#2186 The problem with birthdays

This is my two year old niece Sofia Grace. She always makes me smile.

I turn 28 on Sunday. Twenty eight years old. That’s nearer 30 than I’d prefer and when I really think about it, quite old, but everything’s relative and I know how annoying it is when 21 year olds tell me how old their age sounds, so apologies to anyone in their twilights (or post 29). But like I was saying to the two Kiwi girls I ate lunch with this afternoon (aged 25 and 20, respectively), I don’t feel a day older than I ever have, and life seems to get better with age. My beef is not with getting older, it’s with birthdays. When I was growing up at Muriwai Beach in the early 90s, I used to have these neighbours named the Stents. The Stents were Jehovah’s Witnesses and I felt sad for the three children (all aged similarly to me), because J Dubs don’t celebrate birthdays or Christmas. No cake, no presents, no Santa Claus. But the older I get, the more I feel like they might have had the right idea. Why? See below for a chronological list of all the reasons I hate birthdays.

In 1996, when I was turning 12, I threw a birthday party and invited every boy in my Year 8 class. One of the kids was a Taiwanese foreign student named Kevin. When I handed him the invite, he double took, whooped, and grabbed me in a huge hug. Then he started crying. I asked him what was the matter. He said, “Nobody’s ever invited me to a birthday party before.” I just about started crying. Imagine being the one kid in class who is always overlooked. I’ve never forgotten that moment.

In 1998, I was two years into my high school career, and I hated it. Being small, lippy and quick to cry made me an easy target for bullies. On my birthday, my parents gave me money to buy my lunch, which was a rare treat. As I was walking away from the cafeteria eating my steak and cheese pie, a guy named Matt came up to me and slapped it out of my hand.

In 2006, I spent the first half of the year travelling around Europe and the Middle East with my family. I left Amsterdam for New York on my birthday, and said goodbye to my parents at the airport for what was to be the last time for months. When I was about to board the plane, an American customs official approached me. “Sir, why are your eyes so red?” he said. “Um, because I just said bye to my parents and I got a little upset,” I said. He took a step closer. “Is that the truth?” he asked. “Yes, that’s the truth,” I replied. One step closer. “You’re nervous aren’t you… Why am I making you nervous?” he asked. “I don’t know,” I replied, “Maybe because you’re interrogating me?” He placed his hand on my arm, and lead me away from the passengers. “Come with me please sir.” He then asked me to empty my pockets and my bag. “Before I let you go, I have one last question for you,” he said. “Have you taken intravenous drugs in the past 24 hours?” Happy Birthday to me.

In 2009, I broke up with my girlfriend of two years and took it pretty hard. About six weeks later, I had a birthday dinner with family, a couple of friends and for some incomprehensible reason I invited my ex girlfriend. Every five minutes or so, I had to leave the table so that nobody would see me crying. It wasn’t a good time.

On my birthday in 2010, I received notice that I was to be sued for defamation because of something I’d written on my blog. It was dismissed within about two days, but it gave me a pretty gigantic scare at the time.

So… Can’t wait for Sunday.


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  1. Earthcanvas says

    36/9…your numbers . “the life you were born to live” by Dan Millman author of the peaceful warrior… “no worries, follow your bliss” quoting your dad… I guess getting a post from a old lady for your birthday is a bit sad. loc.

  2. Mum says

    Oh my dear son. I just want to wish you the best of happy birthdays, despite this catalogue of semi disastrous birthday experiences and say that one of the reasons I feel sad about birthdays is because I can’t always share them with my lovely children. Your 28th birthday is one such occasion. I hope you received a small package in the post and don’t eat the contents all in one sitting! 28 is a significant milestone – often a life turning point – and I know it will also be for you, in the most positive of ways. Lots and lots of love, Mum and Dad XXXXXXX

  3. says

    In 2010 I spent hours and hours making sure your birthday wasn’t going to be a disaster. I got the secret cake and everyone was nice at dinner and I wrote you the longest inspirational thank you note of all time. I can’t believe you forgot that. 

    • Rebeccah says

      That was a really good cake. And 2010 was your first birthday with Sofia Grace! Remember how she charmed everyone at the table? I do.
      Happy New Zealand birthday mon frer, I’ll send you a happy New York birthday tomorrow. 28 is the business. You’re old enough to be taken seriously and young enough to enjoy it.
      Lots of love
      Ps I’m pretty sure in 2011 you got a Commes wallet..

  4. anonymous says

    I love the story about your 12th birthday. What’s the bet Kevin will always remember that moment as well, Happy birthday!!!

  5. Liz says

    Hmm 28 – funny how that can be a life changing year…… hope the actual day went well, but really – have a brilliant continuing life, keep real, enjoy, yippee, wow!

  6. Melody says

    Re: Stents – would that be Sarah, Brad and co? Don’t feel sorry for them, Witnesses have plenty of fun without birthdays (parties,balls and a whole heap of other social gatherings)


    Yo Tess, is that Tess from Whangarei, Swing Video Clip Tess?

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