My birthday is not approaching anytime soon (which is a good thing because I will become so freaking old I’ll probably start seriously considering Botox, then I will turn into Nicole Kidman, receive lucrative advertising opportunities… actually I just decided my birthday is tomorrow) so I feel safe talking about previous ones.
When I was a kid, and then a miserable teenager living with Mom and two brothers, my birthdays meant having Granny, Auntie, Mom and if I was lucky the one cousin I liked around a table. Granny, Auntie and Mom were talking. Cousin was making funny faces at me when nobody was looking (i.e. all the time). I was sulking over presents I received, which were invariably:
- Blue shirts (to this day, light blue makes me look like I have a skin illness)
- Brown corduroy pants (to this day, brown corduroy pants are not something a person below the age of 70 would wear voluntarily, although if you do choose to do so, dear reader, I loudly applaud your flawless taste,
while judging you in my mind).
Once I grew old enough to move out and have my own birthday parties, I decided to have a Great Birthday Bash To End All Birthday Woes. It would be held in the apartment of my then boyfriend, since I had a flatmate who liked going to sleep every now and then. (Also he told me my tattoos gave him migraines. This is not a joke. I have witnesses.) There would be booze, booze, food, booze and absinthe. And booze. And cola for that one weirdo that inevitably moans about not drinking alcohol. (These days that weirdo is me, but I digress.)
While doing the booze, I mean birthday shopping, boyfriend and me decided we’d need some nice greasy dinner to prepare for the drinking. So we picked a jar of fried fish in vinegar. This sounds disgusting but I assure you it was very tasty. It was very tasty on its way in. It was less tasty on its way out.
I started having food poisoning before all guests even arrived. I think both me and boyfriend managed to have one drink before that moment. When they were all there, boyfriend was making “sshh, sshh, have a cup of tea” noises while I was violently throwing up. But then suddenly he was the one violently throwing up and I had no strength to say anything but “I’m going to bed”. I have no recollection of whether I brushed my teeth. Apparently he followed me very quickly afterwards.
I got up at 5am. I walked to the living room expecting to see doom and destruction. Instead I found out that half of the party guests were asleep all over sofa, chairs and some of the floor, and the remaining half were still having fun, although somewhat tired-looking fun, by which I mean there was still some booze left and they were very determined not to let it rot and go to waste. When they all woke up they assured me it was a fabulous birthday party, everybody had a great time and it’s a shame I couldn’t be there.
Boyfriend and me were thrilled to hear that and decided to do that every year. No, actually we decided that from now on “birthday” would be a forbidden word in the household.
Then we moved to Amsterdam a week before my birthday. The apartment was almost completely empty, as my things were still in transit. We had a sofa and a lot of floor though. And beer and snacks were available in the supermarket right around the corner. So I mass mailed everyone at work going “hey y’alls! What a great, great opportunity to meet me in person! (I might have phrased this slightly differently.) Please come and celebrate my birthday with me PLEASE I BEG YOU BECAUSE I DON’T KNOW ANYBODY IN THIS TOWN please! There will be booze! And maybe something edible but FREE BOOZE!!!”
It was supposed to start at nine. Boyfriend and me sat and waited. Then waited. Then waited some more. Then opened some beers and continued waiting. Around 10:30 doorbell rang. I half-expected it would be a mistaken pizza delivery, but no! I had guests! Two girls from my department came in.
“Sorry it’s a bit empty,” I said. “Help yourself to…”
They were already all over the beer. No, not because they were alcoholics. I think it was the embarrassment. At least I assume it was, because that’s why I was drinking two beers at once. To forget the pain of life. And the pain of sitting on the floor with two near-strangers in awkward silence, quietly praying someone else shows up.
Nobody else showed up and the girls excused themselves, as they had to get up early tomorrow. (It was Saturday night.)
The year after that we had to move elsewhere, and so decided to have my birthday party just on our own. We smoked our pipes and drank delicious… whatever it was. Not that I can’t remember or anything. We played boardgames. I can’t remember who won but I remember myself declaring very loudly, if with a bit of slur, “thish ish the besht birthday I ever hashd!”. The day after that I woke up with the worst hangover of my life. And we had to move out three days later. And so boyfriend, who either drank less or had a more seasoned liver was running around packing things, while I lay in bed, my face apparently greener than the one plant we had (it died – I am a well known plant killer – I managed to dry a cactus to death which is one of my biggest life’s achievements) thinking “why have I done this to myself?”.
