Springtime is here, and birthday season is in full swing—it seems that everyone I know (including me) is born in March, April or May. And no matter how old we get, most of us want our birthday to be extraordinary. We want to find the ideal party outfit, we hope to be surrounded by all our friends, and of course, we expect fabulous gifts. Like New Years Eve or Valentine’s Day, our birthday festivities need to be perfect—anything less and we are fully within our rights to throw a tantrum and/or spiral deep into a depression.
I speak from experience. I think my serious attitude towards birthdays stems from an early adolescent trauma—when I turned fifteen, I naively woke up on the morning of my birthday expecting to be showered with champagne wishes and caviar dreams; instead I was served a cup of lukewarm tea and leftover lox on a two-day-old bagel. Just like Molly Ringwald in Sixteen Candles, my birthday was completely overlooked, and I didn’t even end up with a hot football player.
Birthdays are a very emotional time—we wake up one year older, keenly aware of our own mortality, and we can’t help but make a mental inventory of our life so far: What have I accomplished in the past year? Am I where I want to be in my career and my relationships? Am I happy? Am I ever going to be? In addition to the big questions are other nagging issues: Am I getting wrinkles? Is anyone going to remember to call me today? Am I now officially dressing too “young” for my age?
But despite the emotional turmoil, there are some steps we can take to make our birthdays as painless and as fun as possible:
1) Expect nothing; hope for the best.
Don’t count on anyone else to make or break your birthday. Plan to do something fun on your own: have brunch at your favorite café, get a massage, or go on a meditative walk on the mountain—anything that gets you out of the house. It’s the one day of the year that is supposed to be all about you.
And I strongly encourage you to buy yourself a gift. Last year, I saved up and bought myself an iPod for my birthday. After putting money aside for weeks, it felt good to finally walk into the store and purchase a sexy-looking big-ticket item. A new pair of sneakers to kick off the spring season is also one of my tried-and-true birthday purchases.
But heed this birthday warning: Unless you’re a runway model, this is NOT the day to try on that new pair of skinny jeans you’ve had your eye on. No matter what your size is, there’s the off-chance that you will glance at your reflection in the full-length mirror and see an overstuffed sausage staring back at you. Your fun and carefree shopping spree will quickly turn into a self-esteem-destroying nightmare.
2) Plan something fun with your friends.
There are many ways to celebrate your birthday: There’s the ever-popular dinner at a nice restaurant, the classic house party, or the combo deal of cocktails at your house then drinks at your favorite bar.
Then there are the activity-driven birthdays. My friend Tally is the queen of this type of celebration: she often goes for a carefully balanced combination of nostalgia and kitsch. Two years ago, we went to the Orange Julep for dinner and then made a bee-line for the Blue Bonnets. Once we settled in with our beer-filled plastic cups, we randomly bet our hard-earned cash on horses with names like “Frizzy Enigma” and “Rosemary Tsunami.”
Last year, we opted for cyber-nerdiness when we decided to try out Laser Tag. About ten of us spent a couple hours shooting at each other while the Star Wars theme song swelled in the background. So, we were the oldest ones there, but we loved every geeky second of it.
One summer, my friend Annika opted for the “pre-teen-rebel” experience. She had her birthday at La Récréathèque—a huge indoor Recreation Center in Chomedey, Laval. A whole bunch of us crammed into hot, sticky cars and drove up to the giant funhouse where we spent an entire carefree day roller skating and playing video games as we sipped on vodka-spiked blueberry slushies. We felt good being so “bad.”
3) Don’t watch anything depressing on TV on or around your birthday.
For the love of everything, DO NOT stay home and watch back-to-back episodes of Six Feet Under on your birthday. You will end up depressed, listless and one step closer to death. No good can come of this—it’s birthday suicide.
4) Stop feeling sorry for yourself.
There are people who say “I don’t care about my birthday this year, I don’t want to do anything.” Don’t believe them—just the fact that they said that means that they’ve been thinking about it. Those people are either (a) depressed about turning a year older or (b) lazy. “I don’t care” really means “I don’t feel like organizing anything, so I want my friends to step up and plan something for me.” They might even go a step further and say, “I don’t want a present.” They are just testing the waters to see how much their friends really care—the best response to this insanity is to laugh it off and get them a gift anyway. It doesn’t have to be anything big—just a gesture: a small bouquet of flowers, a box of chocolates, a custom-made Yentl t-shirt.
I know, I sound a little bit like one of those cheesy Hallmark ads, but I can’t help it—I get sentimental around my birthday.