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revelations concerning my birthday.

ever since i was a teenager, i did my best to make my birthday as unimportant as possible, hitting a point where it became a well-kept secret that i only divulged to my loved ones or closest of friends.

the initial fundamental reasons were two-fold. one, i generally hate it when i'm the center of attention for No Good Reason, and birthday parties at the teenage level were pretty much about exactly that. two, at that time i hated the pressure surrounding the receiving of presents; pressure from the perspective of the gift-giver who may want to get me something fantastic but not knowing what it is; the gift-giver who doesn't give a fuck and is an acquaintance but feels obligated to get something and thus gets something relatively generic, &c. Then there's my own pressure because there may be certain things i expect and if i don't get them i'm disappointed, or there are certain things i may get that i scratch my head about but i have to put on a face of enthusiasm lest their feelings get hurt, &c.

as time went on, more reasons started to evolve and develop and carry through the desire for secrecy. i didn't like the idea of receiving things simply based on an arbitary day when i was born. i liked the fact that only a select few knew about it because it made that connection more special instead of too many people saying 'happy birthday' thus making it meaningless and empty. i didn't want people to feel guilty about forgetting about my birthday because i can be horrible about it myself. the logistics of having a party whether set up by me or by someone else felt like too much effort, particularly if not enough people would be available. i generally don't make a big deal about holidays at all, my birthday is no different. &c.

the low-profile attitude about my birthday is something i've kept up for probably over twenty years now. and many of the reasons why i've kept it low-profile for so long still have relevance to me based on my personality.

And then two things happened.

The first was sometime last year when i was still living in Oregon. one of mark's best friends, David Grant, threw his 41st (or maybe 40th) birthday party, and i was invited to go. I had met David a few times and he was an awesome guy, but the main reason i took the trek up to portland was because Mark and Amanda were going to be there flying in from New Orleans, and in the few times Mark had been back to Oregon we had always seemed to miss each other. so i decided it was worth the trip to make sure i see him, meet Amanda, and hang out with David and whoever else.

And the party was awesome. Mark wasn't the only one who had flown into town to celebrate it; there were others from everywhere across the nation including hawaii that used David's birthday as a pretext to fly out and have a good time. there were literally hundreds of dollars spent on booze and food and supplies and what not, david had a band playing while he played lead trumpet, just a jam session, and it was a great buzz of activity.

And the biggest thing about the whole affair was that David didn't really make the party about himself. he saw himself more as a conduit to bring people together to have a good time, to meet each other, to enjoy good music, eat good food, drink good drink. It felt less like a birthday party for him and more like a birthday party for his friends.

That experience was something i put in the back of my mind, but i didn't think much of it again until yesterday because yesterday morning (saturday morning) i went to a funeral reception, maybe the third or fourth one i had ever been to. The band secretary's father had been going through a lot of health issues and passed away this past week or so, and mark, barry, and i made an appearance at the reception to offer our support and sympathy. We didn't stay for the service, but we milled about the pre-service reception where there were a bunch of nice pictures up, food and drink, and a lot of people socialising and doing whatever you do at a funeral reception.

And some time towards the end of the whole thing, i took a mental step back and looked at all of the people and felt touched. the thought ran through my head that all of these people were here to pay respect to a man whose life they valued a great deal, and it felt nice. And that thought led to how strange it was to me that that person wasn't around to see how much support from friends and family he got, that it took him passing on to bring those people together, and that there should be something that brings people together like that when the person is still alive.

And before that thought was even finished, i thought about David's birthday party. and it was a total 'holy fucking eureka' in my head.

thus, i've decided two things: first, that while i may not always do much for my birthday and i'm not going to necessarily go out of my way to announce it, it's time to stop hiding it, and it's time to feel okay about acknowledging it and receiving acknowledgement and gifts from other people to celebrate it, especially since i also learned a long time ago from a very good friend how much she valued giving me things when i let her and how much she felt stifled that she couldn't express it as often as she would have liked.

Second, i want to get as many of my friends as possible to come out to new orleans and celebrate when i turn 35 in 2010. Unfortunately i can't decide on the date yet because there's a potential scheduling issue: if the last couple of years are any indication, my birthday will fall on the same weekend as WGI finals in Dayton which i'll likely be going to, so the celebration may be pushed a week later. but we'll see. it's not important right now in any case; it's over a year and a half away, so there's plenty of time to plan.

but stay tuned. :)

Comments

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dr4b
Nov. 24th, 2008 01:58 pm (UTC)
I think that it's perfect that the idea came to you like this. Better to have it totally justified and make sense then to one day be like "ah, why not just tell people my birthday, whatever"

honestly, there are other ways to achieve the same thing, but birthdays are always good because, i guess, everyone has one, so people are almost always willing to celebrate them.

