10 Reasons Birthdays Make Me Nervous

It’s my birthday this weekend. Now, before you go writing, “Happy Birthday!” in the comments section, let me explain a few things. I have sort of a love/hate thing going with birthdays. On the one hand, birthdays are wonderful. They’re an excuse to celebrate people I love, make them feel special and eat cake. On the other hand, birthdays stress me out. Your birthday stresses me out, my birthday stresses me out, they all pretty much stress me out. Why, you ask, do birthdays stress me out? Well, let me tell you! Here are ten reasons why!

1. Remembering Other People’s Birthdays

Now, as much as we all complain about Facebook, how great are those birthday notifications? I can’t imagine my life without them. However, I have to admit, relying on Facebook for birthday reminders has made me a bit lazy. I just assume if you’re on Facebook, I will be alerted when it’s your birthday. So, I don’t think about it. Then, all of a sudden it’s September and I think to myself, crap… Stacey’s birthday is definitely before mine. When was it and why didn’t Facebook alert me to this important information? *Logs into Facebook* Oh, Stacey, you sly fox you, you deleted your birth date from your Facebook account. Keeping me on my toes there, huh girl?

2. Writing Birthday Notes

I’m a writer. You would think this wouldn’t be an issue. But… that’s exactly why it is an issue! Last year, I made a birthday card for one of my bosses and passed it around for everyone to sign. I work in a writers’ office. Literally, everyone in my office is a writer. You wouldn’t believe how hard it was to get that card signed. When you’re a writer, everything you write comes with this added pressure. People expect a certain degree of wit and originality. In my profession, I’ve found it’s important to have at least one inside joke handy for each person at all times, because you never know when you’ll be asked to sign a birthday or get well card.

3. Having to Reply to Everyone Else’s Birthday Notes/Calls/Texts

My sister and I didn’t speak for months in 2008 because I didn’t call her back on my birthday. Here’s the thing, I’m pretty introverted. If you’ve read any of the recent, “You might be an introvert!” lists, you know that part of this personality type is needing time and space to process things. I screen all of my phone calls. It’s not that I don’t want to talk to people, it’s just that I need time to mentally prepare myself for meaningful conversations. So, while being bombarded with birthday love makes me feel wonderful and appreciated, I require a little extra time to mentally sift through it and respond. People are usually like, “It’s your day! Do you!” but I am always worried people will think I’m unappreciative or rude.

4. Pressure to Make Birthday Plans

I’m weird in that I absolutely love when my birthday falls on a weekday. It takes all the pressure off having to make plans. One year, my birthday fell on a Thursday during fall TV premiere season and it was the best. I got to celebrate and eat some cake at work, then go home and watch four hours of season premieres. This year, my birthday falls on the day of the Emmys and Breaking Bad and those are my plans. When people ask, “What are you doing for your birthday?” and I respond, “Oh, I’ll probably just watch TV,” they get this look of pity on their face. I’m not depressed or lonely. Don’t feel bad for me! Nothing makes me happier than eating pizza and watching TV. I’m good. I promise!

5. Not Wanting to Exclude Anyone

Part of the reason I hate making birthday plans is the pressure of creating an invite list. I immediately flash back to sixth grade when my parents only allowed me to invite six girls to sleepover for my birthday. I spent so much energy worrying about the girls I couldn’t invite, wondering if they would find out and if their feelings would be hurt, that I hardly enjoyed my own party. I still get this anxiety. I never want to make someone feel excluded, even if they’re an adult and I haven’t really seen them in months. Sending invites is always a really stressful and guilt-ridden process for me.

6. Splitting a Bill Between 15 People

The concept of the birthday dinner came into my life during college. We lived in crappy dorms and apartments and ate mostly dining hall food or takeout. So, on our birthdays we would each pick a restaurant and the group would go out for a “classy” “adult” meal. I’m talking culinary masterpieces like Olive Garden and Chilis. We would laugh, reminisce and eat way too many breadsticks. Then, the bill would come and chaos would ensue. Can you do individual checks? How much was the birthday girl’s meal, we need to split that up? I only have a card. Do we add tip now or later? How much are you adding for tax? This is the stuff of my nightmares and as much as I love birthday dinners, I dream of a future in which all of my friends are wealthy enough to say, “Let’s just split this thing evenly and call it a day.”

7. Knowing Who to Buy For and How Much to Spend

This is a major issue in my life. Luckily, my September birthday affords me the luxury of my birthday occurring before most of my friends in the school/work year. I can then gauge who I need to buy for and how much I can spend based on who bought for me. Sometimes, though, I see something I just really want to buy for someone and don’t know whether I should. It’s not that I’m like, “Oh, she didn’t get me anything, so I’m not getting her anything!” or “Um, he only spent $10 on my gift, so screw him!” It’s more of, “I don’t want to make this person feel bad for not getting me something or not getting me something as expensive.” This is how my brain works, people. I live in constant fear of stepping on landmines of social faux pas and blowing up other people’s feelings.

8. Acting Like I Like Gifts

I like pretty much anything anyone gives me. The fact that someone thought enough about me to give me something is huge. I’m just not great at being mushy or emoting my feelings on the spot. Thus, I usually try to overcompensate by acting really excited and saying things like “I love it so much!” which just seem fake. It makes me nervous that people think I’m unappreciative when I’m actually super duper appreciative.

9. The Attention of Being The “Birthday Girl”

Again, it’s not that I’m unappreciative of people going out of their way to make me feel special, it’s just that I don’t love the feeling of having everyone’s attention directed at me. Just the process of everyone singing “Happy Birthday” and watching me blow out candles makes me feel weird. I really sympathize with zoo animals in this way.

10. Questioning Where I’m At In Life

I do not celebrate New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day. To me, the new year starts in September. As a kid it’s when I started a new school year, a new soccer season and a new set of dance classes. It’s when the Emmys happen, a new TV season begins and I complete another year of existence. So, every year in September I think back on the past year and inevitably start to panic about everything. Am I not where I should be at my age? Should I be working harder? What am I doing with my life? Where are my priorities? Do I need to get my crap together? This internal crisis goes on for days, usually stopping just short of opening a gym membership.