The Week After Your Birthday
The week after your birthday is a very depressing time.
Last week I was the fucking man. My flatmate Joe threw me a mini-surprise party with mini-sausage rolls and mini-pizzas and mini-hats. Everything was mini – except for the gesture, which was huge.
A legally-permissible number of my friends came together to celebrate one thing: my existence. Eric Rushton had been around for 25 years, and people were thrilled about it. I was now half the age of both Matt Damon and Costa Coffee, and I felt proud. For people to show me this much love, maybe it only stands to reason that I too had done something as great as The Bourne Identity or The Chai Latte.
Gifts were given. It almost brought a tear to my eye the way people backed up their love for me with financially significant purchases. Joe got me a projector, which couldn’t have been cheap, and it was exactly what I wanted. I’d been hinting at it for ages, saying stuff like “It would be well good to get the new Vankyo Leisure 430 projector for my birthday.”
He took the hint and now when we watch films together it feels like we’re in the cinema. All we need is to cover the floor in popcorn and have a group of obnoxiously loud teenagers sit behind us, and I genuinely wouldn’t be able to tell the difference.
Katy, my latest squeeze, bought me loads of stuff. Clothes, baking equipment, a sick rocking chair for sitting outside on. She crocheted me a gift. Not as financially significant, but I suppose there’s something to be said for the thought that went behind it. And I reckon it took her a fair few hours to make, hours which could’ve been instead sold for labour. So, in a way it was financially significant.
Even discounting the rule-adhering gathering of friends I had, people came together on multiple social media platforms to show their love.
Mainly Facebook. Facebook is considered to have lost a lot of ground in recent years to platforms like Instagram and TikTok, but when it comes to receiving birthday messages, Facebook is still king.
That flood of posts on your timeline is dopamine heaven. You sit there all day, basking in yet another notification, yet another happy birthday post. Sometimes it’s a picture of you and a friend together; sometimes it’s a long message about how great you are. Sometimes it’s just a person you forgot existed, with your bogstandard “Happy birthday!” - yet still, the dopamine hits.
For one day, everyone has to be nice to you, no matter how you behave. It’s such a violation of social etiquette to be mean to someone on their birthday. It’s like you’re a dictator that no one can criticise. You could commit multiple human rights violations and if anyone criticised you, people would be like, “Wow, calm down, it’s his birthday, he can do what he likes.” If Bin Laden’s birthday was September 11th, I genuinely think the war in Afghanistan would’ve been avoided.
But then your birthday ends, and you’re no longer allowed to be rude to people, or commit an atrocity that kills thousands and incurs a global response that would ultimately destabilise the middle-east for the next two decades.
The next day you’re just a regular person again. You still get the odd belated birthday message, and a few people asking how it was, but the attention dwindles rapidly.
It’s now been a week since my birthday and the low feels as intense as last week’s high.
I’m sat on the sofa, laptop hooked up to the projector, and I’m typing these words onto a 200-inch display on the wall in front of me. Microsoft Word never looked so good, yet I feel empty.
What’s sadder is I’ve still got my birthday decorations up. Balloons and confetti everywhere. I can’t bring myself to tidy it up, just so every time I walk into the living room I can pretend I’m having another surprise party.
But I need to accept that it’s no longer my birthday. There’s nothing worse than someone who won’t admit when their time in the spotlight is over, like a celebrity desperately clinging onto fame. I’d do anything; I’d go on strictly or eat a kangaroo anus in the jungle if it would make it my birthday again.
Now there are 51 weeks until my next birthday. 51 bland, pointless weeks that I have to get through. 51 weeks of being anonymous.
Andy Warhol said in the future everyone will be famous for 15 minutes. He was wrong. We don’t just get 15 minutes, we get a whole day on our birthday – 1440 minutes of fame.
Cherish it. Because take it from a guy who knows: it won’t last forever.
Anyway, I’ve got some week-old mini steak slices to finish.
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