To Party or Not To Party - Birthday Week


To resolve an internal debate within our offices, we asked two BTR staff writers to share their thoughts on how actively (or inactively) one should celebrate their own birthday. We begin with the cons.

RSVP Not Necessary

by Timothy Dillon

Disclaimer: This is not a picture of Timothy Dillon. Photo by Mike Burns.

I do not celebrate my birthday… or at least I try not to. I obviously get the obligatory phone calls from friends and family members. My Facebook wall explodes with signatures from long lost friends and acquaintances that have over-estimated my memories of them. People still recognize it, but I tend to make it less of a big deal these days.

It’s not because I’m afraid of getting older; time moves in one direction, forward, and I’m not ignorant to that. And it’s not because I don’t want people to recognize my age, I honestly couldn’t care less about that. I choose not to celebrate my birthday because I find doing so to be the greatest of self-indulgences, and its byproduct tends to be dishonest behavior.

Consider this, I once had a very bad fight with a friend the day before my birthday. There was shouting, cursing, and at least a few outlandish statements about self-centeredness… my self-centeredness. The next day, and this was back when I still did celebrate my birthday, that same friend was encouraging me to have fun and to let loose, asking me what I really wanted to do. The next day we picked up the fight right where we left off. The whole thing left a bitter taste in my mouth.

For that entire birthday, in light of the day prior, my friend was just doing his best acting job, worthy of an academy award, to appease the unwritten social contracts of birthdays. But thinking back on that day, and all the nice things that were said and done, it all felt so fake, so shallow. Perhaps the most important reason that I do not enjoy birthdays is that they allow for these sort of disingenuous events to occur.

My friend was mad at me, and looking back, he had every right to be. The fact that he was able to shelf our fight for a day speaks volumes to the content of his character, but in the end, it was fruitless, as nothing had been resolved.

I have friends who send their mothers flowers on their birthdays. I like this idea. After all, it is your mother who was the VIP on your birthday. Converse to this idea though, society has told us that our birthday is our special day and no one else’s.

I would rather we, as people, celebrate our loved ones when we feel like they deserve it. We should do something nice for them just for the sake of it, not because of some scheduled day that rolls around each year. I would rather us all celebrate the mothers that bore us to this life on the day we were born and instead allowed people to celebrate each other when merited, (dare I say “earned”).

See You at the Party!

By Jordan Reisman

Also, not a picture of Jordan Reisman. Photo by Shawn Carpenter.

Tim would love to have you believe that birthdays are selfish, self-aggrandizing 24-hour windows of time. Spun in the proper light, he could be right. Nevertheless, isn’t there some part of you that always looks forward to your birthday? Isn’t your birthday a marker of how far you’ve come in life and a day cemented in history through which you compare yourself to your past selves and to others? It is, and here is why you’re not in the wrong for feeling that. My friends, here is why birthdays are underrated.

1. It is your own personal holiday. There is not a single day of the year that you can reserve for yourself and yourself alone for celebration. You have to share Christmas with billions of others, Hanukkah with everyone who likes to pretend that it’s the “Jewish Christmas”, and July 4th with pyros and overenthusiastic meat eaters. Now, while these holidays are fun and festive in their own ways, it is my contention that in the back of everyone’s minds they’re thinking, “How can I make this all about ME?” That’s a fair thought and the birthday is the answer. Okay yes, you probably do have the same birthday as someone you know, but all you have to do is write on his or her Facebook page and you’re done. Or your birthday could fall on another holiday or major event (Princess Diana died on my seventh birthday) but for the most part, the day is yours.

2. Everyone must unconditionally agree with you. For some reason, it seemed to be decided one day that on every person’s birthday that particular person can consciously control the events of that day without any backlash. It’s a great idea. Most of our lives are dictated and governed by another (i.e. the MAN) and so when that day rolls around once a year where the rest of the world has to listen to us, we must milk it for all it is worth. This really should go without saying, but when else will someone mindlessly agree with whatever it is that you want to do when your best defense is, “Yeah, but it’s my birthday.” Never, that’s when.

3. Normal codes of conduct don’t apply to you …temporarily. This one is a bit of a combination of the previous two, but becomes its own unique brand of birthday wonderfulness. Remember that song, “It’s My Party (and I’ll Cry if I Want To)”? Leslie Gore is saying is that if crying is your jam, then go for it, you have the universe’s permission. Normally, it would be considered a breach of party conduct to cry, but since it’s her birthday, she’s entitled. And really, this opens the game up to so much that more could be socially acceptable merely because it’s your birthday: yelling at your friends, eating the entire birthday cake, not introducing anyone at your party… The birthday makes everything fair game.

4. Let’s not even forget the amount of love and warmth you receive on your birthday, real or fake. In the way that Tim was offput by his friend’s fabricated show of consideration, I relish in all of wholly inauthentic outpouring of emotion on my birthday. It’s nice to have, just for one day, people at least remembering me and making the effort to keep me in their thoughts. Whether these gestures are “real” or “fake” seems arbitrary to me because I know that it comes from a good place. So in summation, I suppose birthdays are self-serving and indulgent, and that’s exactly how I am, so anything less than that wouldn’t really be me. But hey, whatever blows out the candles, right?