I almost never think about my birthday. Even though I have to rattle it off a hundred times a year when asked by pharmacists, bank tellers, and assorted other interrogators, it’s just a string of numbers. I don’t generally think about it as an event.
As it happens, it’s tomorrow, which means by the time you read this, it will be over. And I probably wouldn’t have thought about it this year either except that for the past month Cubby has repeatedly asked me what I want to do to celebrate.
I told him that I would think about it, but I haven’t.
I don’t remember what we did last year. Or the year before that. Or the year before that, which is the first year we were together. I know what we did for his birthday the first year we were together, because I met him only a few days before it occurred. I made him gingerbread bear cookies and we went somewhere for dinner, although I can’t remember where. China Panda, maybe, or possibly Gran Ranchero.
Apparently, I have birthday amnesia. Going back 54 years I can remember only one birthday with any amount of detail. That was the one in 1980, the year I turned 12. I remember I got as gifts from my parents the soundtrack to Xanadu and Linda Ronstadt’s Mad Love album. I also got, from one grandmother, a book about polar bears. From the other grandmother I got a box of beef jerky. My mother made a chocolate mayonnaise cake that was frosted—at my request—with purple and blue stripes.
Maybe I’ve blocked all the other ones out because nothing else could ever compare to the glory of lying on my bed, full of cake, listening to Olivia Newton-John sing about a place where nobody dared to go while gnawing on stick after stick of salty, leathery beef. Or maybe they’ve just all been such dreary affairs that I’ve blocked them out. Surely I did something every year, at least for the first 16 years until I moved out of the house to go to college.
If so, I don’t recall. And I don’t remember a single one since then. My guess is that I simply never did anything. Only a handful of friends even know when my birthday is. My ex-partner never once remembered it in the 10 years we were together, usually getting it confused with the birthdate of his previous partner, which was in the same month but several weeks after mine. After a couple of years of trying to surprise me by remembering, only to discover it had passed, he gave up trying.
Cubby always remembers. So does my sister. Which is great. Or would be if I had any interest in celebrating it. As it is, I feel like I’m disappointing them by not being excited about it.
The obvious explanation of my disinterest is that birthdays are a reminder that I’m getting older. But that’s not it. I’m reminded of that by things like getting progressive lenses at my last eye appointment, and having my doctor cheerfully announce that it’s time for my first colonoscopy next month. My driver’s license needed to be renewed this year, and when I went to do it, the clerk helpfully informed me that the next time I need to renew it, I’ll be eligible for Social Security benefits.
I guess my aversion to celebrating my birthday is that it feels like a dubious achievement. You’ve survived another spin around the sun! Congratulations! Here are some presents to commemorate your successful escape from the amniotic sac! Oh, and also you have been assigned a zodiac sign which, for the rest of your life, will be used to explain all of your character traits and generally be the worst possible option in the “What Jellybean Flavor is Your Sign?” genre of quizzes. Yours, by the way, is Libra, the only sign which is an inanimate object and therefore utterly uninteresting.
Maybe I would feel differently if I were an Aries. Cubby is an Aries and he loves his birthday. The fact that the pandemic made celebrating the last couple of them with friends impossible was hard on him. I did my best to make up for it with homemade cakes and party hats, but I know it wasn’t the same.
I don’t know what we’re going to do tomorrow. I suggested listening to the Xanadu soundtrack and eating beef jerky, but that was vetoed. If I stall long enough on making a decision, possibly we won’t do anything. But probably I’ll suggest going to dinner somewhere. We have to eat anyway, and it means I don’t have to cook anything. But I feel like I should at least attempt something more elaborate. But what? A party? A weekend away? A parade?
Maybe next year. ▼
Michael Thomas Ford is a much-published Lambda Literary award-winning author. Visit Michael at michaelthomasford.com