Every year on my birthday, I receive a check in the mail from my dad, and the first thing I do is cry.
The tears fall not because of my older age, need for cash or mushy family sentiment, rather because I know all the fun in my life has dwindled down to this flimsy piece of paper with my dad's handwriting on it. Forget balloons, confetti cake, treats in my lunchbox, princess crowns, pizza, colored ribbons, sleepovers, red light/green light. Forget everything awesome.
Now it's just a hundred bucks I will deposit in the ATM and use to chip away at one of my loans.
They sucked when I was a kid and I had to spend them on clothes, and they suck now when I am compelled to put them towards bills, food, and gasoline.
I hate checks.
(Of course, I really appreciate the contribution, Dad! No need to stop sending!)
The way I feel about birthdays is similar to my opinion of Mariah Carey albums. I've had to learn to manage expectations.
What disillusions me most about mon anniversaire is the unnecessary burden that comes along with having a good time. I can go for dinner and drinks with my friends any night, for instance, yet on my birthday suddenly there's pressure involved. People need to show up at the bar or else you look like a major loser, whereas other nights you weren't the source of the problem.
Everyone asks you who's coming, or they periodically check the Evite and Facebook invitation for replies to see if it's worth their time. The days of cards and call-in RSVPs are long gone. Now, it's all about yes, no, or the dick who says 'maybe,' which essentially means he will determine if he comes based on what better options he has that evening.
'Maybe' is as good as not answering and twice as insulting.
Because of obligation and anticipation, you invite as many people to your birthday party as possible, sending out notifications at least a month in advance to every person you've been introduced to who lives within a few miles. It may seem desperate, but it's super embarrassing when you're all dressed up in a new outfit, and there are only two people there to toast.
If you're really pushing it, you ask out-of-state friends to come in for the occasion. They count for at least five locals.
All this extreme inviting doesn't tend to pan out however because the truth is those mere acquaintances care as much about you as you care about them, which is not at all. They'll show up if they need something to do on a Friday night.
And whatever you do, don't plan a birthday in the middle of the week. That only worked when you had parents that needed to get rid of you during the afternoon.
It's hard to tempt people without party favors and a piñata, or apparently pony rides and mobile petting zoos, which I read are the new craze.
For kids, of course.
My mom always had great favors at my parties growing up. Sometimes we created the gifts ourselves. We painted pottery, we played mini-golf for prizes; we decorated hats with trinkets and beads.
During one such artistic initiative, I was so warped in Bitch, it's my birthday! mode I hoarded all the trinkets for myself and wouldn't let anyone else have so much as a piece of glitter for their headband.
"You can have sparkles or you can have friends," my mom told me.
Reluctantly, I chose the latter, but only so there would be tons of people to show up at my forthcoming parties.
Usually, we had carrot cake and ice cream, and I invited the maximum number of friends to ensure the maximum number of presents. I didn't bother with boys because, unless they had sisters, their moms didn't buy good gifts.
Every year, I would jump in place as my friends arrived, sizing up the presents in their hands. I watched the gifts stack up on the appropriated table -- I would squeeze them to see if I could figure out what was inside.
"Beanie Baby, I knew it!" I screamed.
I would gasp with every present I opened, as if I hadn't based my entire invite list on whose parents spent the most money on gifts.
These days however, I expect nothing. My avarice and self-consumption backfired, my ego deflated by disappointments.
I know my friend Liz will probably get me a present because poor thing still tries to salvage that diminishing spirit of our youth. My other friend Kirby will show equal enthusiasm in planning a get together. It's a big reason why I'm friends with them.
My brother will get me a present because he and I have an understanding. We know we're all we have left.
On your adult birthday, sometimes people get you a cake, sometimes they'll buy you dessert at a restaurant. Lots of times they don't do either because they assume you'd rather have a shot of tequila instead of a stack of delicious layers configured into an elaborate confectionary treat with your name sprinkled across the top and beautiful candles flickering in the dark while everyone sings your glory to the world.
I'm scoffing to myself as I write this.
Actually, this year, I think I'll spend my dad's money on a cake. A fucking overpriced, scrumptious, beautiful cake with at least 10 layers of cream frosting, and objects made out of colored icing on top of it. I saw a girl post a picture on Instagram of a Tupac turntable cake a few months ago, and it was the best thing I could ever imagine.
So that's the plan. If you're in LA and want a piece of my cake, feel free to join me. I might just sit on my stoop and eat it.
No pressure though.
I probably didn't come to your birthday party either.