It's My (Birthday) and I'll Cry if I Want To

I don’t know if it’s just me, but every single time I officially turn a year older, I am filled with this conflicting emotional cocktail of doom. I am joyful, incredibly depressed, utterly anxiety-ridden. I am a hyperactive sphere of energy, yet also a simmering pot of self-indulgence. Boo-hoo, I am getting older. My five gray hairs are immediately more pronounced, my metabolism hits an all-time low, I begin to count the things I have yet to accomplish or experience (I have never been to Beijing, for instance, nor have I scuba-dived with sharks) and I still foolishly expect the world to revolve around me just this one day because it’s my birthday. How maddening. Is it just me? Someone out there please tell me it isn’t so!

I used to adore my birthday and be wholesomely excited for it every single year, like most kids with relatively normal childhoods. This was the day I had my three or four girlfriends over; my mom would order Dominos pizza, an ice-cream cake from Dairy Queen and any kind of potato chip of my choosing with its appropriate marriage to French onion dip. She even humored me by purchasing a HAPPY BIRTHDAY banner from Party City on my 9th birthday, which brought me to hysterics because I thought that was just so neat. A banner Scotch-taped to the wall? Just for me?  Because I’m the birthday girl? YES. My parents, not entirely introduced to American birthday party culture, left me to do the birthday party planning and I would create an agenda filled to the brim with swimming in the neighborhood pool, water balloon throwing, movie watching and best of all, present opening. Usually right before cutting the cake and blowing out candles, I would gather everyone around a heap of loudly wrapped boxes and bags and opened them one by one, announcing who had given me what and why I loved it so. I was in attention heaven. It was my birthday and I was the coolest girl in the room with the birthday banner and salty chip dip.

Then came the 6th grade. I turned 12 that year and begged my mom to a have a sleepover, which was very frowned upon by the Russians.My mother had no idea what to do with a group of tween girls in their pajamas who chose to sleep on the floor. She fiercely vacuumed the night before in confusion and disgust. Ultimately, she caved. I chose Bring it On, even though it was rated PG-13 and totally had a thousand sexual innuendos which I wouldn’t understand until high school. I gathered my group of friends around the TV, offered a bowl of Pop Secret and pressed play. Suddenly, my best friend Colleen exclaimed, “There’s nudity in this. I’m not going to watch it. I don’t think any of you should, either.”

Where this sudden rebellion and vehement dictatorship came from, I had no idea.  I was shocked. Colleen liked to boss me around on a daily basis, but I thought it was understood that today was my day to shine brightly.

“There is seriously no nudity, guys. I swear!” I cried, trying to persuade Colleen and now pretty pious Rachael, who was slowly standing up and quietly looking down at her Hello Kitty pajamas.

“This movie is inappropriate for us, Gina. We’ll just be in the other room reading,” Colleen said in an appalled manner, as though I had just turned on a porno, and she took Rachael with her by the hand. I was left with the remaining two girls who either believed me, or really wanted to see someone naked.

My eyes were immediately saturated with hot tears of humiliation and defeat. It wasn’t that my two friends didn’t want to watch Bring it On (and honestly, I think Colleen was having some kind of attention whorish moment, because we watched Swimfan at her house a few months later, and Swimfan is WAY racier than Bring it On), it was that they didn’t want to watch the movie I had picked out on my birthday.

The notion that birthdays were special days was irrevocably destroyed for me. Kind of. Although I began to sober up from my birthday intoxication and realize no one actually cared I was born that day to the extent to which I wanted, I still craved some undivided attention. From then on, I would hint to friends that they should just throw birthday parties for me because I didn’t want that kind of attention. I would say, “Oh no, I’m not doing anything this year. I kind of… hate birthdays,” and usually an angel of a friend would buy me concert tickets or something. Retrospectively, I’m sure my friends all thought I was being an overly sensitive drama queen and asshole.

It was my birthday this past Sunday and all I wanted to do was casually slip in, “I bought a dress for my birthday this weekend,” or “I can’t believe I’m turning 23,” or “I hate birthdays – it’s my birthday” into all of my conversations with people. Am I crazy? Don’t answer.

On my birthday, I always assume it will be sunny. It’s never actually sunny because California takes on this whole “June gloom” look and runs with it until mid-July. I expect an army of unique Facebook birthday comments. This is totally unreasonable because there are not a lot of ways to say “happy birthday” that Hallmark hasn’t covered. I fantasize my boss giving me a birthday bonus. This perk doesn’t exist. I order a cake that I have imagined and already tasted in my mind. Then I remember I don’t really like cake. I tell everyone not to get me a present but secretly hope they buy me an H&M gift card because I am a greedy f*ck. I create a nonchalant event on Facebook that seems carelessly crafted, but really I spent a lot of time thinking about it, and I want the people I invited to actually come.  I totally expect ex boyfriends to materialize in the form of birthday texts and phone calls and decide not to respond because I’m a strong woman who has totally moved on. None of my exes wish me a happy birthday because they probably never even knew when my birthday was when we dated. Nor do they still have my phone number.

My birthday was doomed from the day I was born. The reality is that my birthday is just another day. I can go to Disneyland for free and totally score a complimentary ice cream sundae from Red Robin. Sephora e-mails me to inform me a birthday gift basket is waiting for me, and my parents will shower me with kisses (and secretly wish they had chose to invest in a beach front retirement fund instead of having sex that one time) but no one will ever be as excited as I am about my birthday. I will always love-hate it. And that’s sad, but it’s okay. Don’t get me anything. I’ll be fine.

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