I hate birthdays. I hate holidays, too. I used to love them, all of them, but that’s all come crashing down. It’s a shame, really, when you feel the way I do. Because I am good at birthdays. I find the most thoughtful gifts. The most personal cards. My secret is, I never stop. I’ll be at the Duane Reade in Penn Station on February 19th, and, right there, a flash of cobalt will catch my peripheral.
Happy birthday to a woman whose actual age has finally caught up to the age of her soul
So what if her birthday isn’t until July… that is Terez to a T.
Sometimes I wonder if it’s divinity guiding me. I mean, really, I could be in any drugstore in the world, but here I am, with an invisible fishhook luring my gaze to the single best card for that old crone.
For the longest time, it surprised me that everyone doesn’t operate this way. WWJD, as in What Would Janice Do, if she were here at the drugstore? Would she notice the card? Heh, probably not. But let’s just say she did—then what? Would she think of Terez like I did? Maybe… doubt it… she definitely wouldn’t buy it and stash it in her card file under “July,” then pluck it out the last week of June and dash off a precisely personal note in practically perfect penmanship.
And to borrow from a cheapie bracelet also within eyeshot, Janice drools.
Surrounding myself with the likes of Terez and Janice feels like a punishment when it comes to reciprocity. The last card I got from Terez arrived in a shredded envelope, with what I can only assume was a scallop shell festooning the front. By the time the card reached me, the shell had broken into smithereens; what remained closely resembled the middle finger emoji.
F*ck you, too Terez, you cave-dwelling, non-hand-canceling sonofabitch.
Janice is the queen of belated birthday cards. She’s particularly fond of the ones with cartoon animals—dogs and elephants, with sheepish looks on their stupid faces—apologizing as though they are the idiots who can’t keep dates straight.
No, Janice, you’re the idiot.
You like them more than Janice.
With this realization, I gave up on birthdays. I didn’t give up on Terez and Janice. I mean, sure, Terez is f*cking bonkers; someday she will induce a heart attack being startled by her reflection in the mirror she forgot she purchased in that overfurnished little house of hers. But she would also give me that very heart if I told her I needed a transplant—no questions asked. And Janice, well, her absentmindedness around birthdays was consistent with her absentmindedness around just about everything. But the upside of that personality defect is that she can’t take herself very seriously, which makes her one of the most fun, spontaneous naïfs in a throng of hardened, gray cynics swimming in the sea of adulthood.
If no, continue reading.
If yes, re-read this essay and try again.
Yes, I keep score. Kept score, I should say, because that’s something I’ve been working on. And an outcome of my new outlook is that I now hate birthdays. It’s easier to control that feeling than the crushing annual disappointment.
Janice and Terez, bless their basic little hearts, sniffed something amiss. I still sent them cards, in March and July respectively. This time, though, the cards hailed from the ninety-nine cent section, and were decorated rather generically; rainbows and a graphic motif I think. Maybe that tipped them off.
Or maybe it was the set of highly arched brows I now wore at all times. I couldn’t help it; my face telegraphed my feelings—always had.
“What’s wronnng?” each asked, independently and in earnest, but also corroborated behind my back; that I was sure of.
“Nothing,” I answered, my voice probably clipped, if I’m being honest.
November trundled around, with my birthday a flip of the calendar away. I settled into a funk, preparing myself for my newfound rue of the day.
Thin, tinny drops—fine enough to make windshield wipers moan in exasperation every third swipe. I nodded solemnly in agreement.
My intention was to not check the mailbox when I arrived home, but my sanctimony got the better of me. Inside sat a postcard from a spa wishing me a happy birthday and twenty percent discount. Two solicitations. A card from my mother. An envelope with the return address torn off.
A quarter smile passed over my lips. Goddamn you, Terez, you cave-dwelling, non-hand-canceling sonofabitch.
A week later, Janice’s golden retriever card arrived. “Oops!” said the bone clenched between his teeth.
My fundamental flaw is keeping score. This birthday rates a zilch in my book. But I guess that’s okay, right? Now that I hate birthdays?