The Disillusionment Of Adult Birthdays


Okay, so that title may seem to imply something that’s definitely not my intention… But wacky titles aside, the fact of the matter is that birthdays seem to lose their magic once you reach a certain age.

For my 18th birthday, my parents and I went all out. We hired a venue, created our own invitations (which were hideous, by the way), hired a DJ – the lot! It was a blast of a party and I made memories I’ll never forget. Granted, some of those are better than others, but they’re memories none the less. It’s the last birthday I can point to and say “oh yeah, remember when that happened?” All of the later ones are just kind of a blend of the same old stuff, and there isn’t really anything I can pinpoint to a specific year. And I feel like that was also the last time I actually had a good time at one of my birthdays. Isn’t that sad? Aren’t birthdays supposed to be a celebration of your birth? A ‘hurrah’ for another year lived? And yet… It doesn’t feel like that at all. On the contrary, it kind of feels like everyone is simply going through the motions of what is expected at someone’s birthday.

The realisation hit me last Thursday as I was ‘celebrating’ my 26th birthday (god, I’m getting old!). I say ‘celebrating’ because, in all honesty, it was a day like any other. More than that: it was pretty boring. I spent the majority of the day behind my laptop, catching up on the latest Supernatural season. Now, don’t get me wrong: on any other day I would’ve absolutely loved this! Supernatural is my favourite tv show ever and I hate being behind on it, but I think I’d imagined my birthday a bit differently is all. I would’ve maybe liked a bit more attention from my boyfriend who was sitting in the same room as me, but working on his own stuff – and, to be fair, I can’t really fault him for that because he is doing his internship and is supposed to be working Monday to Friday. I can hardly expect him to drop all of that and cater to my every whim. But still, that doesn’t mean I wasn’t slightly disappointed by how the day turned out. I had expected us to do something fun together – even something as simple as watching a movie, or playing a board game. To his credit, he did sit and watch a few episodes of One Tree Hill with me after he’d finished working, so he definitely scored some brownie points there! I also have to say that the presents he bought me were super lovely and all totally unexpected. He bought me three and gave them to me spread out during the day. He even gave me one to cheer me up as I was feeling down about how boring my birthday was, and it immediately brightened my day! I love him.

Other than that, I guess people just did the bare minimum of what is expected when someone you know is celebrating their birthday. My parents wrote me a birthday card, like they do every year (and, don’t get me wrong, I love the birthday card – it’s the only one I usually get), and gave me a few presents off the list my mom had been hounding me for a week earlier. I got cute little WhatsApp messages from my three sisters. Two or three of my friends sent me a text message. I’m assuming some of my friends wrote a message on my Facebook wall, but I don’t really go on there anymore so I honestly wouldn’t know. And that’s it. The worst part is that I feel like it’s not even genuine anymore. Especially the Facebook messages. People you haven’t spoken to in forever get a notification saying it’s your birthday and kinda feel obligated to acknowledge it. But I even feel that way when it comes to the messages my sisters sent, or the presents my parents gave me. Siblings are expected to do that. Parents are expected to at least give their child something for their birthday. And, I mean, I guess they do genuinely do it because they want to – I just wish they’d make it more obvious that it’s something they want to do. Like, when you’re a kid, the whole day is just one big party and lots of family members come over with huge presents (and, okay, I guess you could say that’s also out of social obligation), and it just seems like everyone was having so much more fun back then. Everyone enjoyed being at that party. Everyone enjoyed watching a kid get all excited to blow out their birthday candles – I mean, how cute! The entire day was about that one child’s birthday. And then when you become an adult, all of that changes. It’s like people are celebrating your birthday merely out of habit. What’s more, they don’t even seem to be celebrating it. Like I said earlier in the post, they’re just going through the motions. And it’s almost a relief that the day is finally over.

It gives me kind of mixed feelings when I say that my boyfriend was probably the only element that made my birthday at least somewhat enjoyable. I mean, obviously it’s great that I have such a wonderful person in my life who buys me all the right gifts and really does his best to cheer me up when I’m not feeling 100% (and did I mention he sat through several episodes of One Tree Hill with me?). But on the other hand: how sad is it that there weren’t any other uplifting elements to my birthday? There was absolutely nothing else going on that day that made me say “ok, now this makes me really happy”. I mean, of course I was glad that my parents bought me a gift and I appreciate my mom preparing a three-course meal that I got to pick, but… The event itself was just kinda bland. We got through dinner as if it was any other ordinary Thursday. Sure, we drank some prosecco and we actually ate at the dining table instead of our little table in the kitchen, but it didn’t feel special. The elements to possibly make it more special than an average weekday were there, but the feeling was missing.

The one thing that causes this disappointment is the build-up towards the birthday. At least, it does in my case. Weeks before my birthday, people in my immediate environment (so basically my parents and my boyfriend, hah) keep reminding me that my birthday is coming up. It’s like this thing that needs to be counted down to. Sort of like something looming in the near future – and the ‘looming’ part becomes more prominent the older you get (seriously, I don’t want to be nearing 30!). And then when the day is finally there… Nothing. Everyone was trying to get you all excited for ‘the big day’, and it’s just a birthday card and a few presents. My sisters don’t even come over anymore to celebrate my birthday. It’s just been me and my parents for a while now, and since last year my boyfriend was also added to the mix. That’s it. No fancy party. No birthday decorations. Just an ordinary day like any other. And yeah, it’s disappointing. You can call me a spoiled brat for that if you want to (and I do realise I have it better than others), but it is what it is. I wasn’t happy on my birthday and to me that’s important – I mean, who wants to be bored on their own birthday? Or worse yet, unhappy?

And you know what? Yes, I would like a day that is completely centred around me, thank you very much. Does that make me selfish? Perhaps. But what it would definitely make me is happy. It’s one day out of 365 where I wouldn’t mind being treated like a princess (although I have to admit I wouldn’t mind being treated like a princess year round). One day where I would just like to take a break from absolutely everything else that’s going on in my life at that point to simply celebrate and be celebrated. Is that really too much to ask for?

The disillusionment of adult birthdays

P.S.: I really want to thank Samantha and Lois for encouraging me to write this post. You girls rock!

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