Today’s been several things, but mostly, it has been a giant exercise in “it doesn’t have to be that way anymore.”
I have this whole birthday negative ritual that I undergo every year. As much a part of the ritual is the attempt to subvert it. This is the year, I say, that my birthday is drama-free and I will eat according to the diet and not the day, and I’ll just quietly celebrate the me-ness of me and a whole bunch of crap that as soon as I roll out of bed no longer applies.
In the morning, I realize that I just want cake and streamers and secret emotional confessions and a smorgasbord of delicate, hand-crafted delights like sugared violets and marzipan. I want singing telegrams and tiaras and gifts that relate to all my untold desires. I want a whole itinerary of scripted adventures, social displays of affection towards me, and a body that is entirely different than the one I walk about in the rest of the year. I want to feel oppressively special. I want my ego cossetted and placed atop marble pedestals, fanned and fed mimosas and chilled grapes. I want Veruca Salt to wonder if I mightn’t be a touch greedy. I want someone on tenterhooks with anticipation as to whether or not all the aforementioned gaudy marvels please me.
I spend half a moment, curled up in my sheets, hoping that somehow, instead of a small, quiet, self-contained sort of day that marks the occasion I turned up on this earth…that I will have fallen into an extravaganza dedicated to myself. That accidentally, I have done what is necessary to cause people to knock themselves out over my birthday.
I do not do this for other people. Though, I think I might if I had someone for whom knocking yourself out was appropriate. I think I have stores of energy for such situations. I have zero reason to get myself so worked up. We are so midwestern and hands folded and just tell me what you want and I will get you that and it’s good. Zero reason to concoct a tizzy. But still, there’s that weird feeling of birthdays as a private, personal Christmas and when it doesn’t arrive, or it arrives in a way that feels as though it inconveniences everyone else, I always get emo.
It’s on the periphery. What is different this year is I am not fighting this. I am not castigating myself for wanting to be spotlighted or be special or to be the princess. I am not mad at myself for wanting something bigger than life, meant for me.
I know what will happen. My mother will make me a cake. My father will crack silly jokes. My sisters will give me something that will make me happy. We’ll have some silly argument while we drive to the restaurant. We’ll talk about the same things that I’ve heard in some combination over the last month and this will irritate me to no end. It will be too short before everyone sighs and says they’re full, the signal that my birthday will be over.
But, now that I’ve worked out, tracked food, taken care of a few things for myself, I believe it still doesn’t have to be like it always is.
I am having the cake. I am having the tacos and the drink and I will write it all down without shame and I’ll take a walk and keep exercising and I will listen to the stories and the jokes and the arguments and I’m going to remember that I have my own shit going on, and the happiness I seek I can grant far more easily than I can hope to coerce it from anyone else.
What I want, what I truly and deeply want, are not birthday gifts. Are not one-off acknowledgements. Are not tokens. They’re things I have desperately feared having and have actively barricaded off from myself and now, right now, I am walking towards with my hands out. And that’s kind of a big goddamned deal.
So yes, whoohoo, holy shit, your girl lived yet one more year and oh, the beauty she beheld.