On Turning 40
Happy birthday to me,
happy birthday to me,
happy birthday dear....
Oh. Hello. Yes, it's true. Today IS my birthday. And not just any birthday, today is the big 4-Oh for me. Not that that really means anything to me. I don't feel 40. I'm told I don't look 40. And I wouldn't have a clue what "acting 40" even means. The truth of the matter is, that increase by 1 in my age doesn't really phase me much. Well, actually, I have to admit, 35 was tough. But that's because of my bizarre "math teacher" brain. I just couldn't stop thinking about the fact that I was half way to 70! Somehow half way to 80 just doesn't have the same impact. But "half way to 70" really threw me for some reason.
Birthday's are strange occasions for me. I was raised as one of Jehovah's Witnesses, and as you may or may not know, Jehovah's Witnesses don't celebrate birthdays. Well they don't celebrate anything really. No Christmas, no Easter, no Thanksgiving or Halloween. Nada. It's not that Witnesses are against celebration on principle. They are, believe it or not, generally fun loving people. No, for each holiday, there is some specific reason why observing a holiday on that day is unscriptural or why a celebration is inappropriate. I won't bore you with the explanations for all the holidays, but since this is my birthday and I did bring the subject up, I'll tell you why Witnesses don't celebrate birthdays.
You see, there are only 2 birthday celebrations mentioned in the Bible. In the old testament we read of the birthday of Pharaoh. At that birthday party, Pharaoh's baker was beheaded (either that or his cup bearer, but I really think it was his baker). In the new testament we read of the birthday of King Herod. At that birthday party, John the Baptist was beheaded. Clearly the lesson to be learned here is that birthday celebrations are bad because people always end up being beheaded. And therefore, Jehovah's Witnesses do not celebrate birthdays. O.K., O.K., I admit that is a rather blithe over simplification of their reasoning, but hey, it's my birthday so I can explain it how I want to. And you need to realize that to a child's way of understanding things, that truly is the explanation. When I was little and my friends asked me why I didn't celebrate my birthday (or more importantly theirs) that was the reason I gave because that was how I understood it.
So anyway, now birthdays just feel strange to me. Though I walked away from the Witnesses in my early 20's, I still, to this day, have never had a birthday party. I wouldn't know what to do if someone threw me a birthday party. When people wish me a happy birthday I always feel awkward and slightly guilty.
What happens in reverse is even worse. I can NEVER remember other people's birthdays. I never had to when I was young, and I'm just not used to it. I've been with my partner Ron for 11 years. I always forget his birthday. I remember our anniversary no problem. But birthdays? I've just got this mental block. My best friend Betsy - same thing. I forget her birthday every year! Now when I say I forget their birthdays, I don't mean the dates themselves. Ron's birthday is March 19, and Betsy's is February 15 (well I'm pretty sure about that one - I'm nearly positive it's the day after Valentine's day. Either that or it IS Valentine's Day. But no, I think it's the day after. Oh man, she's gonna kill me when she reads this). It isn't the date I forget, it's the event itself. There is nothing in my past experience or upbringing to cue me in to the thought, "oh, today is March 19th, that means it is Ron's birthday today." Because birthdays never held any significance for me. My mom, my dad, my sisters, my friends who were Jehovah's Witnesses, their birthdays would come and go without notice or comment. We just didn't pay any attention because, to us, it wasn't anything special.
So where was I going with all of this? I don't know. I think I'm rambling. But you know, that can start to happen to a person when he gets to be my age! No, the truth of the matter is, I'm glad my birthday only rolls around once every 365 days. I'll be happy when tomorrow comes, and the strange, guilty discomfort I've been feeling today is gone.
Oh, and to my good friend Ro, the one person whose birthday I always remember, I would just like to say, Happy Birthday Ro!