Birthdays. Pah. Who needs them? I’d argue that while the anniversary of one’s birth is an inherent part of life, as there will be a time where the Earth passes the Sun at the same point it did while you were born, the notion of celebrating these events is illogical, deeply sinister and downright weird in their execution. But we’re humans, and above all else, we love our dumb things.
Birthday celebrations are illogical in that they are often focused on the individual whose birthday it is, despite these birthday-havers having done nothing to deserve a celebration; surely our poor mothers, who had to shove us out into this awful world, should be the ones being showered with gifts at this point? Saying ‘Happy Birthday’ to someone is the equivalent of congratulating them for causing their mother, the person who arguably loves them more than anyone on the planet, the most horrific pain the human body can take – well done you.
If you take it back further, you could argue that we should celebrate nine months prior to your birthday, as your conception was the only point in your making when both your parents were directly biologically involved; praising your mother on your birthday ignores the important, although not as physically painful, role your father had to play. If we are going to reward one’s parents on one’s birthday, on the grounds that they were the only ones who actually did a bloody thing, surely we should celebrate the exploits of both, no?
The act of celebrating a birthday in its current state can also be said to be pretty sinister, if you look at the isolated events that constitute a celebration: either a child is covered in gifts too thick and fast for most to be played with properly, resulting in the child only playing their copy of The Incredibles on the Gamecube, getting bored with it and complaining of not having a new toy just two months later as they’ve forgotten all their other birthday presents; or a young adult gets wasted for the first time, damning themselves to a life of having to party often and extensively to keep up their image, regardless of compromising their grades/career prospects/liver’s health; or an adult gets a stupid card from a newsagent gently poking fun at them for being that much older. Clearly enjoyable events.
I’m generalising a lot here, but these are the three main types of birthday celebrations people have (differences in scale, duration and specifics accounted for), and they only seem to push a child’s boredom into the future in stead of dealing with it now, screw with a teenager’s life before it starts, or depress old people.
Birthdays are also weird – only at Christmas, a holiday derived from misunderstandings and paganism, is food set on fire for ritual purposes, and now some families don’t even set their puddings alight any more! Also, the use of wrapping paper to disguise presents only seems to build up children’s’ expectation to even more unreasonable levels, compounding their later inevitable sense of disappointment, and leaves a crap-ton of paper lying around for the parents to clear up afterwards.
However, this is also all part of the charm of birthdays: people like candles, and so sticking them in a cake just makes the cake look cooler and the candles more delicious. Such celebrations also mark important rites of passage in society: one’s eighteenth is a perfect opportunity to go and get legally wasted, seventeenth parties acknowledge a gaining of the right to drive a car, an important symbol of independence, and other bonuses such as the right to marry only reinforce our growing sense of freedom and individuality.
For me, it’s hard to imagine myself in five or ten years, as I will be an adult, and living as one – I’ll still be a cynic and a Football Manager player, but issues like the current economic and political climate, the environmental situation and the price of booze will be much more directly relevant to me; now, politics is something I vaguely follow to be able to get jokes on Mock The Week, but in a decade, it will define my life in much more meaningful ways.
I suppose that being legally a child shelters you from all of this real-world nonsense – if I want money to buy a new album, my parents would normally give it to me, but as an adult, I won’t have this seemingly endless supply of short-term loans that don’t need to be paid back. It seems that birthday celebrations have evolved into crazy events that both mark new social and individual responsibilities, and are rites of passage in their own right; the step up from having a Quazar party to a Paintball one was of particular significance to me and my friends. So be silly on your birthday and enjoy the frivolity and daftness of it all, because tomorrow, even if you feel exactly the same, you’ll be a bit closer to having the freedom you need to define yourself as an individual.
(oh, and being seventeen feels identical to being sixteen, right up until Christmas when you realise the impending madness of A-level exams :))