome. When you were a kid, you got new toys and games. When you were a teenager you got new clothes and maybe a new cell phone. When you were in your twenties you got free shots at the bar.
But in your thirties (and beyond), all you really get is the sudden appearance of crow’s feet, frown lines, and grey hairs.
I’m coming upon the 10th anniversary of my 21st birthday and to say I’m not thrilled about it would be a pretty big understatement. Basically, I’d rather undergo a root canal without novocain while floating on a tiny raft in the middle of the Pacific ocean, surrounded by bloodthirsty great white sharks, than turn another year older.
To add insult to injury, my son has just turned five and he’s lost all signs of his mushy-faced, chubby-bellied, lispy-speeched toddler-ness. He’s just like this regular school-aged kid now. That means I can no longer claim to be the young, cool, new(ish) mom whose kids are way too young to make her anywhere even remotely near middle aged– and who totally looks like she may have even been on an episode of Teen Mom.
Mark Twain once said “age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.” He’s definitely got a cleverly worded point that offers some reassurance, but people sometimes take it a little too far. Case in point:
Oh, Tan Mom. You might not mind but the rest of the world kinda does.
Another year older or not, birthdays pretty much always suck—sometimes even before family life comes along. They’re like New Year’s Eve, when there are all these high expectations and you feel like you have to be doing something spectacularly awesome and thrilling or else you should just go find a very tall bridge and jump off it. So you think ahead and make a plan, and you’re all dressed up and ready to go out and have fun, but then something goes wrong and you drink too much and next thing you know you are waking up on your bathroom floor with tile marks on your face, and you can’t find your purse or your left shoe and the last thing you remember was flirting with a guy who makes erotic balloon animals for a living at a restaurant where the waitresses are all Asian transvestites.
Or something like that.
My point is, part of growing up is realizing that birthdays are just going to get worse every year. Even more so if you have kids, in which case the only birthdays that even matter anymore are the ones with expensive cartoon character-covered birthday cakes, twenty screaming kids on a sugar high and a clown/face-painter/magician who charges more per hour than your shrink will after the whole traumatizing experience is over.
Unless you’re married to someone with some imagination who genuinely gives a shit about your “special day” (like if, say, your husband wished you a Happy 30th Birthday on the jumbotron at Madison Square Garden, which actually happened to one lucky friend of mine), then chances are your birthday is going to bite the big one. You’ll eat some fattening cake that you’ll regret later at the gym, get a gift card or two from any family members still kind enough to buy you a gift even though now you have kids that they’re stuck buying gifts for too, you’ll gush over the adorable homemade card that your kids made for you even though when you opened it a gallon of glitter fell out and divided itself between the living room rug and the dog’s fur, you’ll hit “like” on the 75 mildly sincere birthday wishes on your facebook wall, then you’ll slap on an extra coat of wrinkle cream and call it a night.
And I’m cool with all of that. Really, I am.
Just please don’t tell my husband I am, because birthdays are rarely a big deal for adults in his family (see his mom’s delightful partially melted 49th birthday Carvel cake below) and so he’s always super clueless whenever mine rolls around. I’m usually okay with that, as annoying as it might be. But I’m expecting a little more from him this year after he recently told me on Mother’s Day “I really hope this breakfast I made for you justifies my lack of a gift. Or card. Oh and did you get my mom anything yet?”
He’s really not a big fan of sleeping on the couch and I can scramble my own eggs, so if you see him, tell him kick it up a notch this time? Thanks.