I used to love my birthday.
Even as an adult, it was so fun to be indulgent for a day, to open birthday cards from my family (at least the ones that arrived on time), to embrace the well-wishes and kind greetings, to graciously accept the shots or cocktails or baked goods handed my way in celebration. If a friend wanted to put together a little dinner or a meet-up for drinks, I was grateful. If Simone remembered to make me a card, I was overjoyed. The few times in the last 12 years that I was dating someone who wanted to celebrate with me were especially happy.
But this year’s birthday came and went without much fanfare, either self-produced or by others. I managed to negotiate an hour with Simone for a fun breakfast (where I opened said cards and a gift she’d sweetly wrapped for me). I did laundry and watched football. I had a mid-day cocktail with a buddy who was swinging through town. I had a delicious dinner with good company…and I picked up the tab.
The family phone calls were loving. The many, many Facebook well-wishes made me smile. And then I folded more laundry.
But, really, as a grownup, should I even wish for more?
The fact is, I was ambivalent about bringing too much attention to this particular day. This one was a little tough for me, because it made me feel that much closer to turning 50. Fif-fucking-ty! How is that even possible?
I met with my financial advisor this week, to walk through my portfolio, look at where the money was, and make sure I was putting away enough for Simone’s college education. He showed me the numbers I’d need to hit if I want to buy that beach house in a few years and stop working by 60. We sat outside a coffeeshop under a faded blue sky, dry red leaves affectionately circling our feet like small, crinkly kitties. The sun’s warmth gave way to a sudden impish breeze, the chill raising goosebumps on my arms.
Steve and I are about the same age, so when he mentioned that we only had another dozen years or so to save up, it came as a shock. He could see it in my face.
“Dude,” he said. “It’s not that far away. We’re almost done."
The goosebumps turned to a prickling at the back of my neck.
I’m told I don’t look my age, and I certainly don’t act it. My best pals are quite a bit younger than I am, and I can out-eat, out-drink, and/or outrun the lot of them. I make the most of the magic and fun and joy that life has to offer. Sometimes that means staying out carousing until the wee hours, or forcing myself to go another couple reps at the gym, or going easy on the red meat. Sometimes it means hopping a plane for the perfect meal. And sometimes it means going to bed at 10pm and staying there until noon the next day (preferably with company). I love my late nights out as much as I love my pj Saturdays. I love a rare, grass-fed porterhouse, and I love the vinegar burn of a good kombucha. It’s not so much about balance, though that’s important; it’s about experiencing all things in moderation.
There’s a dude at my gym who’s probably a good twenty years older than I am, and he is ripped. He’s always there, taking his time, talking to the regulars, crushing sets. I want to be that guy (with a little more hair and a little less creepy factor).
I want to be a joyful, life-loving, bon vivant for the rest of my life, and I’m not giving up on finding a woman who wants that, too. I want to be a living example for Simone, for my nieces and nephews, and even for my future grandkids: you’re going to grow older, but that doesn’t mean you have to settle into anything less that what makes your heart beat happily.
I don’t ever want to act my age, whatever that really means.
And that probably means I shouldn’t let another birthday go by without making it special.
I’m not saying my birthday should be a celebration to honor me. I’m realizing that my birthday should be a day when I show gratitude for being alive to celebrate another year (vs. the alternative — amIright?). I should make a big deal about every single fucking birthday! I shouldn’t hide from it — not because I’m special, but because the day is special. To me. I should honor my mom and dad for bringing me into the world, and I should honor the world for letting me be in it so long.
So screw it. I’m not letting any more of my birthdays go by without fanfare — without making them special for me, and maybe for the people around me. And you should do the same. Let’s take back birthdays. Kids don’t know how good they have it, with their parents going to such lengths to make the day special. We shouldn’t let that go, just because we’re a little (or a lot) older. Just because our parents aren’t around to put up streamers and plan out Star Wars-themed celebrations. Let’s do this.
I’ve said before that I don’t intend to age gracefully. I’m going to shout and yell and fight and dance and drink and sing and love and shout some more for as long as fucking possible.
Especially on my birthday.
Care to join me?