Birthdates are slightly different. When people are young, their date of birth is celebrated because, well… the children are still alive and haven’t been taken by childhood or otherwise dreadful diseases.
Later, birthdays have a singular purpose — the acquisition of “stuff.” Most of it contributes to brain rot or, these days, a decline in face-to-face social skills. The percentage of children between 8 and 18 who asks for anything practical and instructive is in the single digits… and that’s aiming high.
All those digitoys then contribute to traffic congestion. Nothing has slowed down the flow of traffic (especially in getting away from stop lights) or endangered other drivers (while driving) than the smartphone. Whatever happened to “keep your mind on your driving, keep your hand on the wheel, keep your snoopy eyes on the road ahead”? At least it’s cut down on back seat sex — no one can pay attention long enough because they have to check their phones every 32 seconds.
The turning point that isn't
By the time people arrive at 16 and should yearn for the call of the open road, calling, “Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz?” today’s teens would rather get an iPhone 11… and an Uber. That’s both dependentus eternus and lacking in the courage to face their fellow texters on the road. They’ll be lucky if they leave home by 40 at that rate.
After 21, birthdays really make no sense; except for those who think that it’s the perfect excuse to get drunk and believe that inebriety makes them more attractive. In other words, they're among the delusionals.
By 30, the you’re-getting-old-cards begin, and that’s depressing. It’s not the start of you’re-starting-to-show-signs-of-getting-wisdom cards. No. It’s the over-the-hill, out-of-touch, why-aren’t-you-married-yet (from mom), and at-least-you’re-not-40 cards. In other words, the givers are probably far less mature than the birthday boy or girl.
Skip ahead to 40. Now you really don’t need to have a reason to celebrate if celebrating (still) involves cake or something similar. At 40, you don’t have to eat that food. You simply have to smear it on your hips, since that’s where it’s ending up anyway.
Joining a club you don't want to
Reaching 50 is traumatic. It’s the one where you get that little card in the mail to warn you of the AARPvark (which makes you a part of the cohort of people with chronic diseases, unwarranted obesity, and a willingness to go on Caribbean cruises). So, instead of going out, most people should consider staying in so they won’t be embarrassed when a mariachi band surrounds their table singing “Happy Birthday” in a language they don’t understand.
At 60, retirement used to be in sight. Now, if you’re still working, you definitely don’t want to let anyone at work know your age. That’s the fastest route to getting an early retirement package. Or a layoff only three days before you get vested (if you still have a vest that can fit you). And if you’re in a youth-skewing industry like film, TV, advertising, software, or porn films, you’ve already spent 20 years out of work. But you don’t pay a mortgage when you live in a tent. On a sidewalk in downtown LA.
Those of us who make it to 70 need others to remind us of our age. We can’t remember on our own, and it doesn’t help when doctors say, “It’s normal for your age” when you don’t know what age they're referring to. Children and grandchildren might call with good wishes (or reluctant ones), but those who invite you to go out for dinner that’s high in cholesterol and dessert that puts you into diabetic shock are hoping that tomorrow they’ll be going to the reading of the will. Not everybody knows that.
Over and out
After that, why bother with birthdays? No one wants to hire you (and hasn’t since the day you turned 40) because you’re no longer young enough to know everything. And knowing that you know more than the people who know everything means that they know that you know, and that’s why they don’t want you around. Y’know?
So I gave up on birthdays a long time ago. Unfortunately, my family has not. So once a year, I act as if I’m happy that I’m more than ten years older than my father when he died. And get reminded that I’m young at heart (despite being wholly decrepit at back) and ambulatory (which makes me want a siren for my car) and, according to my lab tests, 23. But I’m not. And I don’t want to be.
I’ve reached my ambition, which is to be an old curmudgeon. When I announced that to a friend when I was still in my twenties, though, she asked, “What will be different then from now?” I’ll be older, I told her. And so I am… every day. And nobody celebrates that. But anyone who says, “Happy Monday,” should be either put in therapy or shot.
My mother’s pronouncement is beginning to make sense: “Do not call me on my birthday and wish me happy birthday. Call me on your birthday and thank me for having you.”