Saturday, April 23, 2011

Birthday Greetings

This blog originally appeared at The PopCultureDivas on April 21, 2011.

It's almost my birthday. That used to be exciting news. I remember one party when I was about six and everyone had to wear animal masks. I was a Persian cat. I can't remember anything else about that party. But a few years later, I remember my preteen "girlfriends" playing a whisper game that got out of hand and reduced me to tears. I ran sobbing into the arms of my mother's best friend. Probably because my mother was just rolling her eyes at my hyper-sensitivity. In any event, that was my last birthday party for a very long time, and I was glad of it. For a shy, not very popular girl, throwing a party of any kind can be a miserable, exhausting experience. When you're a teenager, it's even worse.

Much later, in my early twenties, a bunch of people got together and threw me a surprise birthday/bon voyage party. I had decided to go to England and Ireland for my 23rd year, so I got a lot of travel-themed gifts. Not the passport. I had to get that for myself! But I got assorted bags to carry things in and those little plastic bottles to fill with your shampoo, etc. And a passport carrier. This was a little zipper bag for your passport and you wore it inside your clothes around your neck. So no one at any of the youth hostels or other divey places where you were staying could steal your passport.

Probably the best birthday I ever had was a few years after that, when my best friend Melanee and a group of other friends took me to a jazz club called The King of France in Annapolis. It was a very classy, sophisticated kind of birthday, which therefore made me classy and sophisticated. One of the friends who came to the party was Guillermo, an Argentine fighter pilot and veteran of the Falklands Island War with Britain.

Once you've celebrated your 25th birthday in a historic jazz club with a hot Latin fighter pilot, the smart thing to do is retire from having birthdays entirely. Because it's hard to top that. So I did. I quit having birthday parties after that year. I would just have a quiet get-together with one or two friends. Eventually, even that stopped.

After a while, birthdays get boring. Although considering the alternative to another birthday, I'm sure not complaining. But it's hard to find a new way to act excited about the event. Not to mention how tiresome it gets to have people ask what you want and then give you the wrong thing anyway. (Sometimes even arguing with you -- "No! That's not really what you want! I'll think of something for you!")

The only thing worse than having someone tell you that you don't want what you want is having them forget entirely and then pretend they didn't. As you get older, friends who used to lavish huge amounts of time planning your day drift away and you're lucky if you get a card sometime close to the event. And then there's that cheapskate friend. We all have one of those. The one who buys herself a book or DVD, reads or watches it, then wraps it and passes it on to you as your "gift." Or she gets some toiletries set she doesn't like and re-gifts it to you. I have a friend who I am pretty sure has been doing this to me for years.

This year my birthday's the day before Easter, so I'm hoping to get a really lovely brunch out of it, since so many restaurants have special menus on Easter weekend. It still won't be dinner with an Argentine fighter pilot, but the guy I wound up with is way more stable and loving and supportive, and that's the best birthday gift of all.

What about you? Do you still celebrate birthdays? What was your best birthday gift? Your worst?

Lynn Reynolds is a writer, wife and mom - not necessarily in that order. She's a city girl trapped in Green Acres. Her secret ambition is to be a wench at the Renaissance Faire. Her second novel, Love Capri Style, is a sexy, sun-drenched romance set on (where else?) the island of Capri. For more info on Lynn and her books, visit