One of the weirder things about men, at least men in the English-speaking countries, is that they don't seem to care that much about their birthdays. Maybe it's because they don't fancy being King of the World for one day of the year; it implies that they are not King of the World all the year around. Or maybe the charming schoolyard tradition of "paddywhacks" (spanks or kicks to the behind)--which for the first time I realize is an anti-Irish slight possibly confined to the Province of Ontario--teaches them that birthdays = violence, so it is better to shut up about it.
However one thing men must learn if they wish to get along with women is that the majority of women--particularly women of the girly-girl variety, with whom I proudly align myself--really care about birthdays.
I went to an all-girls school, and there it was the custom for a girl's friends to decorate her locker for her birthday. This provided an early lesson in the need to actually inform your friends that it is your birthday. It also inculcated a strong sense of responsibility for the birthday happiness of others, for what kind of a friend leaves her friend's locker undecorated on her birthday? Finally, it was a bracing test of the fine feminine skill of mind-reading and gauging the social hierarchy, for it was necessary also to know whose job it was to organize the birthday locker-dressing.
(This is the point at which male readers, totally confused, are likely to click away to something else. Here you go, boys. And here.)
In adult life, particularly adult Single life, responsibility for a happy birthday usually falls upon the birthday girl, who has to organize things for herself, even if it is merely saying to her female flatmates, "It's my birthday next week." If the flatmates scurry into girly-girl organizational action, all is well. But if they aren't that sort of flatmate, then the birthday girl has to think more carefully and rather more obviously organize a happy birthday for herself.
When I was twenty-nine about to turn thirty, I was very very Single indeed, not having been on a date for a year or so, and spending as much time as possible writing bad poetry at the local bohomenian cafe. (This place was packed with Goths, artists, writers, rep theatre types, philosophy students, and the local Lothario, a housepainter named Graham.) I did not like the idea of turning thirty, but I liked the idea of dying even less, so I decided to turn thirty with a bang.
I invited a great number of friends, both from the town I was living in and my hometown (an hour away), to dinner at the best Chinese restaurant in town (for which they would have to pay) and then back to my tiny bachelor flat for cake. And a tremendous number of friends did turn up, and they insisted on paying for my own dinner, and we went back to my place for cake, and it was all marvellous.
The mistake many Single women make is to assume that boyfriends and husbands just naturally take birthdays into their own hands and organize them as merrily as if they were girls. This is sometimes true, but very often NOT. No, many married women (at very least) have either to explain the importance of birthdays or stew in disappointed resentment. Marriage not being courtship, and marriage being permanent, I think even a good sparky quarrel on the topic is preferable to "Oh poor me. My husband isn't doing anything for my birthday. He thinks it is a movable feast, and we can do something next week instead. Sniff, sniff. I need a cookie."
Amusingly, just after I wrote the title for this post, B.A. dropped by to ask what I want to do on my birthday. Good call.
What is your idea of a fun birthday?