Birthdays remind me I’m a failure
I HATE birthdays. Ever since I turned 21, each of mine has been a reminder that I’m nearer the end but further from my dreams. I’m a year from 40 and finally I’ve given up on my dream of becoming a professional football-playing astronaut firefighter. Birthdays also involve being reminded of my significant regrets: the book contract I lost because I had a “real job”, the times I stayed out too late to prove I’m a “real man”, the pivotal comedy performances I messed up because I really like drinking.
It has been said that “a man at 10 is an animal, at 20 a lunatic, at 30 a failure, at 40 a fraud and at 50 a criminal”. That’s my favourite quote about ageing, and it’s from Kakuzo Okakura’s The
Book of Tea, which came free with the Kindle I got for my 35th birthday and still the only book on it, because I never worked out how to connect it to wi-fi.
I’ve done so much failing during my 30s. I’ve been stood up, dumped, fired, had restaurants forget my booking, been knocked back by nightclubs, stuck overnight at an airport and caused a car accident. But I am looking forward to being a fraud.
There are people in their 30s who still have birthday parties and expect others to turn up. Whenever I’m invited to an over30 birthday party, I say I might go, since I’m not clever enough to think up an instant excuse. Then I make my excuses when I think of something decent, or I just don’t show. The worst part is the next time I see that person, I feel bad because I didn’t go to a party they threw for themselves in an effort to feel okay about getting old.
I already have more than enough obligations I fail to live up to. I move cities every five years to avoid accumulating too many birthday obligations, and never go back to where I’m from, thus avoiding old friends and extended family. Something I remind myself of, anytime I consider having a birthday party, is that it’s a celebration of the final day of my mother’s nine months of agony, a day I don’t remember and wouldn’t celebrate if I did.
My 21st birthday and all before were amazing, but every birthday since has tarnished the memories. Children’s birthdays are different, however, as they’re all magic shows, games, sugar, and plenty of other stuff adults aren’t supposed to like but do. There’s often free alcohol and the sight of all those mini-humans creating memories worth remembering is pretty good, too.