Recently it was my 55th birthday and amazingly I managed not to cry, sulk, pout, brood, whine, or have a full-blown temper tantrum even though forces around me still insisted we celebrate.
I can’t say I comported myself with the same restraint during the parties of my youth. Every single birthday was a complete nightmare, though, like most children, I waited all year for my big day. The chaos which was the norm of my house seemed to amplify and my mother, who while well meaning, was way out of her depth and tended to retreat into a bottle of vodka while my playmates, without the structure of Pin The Tail On The Donkey, or musical chairs, turned into a pack of wilding ingrates, stealing my gifts, sticking hotdogs up their noses, or, as on my eleventh birthday, make kamikaze raids to take swigs of my mother’s vodka as she fumbled to put the candles on my cake. Naturally, my parties were the highlight of the year. Poor solace for a kid who wanted a mother who knew how to bake a cake that yielded foil wrapped coins and who didn’t feel it necessary to point out that our juvenile jokes, were, well, juvenile. “Really, Patrick, lighting a cow’s fart is hardly Noel Coward.”
Patrick’s fart jokes weren’t the only thing she was contemptuous of. Gift-wrapping as far as she was concerned was déclassé, lacking completely in imagination. She preferred to wrap my presents in newspaper, which, now that I think about it, was probably so she would have something to read as I opened the endless parade of board games (what the hell is Yahtzee?) or, from the kids with sterner parents, an Atlas or worse, a puzzle book.
Naturally, my antipathy to birthdays has grown more sophisticated with age. Now what has me veering towards unbridled sobbing is that song. That fucking song, more funeral dirge than celebration. Thank God answering machines are giving way to text messages. Even the most ardent birthday celebrators can’t be bothered to write out those inane lyrics. I truly believe that I didn’t have children because of birthdays. The first bloody and bloody hard. The subsequent ones just bloody awful.
I do, however, like the day of my birth. The twenty-third of March. Splendid date. I feel sorry for anyone born on, say, the ninth of the month or the eleventh. No poetry there.
But while the day and the month may be great my astrological sign is a bit trying for me. Being an Aries I am suppose to be a natural born leader. Problem is I’m rather indolent and a terrible snob. Come to think of it, that would actually make me a good candidate for being a despot but as a woman that doesn’t seem likely to happen. Has there been a female despot in modern times? Don’t say Margaret Thatcher, she was far too middle class no matter how many wet dreams she had of neutered miners. So here I am, an embarrassment to my sign, one that proudly sports such sterling luminaries as Adolf Hitler and Joan Crawford who, as it happens, was born on the very same day as me. Perhaps the problem is I’ve never been called upon to lead. I need some sort of apocalypse for me to find my true calling. And should that ever happen? First on my agenda? Ban that bloody song.