With September comes an obscene amount of birthdays (I wonder what your parents were doing on New Year’s), including my own. The fast approaching day of my birth invokes a quiet, seeping dread in the back of my brain. First the tune of “Happy Birthday” wedges itself into melody, then the armpits prepare for nervous sweats and, finally, one of the worst days of the year arrives with trepidation and reluctance. Call me pessimistic, but no one can deny the fast approaching decline of birthday excitement as every year notches another tally.
1. The the the repetition
How many birthdays do you have to celebrate to finally get sick of corny cards, the once-a-year phone calls with relatives and the dreaded “Happy Birthday” tune?
Then: My favorite cards to receive always opened with a song or personalized message.
Now: Whenever I receive a card I think to myself, “better recycle it.”
2. The awkwardness
I thrive on awkward situations, but birthdays warrant an entirely new kind of awkward that fulfills no enjoyment or nervous-excitement. For my seventeenth birthday (I could finally see R-rated movies!), my hight school friends the hallways with balloons. The act didn’t go unappreciated, but I experienced a massive amount of discomfort and a fierce case of rosy cheeks in front of my peers and teachers.
Then: I was the kid in elementary school who cried if I didn’t get the attention, presents or treats.
Now: Can we please have a low-key pregame with no “Happy Birthday” tune? That is until I’m drunk enough to make the entire bar sing to me.
3. The “Happy Birthday” song
I think my utter hatred for the “Happy Birthday” song has made itself apparent, but seriously, people, how can anyone stand to listen such a horrid tune? I cringe with the song’s repitivieness and unavoidable catchiness that plays in my head for days after. I’m almost positive my parents have documented evidence of me crying over my own cake; I bet it was “Happy Birthday” induced.
Then/Now: Clearly I have and always will hate it.
4. The fact you don’t turn 21 every year
The only birthdays that matter after you finally hit the coveted double-digits fall between 16 and 21. The much-anticipated 16 warrants teenagers access to the roads, but honestly I felt more safe not handling a motor vehicle. Now, the prospect of 21 seems so far from my almost 19 that I can’t even make myself reach any level of excitement. The coveted 21 peaks the birthday mountain and quickly drops off into the late-twenties and the oh-no-what-am-I-doing-with-my-life thirties abyss.
Then: What is alcohol? I just want my Polly Pockets and Madeline dolls.
Now: Can we fast-forward 2 years? Virgin piña-colodas just don’t do it for me anymore.
5. Where did childhood go?
Every birthday marks a new notch of experience and opportunity. Still, I find myself reminiscing the days when I lived with my parents and could veg on the couch playing Sims (most underrated game) with no worry of exams, men or setting the alarm for tomorrow’s 8 a.m.
Then: The possibility of homemade cookies with the extra pink icing and sprinkles and the anticipation to get the newest Polly Pockets.
Now: “I wish there was a way to know you were in the good old days before you actually left them.” — Andy Bernard, “The Office”
6. People are busy
People would rather celebrate your birthday when you are barely out of the womb and you can vaguely remember the other tots scheming to eat the first piece of cake and steal your present.
Then: Birthdays were always the most exciting event on a calendar for new parents and children. With themes, presents and baked treats for your elementary class (why did we bring in our own treats?), who wouldn’t be excited?
Now: My dad sends me nuts and dried fruits to remind me that he’s thinking of me.
7. The reality that life keeps on keeping on
To most people the date you exited your mother’s womb fails to resonate as any kind of special day, especially if it’s a Monday. Professors still give exams, clubs don’t reschedule events and businesses keep the money flowing; unless your birthday falls on a national holiday, then I’m even more sorry.
Then: Teachers and students would take time out of class to share your goodies and of course sing “Happy Birthday.”
Now: To commemorate my nineteenth birthday, I plan to study the ocean all day for an upcoming exam.
8. Blatant insincerity
In the age of social media, wishing people happy birthday has fallen to new lows of insincerity. We justify that a quick “happy birthday” text with dozens of exclamation marks and an overused emoji is better than forgetting or postponing our wishes until we aren’t as busy.
Then: The wishing and congratulations of a new age and year were more personal and thoughtful. Remember those fun singing cards?
Now: My go to for wishing someone a joyous birthday is the ever so subtle Facebook post: “Happy birthday!!!” No name or anything.
9. To Give or Not to Give
With the evolution of insincerity and the hustle and bustle of the adult word, the significance, importance and quality of presents diminish with every new day of birth.
Then: One year my father took me on a kid’s dream birthday spree to the dollar store and Toys R Us.
Now: Four words: dried fruits and nuts.
10. High Expectations
In this case, I’ve saved the worst for last because the high expectations for birthdays rarely reach fruition. “I just like getting hype for any holiday and being excited for it but then usually the actual day sucks…and if your cake is bad then it make a good day really really bad,” Penn State sophomore Máire McLaughlin said.
Then: No expectations were ever set because birthdays were always automatically awesome; you cared more and so did your friends and family.
Now: The underlying hope of a surprise, that special someone reaches out or feeling all the possibilities of a new year disappear. Instead, you get a recipe for hurt feelings: the “Happy Birthday” and those gosh darn dried fruits and nuts.