Recently I celebrated my birthday. Happy Birthday to me!
I don’t much care for birthdays. Doesn’t have anything to do with getting older, it’s just that they seem so contrived, unlike other celebrations that are more organic in nature, like Christmas, Thanksgiving, and National Secretaries Day. Nowhere is this more apparent than on Facebook where people whom I haven’t interacted with since the day I signed up, and sometimes haven’t talked to in over twenty years, suddenly hit me up online to say “Happy B-day!”
This act in itself seems to reinforce how devoid it is of any true meaning. In fact I would actually appreciate it more if they just wrote the following;
Hey, I know that other than my incessant requests of you to play Farmville with me, we haven’t touched base since high school, but this morning I was reminded by text, email, and pop-up notification that it was your birthday. In honor of this special occasion I spent 5.7 seconds typing twelve characters (including spaces) on to your timeline before hitting “Post.” Just so you know, I only do this for you and the other 1,067 “friends” of mine on Facebook. Make it a great day!
Out of all the birthdays I have had so far, none strike me as having been very meaningful, but looking back, one does stand out above the rest in my mind. It was my twenty-third birthday and I received seven phone calls, from seven different women, all before 9:00am, wishing me a happy birthday. I also remember that all seven of them considered me a “friend,” which in reality made those well wishes as special as the ones I just got from Facebook. Once again, I would have just preferred the honest approach;
Hi Brian, it’s hot-girl-you-will-never-sleep with. I just wanted to call you up because I saw in my day planner that it is your birthday. You are such a super nice guy, with a great personality, and I am so glad you are my friend. Unfortunately, I have daddy-issues and will spend the next ten years squandering my youth and beauty chasing after emotionally distant and sociopathic men whom I feel need to be rescued. Sometime in the future, after being tossed aside by one of those men, I will call you up on a Friday night to go out, and in the process get your hopes up about having a chance with me. However I will spend the whole evening asking you what I did wrong in my relationship with “Clubber” and if you think getting a tattoo of him on my forehead will bring him back.
So normally my birthday is like every other day. In fact so much so that I can’t remember ever having taken the day off, but this year I thought I might do something different and give it a try. Turn off my phone. Sleep in. Have a quiet breakfast all by myself. Shower with the door open. Wear sandals and slippers all day. Maybe get caught up on some stuff around the house. Maybe not. Play the drums, go for a walk, read a book, or watch all five seasons of Get Smart on DVD. It’s my day after all, right?
I was all set to indulge in my day of narcissistic laziness when my wife called out from the other room.
“Honey, can you take a look at this,” she said, pointing to my youngest child’s eye.
“What am I looking at?” I asked.
“His eye. Can’t you see it?”
“No, what is it?”
“Look!” she said, pointing so close to his eyeball I thought she might scratch it.
“Cataract?” I said.
“No, he has pinkeye.”
Pinkeye–The holy grail of youthful illnesses. Kids pray that they will get pinkeye. It has all the benefits of other sicknesses–not having to go to school–with none of the downside like sore throat, fever, or nausea. On top of that, they don’t have to take any gross tasting medicine and can eat whatever the hell they want. It’s so sweet.
Trust me, if adults were able to get out of work and still carry on their normal activities just by getting a little pinkeye, grown men would be rubbing all sorts of crap into their eyes on a regular basis. You would see them jamming their heads, eyes wide open, into trash cans, medical waste containers, and litter boxes, just so they could take Friday off and catch a quick 18 holes down at the local course.
The math that was facing me was undeniable. If we pushed things and sent him to school, the teacher might catch it, and send him home, requiring a trip to the doctor and a two-day waiting period before they would take him back. That equaled having him stay at home for three days, necessitating either my wife or I taking off work during that time. On the other hand, if I just bit the bullet and took him to the doctor right away, we could probably get a round of drops in his eye before the next morning, and with any luck it would be white enough to pass at school the following day.
And thus that is how I came to spend the first day of my forty-sixth year of life building Angry Bird towers, eating peanut butter sandwiches with milk on the floor, and taking a nap at 11:30am on a Monday. And as I think back on it I realize that it had more meaning than all the other forty-five birthdays combined.
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