This should have been a sign that I might have a problem, but I’ve never been very good with signs. I mean, I am 39 and don’t have a driver’s license. That’s how good I am with signs. Also I tend to drift away from the subject and I’d inevitably drive into a– what was I saying? Ah, I was saying I tend to drift away from the subject.
I didn’t celebrate my birthdays after that for a while. One year I decided to treat myself and get a new mobile phone. I went and bought a Samsung Galaxy S3. It was the worst purchase I have made in my life. Never before or after have I been so frustrated with a piece of
shit electronics, and I owned one of those Sony Ericsson things with proprietary connectors that meant if your headphones broke you had to buy new ones, and the software to copy music to the phone required a M.Sc. to operate. That S3 bricked itself spontaneously when I absolutely needed to wake up early. Luckily my body has some sort of internal clock and it woke up when the alarm didn’t go, only to discover that the phone is deader than a dead skeleton of death in a field of dead… dead things. I am not so good with those metaphors. My friend Nina would be able to help.
I will spare you the horror stories about that “present” I gave myself. Let’s just say I’d rather give myself an STD. I hear most of them take less than two years to treat, and I had to live with this phone for two years. ANYWAY, at one point I realised that – knowing a lot of people in Amsterdam – I could actually hold a proper birthday party with actual guests. So I made a list of people I’d like to invite and realised they wouldn’t fit in my apartment. I was in heaven. I made it! I had friends! And not just “we felt sorry for you” friends! I had to halve the list. Then I sent invites and most people said they would come! I just had to buy booze, food, booze and some booze! And then a week before my birthday I got flu. Oh well. Shit happens. Flu lasts a week. I’ll be fine.
THIS FLU LASTED TWO WEEKS.
Most of my guests, when alerted that the house is plagued, simply didn’t show up and I completely can’t blame them for that. I think at the end there five or six people. You don’t remember those things very well when you’ve got such fever you’re near-hallucinating. But I got one of my absolute favourite birthday presents ever. Half a year earlier I posted on Facebook about a ring I would absolutely love to own – a small bronze Thor’s hammer ring. Then I promptly forgot about it. But my friends DIDN’T. I got that ring. They not only dared to show at The House of Living Dead, they brought me the ring I posted about half a year ago.
I love those people.
I haven’t celebrated birthdays since then, choosing wisely to pretend I never have one, so that I don’t have to age. Which would make me approximately 27. Unfortunately this week I remembered my birth year is printed on my ID and I made a big mistake. Huge. I looked at it.
I will be 40 in October.
There’s this thing I might have written about before. I once saw one episode of “Queer As Folk” where a guy was going to have his birthday. He was going to turn 30. He looked devastated. “Why are you so sad?” asked his friends. “Because,” he said gloomily, “in the gay world when you turn 30, you are DEAD”. So you can imagine how turning 30 felt. (That was the year when I bought that S3 phone.) Every single day of being 29 I’d wake up and my first thought would be “I am one day closer to GAY DEATH”. What I did not envision was that I would actually, for the first time ever, become, ahem, popular with gentlemen at the age of 30. It would be my most, ah, fruitful year.
Until I turned 31 which was better.
I will be turning 340… no, typo. Good one though, right? It’s staying. 40 in October. I never actually imagined I would live that long. I mean, at some point the person in bed with you is going to ask you “how old are you?”, you’ll say the number and they will say, dumbfounded, “but people don’t live that long?”. Then they’ll ask your plastic surgeon’s number. Then run away, screaming. Anyway, I will be 40.
I am already planning my birthday bash, because it doesn’t hurt to be prepared. I am going to buy a lot of canned food and two can openers just in case one doesn’t work. I will buy 20 liters of water. I will have a canary because apparently if there is carbon monoxide they helpfully point that out that by dying. (Sorry, canary lovers. Nothing personal.) I will also have a very comfortable mattress, phone charger and my e-book reader. A week before the birthday comes I will lock myself in my mancave and refuse to leave, planning to stay there for at least another week after That Date passes.
Then two minutes before midnight of my birthday thunder will strike the building, hurting nobody but me.