“Why is it that we rejoice at a birth and grieve at a funeral? It is because we are not the person involved.” ~Mark Twain
On a July day in the mid-1950s, a woman in Winchester, Kentucky, was mopping the kitchen floor. There is nothing especially noteworthy about this except that she was 9.0 months pregnant at the time. The phone rang and it was her baby doctor:
“What are you doing?”
“Mopping the kitchen floor.”
“I’m not busy. Do you want to come over and have that baby?”
“Well, okay. Let me finish mopping the floor.”
A few hours later, I left the warm, quiet confines of my mother’s womb and was dragged kicking and screaming into the world. For as long as I can remember, every year on July 16, I heard the story of the un-busy doctor and the mopping-of-the-floor. I guess the story is true, but I can’t honestly say that I remember. (My mother also claimed that I got a birthmark when an angel flew into the hospital room and kissed me on the leg, so I’m not entirely sure the woman can be trusted. But, since no one has offered a better explanation for the birthmark, I guess I’ll just have to take her word for it.)
Another annual reminder I got was in reference to my 4th birthday party. As the story goes, when everyone burst into song, it scared me and I burst into tears. (The same thing happened when I turned 40, but for an entirely different reason.)
At some point, we equate birthdays with cake, gifts and a day that’s All About Me. What’s not to like? As a baby, you are oblivious to the whole fuss about being born and the resulting party. When you turn “one,” you hear the “Happy Birthday Song” for the first time and try to distract yourself by smearing yourself with the cake they put on your high chair. And so it begins. A lifelong love/hate relationship with the aging process and the annual celebration, especially the ones on those “banner birthdays.”
“There comes a time when you should stop expecting other people to make a big deal about your birthday. That time is age 11.” ~Dave Barry
Up until around age 10, you are so excited about getting older that you add half years and round up to the next year:
“I’m seven and a HALF.”
“I’m going on 9.”
Birthdays are exciting! Think of the significance of all the milestones:
Age 10: I’m in double digits!
13: I’m a teenager! I know everything!
16: I can drive! I can go anywhere!
18: I’m an adult! No one can tell me what to do!
21: I’m really an adult! (I wonder if the folks will let me move home.)
30: I’m…..uh…..not sure about this…
(My brother is 3.5 years older than me. He was so disheartened about turning 30 that I sent him a bouquet of flowers, “With Sympathy.” To make matters worse, he lived in rural Tennessee and had to drive 20 miles to pick them up! At the time, he seemed so…old. I won’t reveal how old he’ll be this year, but let’s just say I’ve been brushing up on the Beatles song, “When I’m Sixty-Four.” Let the taunting begin!)
Age 40: All of your friends will let you know that you are Over the Hill! You get “old people” gifts like Geritol and reader glasses. You begin to consider lying about your age. People think it’s hilarious to pile forty candles on the cake. Jokes about having to call the fire department abound. People try to roast hot dogs and marshmallows over your cake to show how BIG the fire is. You’re OLD, get it? Everyone wears all-black to your party to show they are in mourning for the death of your youth. Younger people on the bus look at you like they don’t know whether they should give up their seat for you or not. To them, you’re old but not that old.
The Big 5-Oh: Uh oh. How did this happen? You gain the realization that there IS an end to this life. Wow! My life is 1/3 over! No one gives you “old people” gifts because they are no longer funny. You begin to suspect that the people who throw a party for you don’t really like you at all. People begin to “check in on you” when there is a blizzard.
The Big 6-Oh: You begin to notice “little things:” Younger people talk overly-loud to you. People on the bus jump up to give you their seat. You’ve given up on the idea of lying about your age because no one would believe it anyway. You resign yourself to the fact that somebody will feel they have to throw a party to mark this milestone and you find yourself hoping it’s over by 9:00 p.m.
“As we age, we become a lot more comfortable in our own skin; of course, we have a lot more of it.” ~Kay Frances
70: You’ve heard the “Happy Birthday” song 70 times and burst into tears from the sheer monotony of it. Seriously, no one wants to hear that god-awful song 70 times. You just wish they would skip all that nonsense and go straight to the cake. You pray for no gifts i.e. “dust catchers.” Seriously, how many “Clappers” does one person need?
80: You now brag about your age, adding half years and rounding up. You’ve outlived most of your friends and spouses and are secretly feeling pretty smug about it. You can flirt with young people and tell inappropriate jokes and they just think it’s “cute.” Jerks.
90: No one wears all-black to your party because it’s no longer funny. People talk to you so loudly that they’re all hoarse by the end of the party. What they don’t realize is that you can hear them just fine. You’re just ignoring them in hopes that they’ll go back from whence they came and let you go back to watching your “stories.”
100: I’ve outlived all y’all, suckers! You are the only one at your high school reunion since you are the only one still living. The “In Memorium” section takes hours. You appoint yourself Prom Queen, Class President and Captain of the Football Team since there’s no one there to stop you. People throw you a birthday party, but you’d really wish they’d just leave the cake and skedaddle. They are now yelling at you with bullhorns. Everyone is asking you what the secret is to a long life, but you pretend you can’t hear them. You feel ridiculous in that silly hat they are forcing you to wear, but you feel too beat down to argue. You are given your 56th “Clapper.” You wear ear plugs so that you don’t have to hear that blasted “Happy Birthday Song” for the 100th time.
We should celebrate the anniversary of our birth. Another year on the planet is a gift not given to everyone. We should rejoice that we made one more trip around the sun. When people ask us our age, we should state the number proudly and round up to the next year with hopes that we’ll make it there, too. And, while you’re at it, start working on your speech for that Last Class Reunion.
Kay Frances is a Motivational Humorist who encourages people to “laugh more, stress less and take care of yourself!” She gives humorous keynote presentations and stress management workshops all over the United States. She is the author of “The Funny Thing about Stress; A Seriously Humorous Guide to a Happier Life.” To order the book or find out more about Kay, visit her website at: www.KayFrances.com.
Tags: aging, birthday parties, Birthdays, humorous keynote presentations, middle age, milestones, turning 60