It's awful. It all begins with that first caller who excitedly goes 'SO. What's the plaaaaan?' I'm sorry, but I don't have it in me to tell this happy person that I have no plans. I usually lie and say something on the lines of 'Yeah, I might go out with some friends in the evening.' This is received well. I have found that telling people that you have no plans on your birthday is often interpreted as a complaint. Or you know, sulking. And now they feel responsible - like, it's up to them to cheer you up on your birthday. And while that's sweet, it's also sad (sympathy plans!) and not to mention, completely unnecessary. Also, this method gets tricky as the day progresses. By evening, the questions get altered a bit - 'So where are youuuuu? What are you doingggg?' I don't know about you, but I'm uncomfortable about lying when people ask me pointed questions. So I go with the truth. But then, they want to know why. Like, one must have a legitimate reason to not party on her birthday. At this point, I usually feel like Joey in that episode of Friends where they all turn thirty. You know? Where he looks up at the ceiling and goes - 'Why, God, WHY?'
Two more calls on these lines and I'm almost depressed. Because I'm now somehow convinced that the reason I have no plans on my birthday is because a) I'm a loser b) Nobody loves me c) All of the above.
But see, this Happy Birthday culture has been around for so long, that I'm now primed to think that this day is special. Or that it ought to be. Which means that even if I've had a fairly decent day, I'm going to feel disappointed if no one made me feel special and I didn't get out of bed with a gush of happiness in my chest. This is absurd. I am not eight years old anymore. Presents don't excite me (well, not as much at least) and the people who love me, do such a fabulous job of it on all the other days, that it really shouldn't matter if they are not particularly affectionate on this day. It shouldn't matter even if they forget. But somewhere deep inside, it does matter. And it sucks. I blame this on pop-culture priming. I mean, who is the genius who came up with the term Happy Birthday anyway? I think about it and it makes no sense. I mean, is it logical? Is it rational to expect people to be visibly happy every year on the day they were born?
What's worse is this unwritten Code of Birthday Ethics floating around. For example, if we're in the middle of a really bad fight and you're not talking to me (because I'm never the one who stops talking to people because of a fight), you still have to call and wish me on my birthday. I'd understand if you're using the birthday to break the walls, make peace, that sort of thing. But most people who follow this rule, usually make a very quick, extremely awkward call and then immediately go back to ignoring you again. I once asked someone who did this, why she even bothered to call me in the first place and she said "Well, it was your birthday. It had to be done!" Err.
And then of course, there are the people who feel like they have to wish you because they've been doing it for many years or because they are related to you and though you've both drifted so far apart and really have nothing to say to each other, they still feel like they have to do it. Though they're secretly just waiting for the day you forget to wish them on their birthday, so that they can conveniently forget yours the next time and this pointless tradition can finally stop.
Don't get me wrong. I love birthdays just as much as the next person. As long as they are other people's birthdays. I love planning and throwing surprise parties, picking unique, thoughtful gifts, making cards, all that stuff. But see, I only do that for the people who matter. And if it were up to me, I'd only wish the people who matter. Because to me, the only thing that makes sense about celebrating birthdays is to show people that you are happy and thankful that they are in your life. Which basically means, you consider it a cause for celebration that they were even born. Makes perfect sense.
But asking people what they plan on doing for their own birthday? That still strikes me as absurd. It's not like I even chose to be born. How is this a cause for celebration and pray WHY, am I expected to be happy on this day!
Especially since no one usually gives a crap if you're not happy the day after. It's like they're saying - 'That's it, we're done indulging you. It's someone else's birthday today and that person actually has plans.'