for a while in seattle, I had been asking my friends, "how come we're willing to drop $50 on a meal at a nice restaurant for someone's birthday, but unwilling to do it at any other time?" So for a few months running, before I left, we were actually going to fancy restaurants EVERY month on the 7th with a small group (two of us have birthdays on various 7ths of months, so we decided to celebrate the 7th instead of the birthday). That was really neat -- like realizing, "we don't NEED an excuse to celebrate", kind of.

also, I'm in Philly for the next two months or so! but you don't really come through these ways much anymore, do you?
lifeofmendel
Nov. 24th, 2008 03:13 pm (UTC)
i'll be in philly for christmas for two weeks. email me your number. anything at darknote dot org. :)
kalia_prophet
Nov. 24th, 2008 02:49 pm (UTC)
You are so cute. The thought that you put into the whole birthday thing, I never thought of all of that. I never made as big of a fuss about my birthday as my family. I don't hide my birthday but I don't promote it either. It is kind of strange to be the center of attention for no good reason.
catbus
Nov. 24th, 2008 05:03 pm (UTC)
I like that idea. I've been considering the idea of traveling out to meet you, so there's a good chance I'll go!

That's some interesting reasoning behind why you've been a bit secretive about your birthday. It is really weird to have a single day that people give you all sorts of attention and gifts and such. The thought makes me a little uncomfortable, as well.
(Deleted comment)
eversorachel
Nov. 24th, 2008 10:35 pm (UTC)
i was actually thinking about birthdays just the other night. my first thought was "how silly is it that we celebrate this? it's a huge fantastic ME day all about celebrating a person for something they didn't even do". however i immediately argued that point in my head and realized that it IS a day to celebrate. it's a chance for all your loved ones to celebrate you and show you how truly happy they are that you were born in the first place. they are glad you are here and want to celebrate that fact.
pearllessoyster
Nov. 24th, 2008 11:51 pm (UTC)
on the other hand, studying astrology, one's birthday is very much not arbitrary, and a huge defining factor in one's personality; then, your birthday is a fantastic reason to celebrate because it is such a huge part of who you are. for me, with a late-spring birthday, spring has always been a joyous time, and my birthday marks the onset of summer, the wrapping up of the school year, time to start with barbecues and outdoor festivities, so it has always been a wonderful time to celebrate!
kosmickalyx
Nov. 25th, 2008 03:07 am (UTC)
Birthdays are awesome and it truly is a time to connect with friends and loved ones. I'm glad you had the eureka moment that made you decide to thinking about a gathering. . . . .
lifeofmendel
Nov. 25th, 2008 03:17 am (UTC)
hey i still owe you an email don't i? amidst the hubbub of how busy work got in oregon and then me moving out of oregon i think that slipped through the cracks.
kosmickalyx
Nov. 25th, 2008 03:41 am (UTC)
no worries
well an email from you is always welcome and much appreciated. . . . but I understand the hubbub of moving etc.
marseille
Nov. 25th, 2008 03:29 pm (UTC)
I can identify with the No Good Reason. Of course, even my birthday was shared with my dad. Also the Center of Attention--hate it when people at work are forced to sing to me. Badly, too.
Cake helps, though.
Favorite cake? Angel food, cut in half (top and bottom) and chocolate whipped cream between the layers, down the hole in the middle, and all over. Yes, cake helps. That was my cake every year, as long as my mom was capable.
shandrew
Nov. 27th, 2008 05:12 am (UTC)
Sounds great! I've been looking for an excuse to visit New Orleans again.
koocheekoo
Dec. 23rd, 2008 10:03 pm (UTC)
Wha? When did this happen?!? ;) That's very cool. So, April 16th, eh? Spring in NOLA sounds fantastic. And only 35? You are such a baby! :D Well, ok, next year is the big four-oh for me - pooey on that! At least living in Eugene I am not expected to act my age. Whew.

I think your revelation is wonderful in any case. The way you treat that day is up to you. You can make it self-serving or a good excuse to have a fun time with those you cherish or somewhere in between.

Cheers!
lifeofmendel
Dec. 23rd, 2008 10:16 pm (UTC)
you going to come visit too? you're totally invited. :)
koocheekoo
Dec. 23rd, 2008 10:04 pm (UTC)
BTW - is that a David Grant that used to live in Eugene? Is he British perhaps? I know it's a common name - so, curious on that.
lifeofmendel
Dec. 23rd, 2008 10:17 pm (UTC)
i'm not sure if he used to live in eugene or not, but i want to say no. if he's british, he no longer has a british accent. he's a long-haired mustached hippie of a man who smokes a whole lot and plays a mean trumpet.
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