The first birthday I truly remember was when I turned 5. I was given a party. The guests were half adults, half children (as a group, not each individual), all relatives. Gifts fell into two categories: toy guns and not toy guns. I used the former to waste the people who gave me the latter. Oddly enough, despite my early enthusiasm for firearms, today, I'm vehemently anti-gun. Though in the interest of full disclosure, I have to admit I'm also vehemently anti-Lincoln Logs.
Having a birthday in early April means that some years it falls on or near Easter. (Why Easter's date "floats" was explained to me once but since it had absolutely nothing to do with me and/or my birthday, I saw no reason to retain it.) During my tender years, this coincidence played a role in the formation of my self-image.
After successfully blowing out all my candles, my father would snort, "That's just great, boy. Ain't exactly rising from the dead, though, is it?"
As I got older, my parents pioneered and perfected something I came to call "almost my special day." This meant that whatever I asked for for my birthday, they gave me something cheaper and/or more readily available, something they thought was "close enough" (i.e., "close enough" to the actual item I wanted that I should be perfectly happy with it). For instance, when I asked for a black leather jacket, they got me a dark brown vinyl jacket; when I begged for a mini-bike, they got me a mini-unicycle; when I wanted a set of drums, they got me a Keith Moon death mask. These wide-of-the-mark gifts bothered me until I finally got to the real root of the problem: My parents were just "close enough" versions of the parents I wanted.
I never went in for the traditional chocolate or yellow birthday cakes. Instead, I always requested pound cake. This worked great because not only did I love pound cake, no one else really cared for it, so I got to eat pretty much the whole thing. This is probably about the time I began to suffer from the rare eating disorder "non-purging bulimia" or, more colloquially, "mall-nutrition."
By age 18, now out on my own, pot brownies took the place of pound cake. At 19, I added peyote frosting. At 20, I was topping my confection with seconal ice cream. But at 22, for health reasons, I switched to low fat frozen smack yogurt. Finally, as my twenties came to a close, I surrendered to a Higher Power (the DEA) and ended up in HBMA (Happy Birthday to Me Anonymous), a 12-step program for anyone who celebrates his/her own birthday more than once a day.
My friends told me turning 30 would be huge. Traumatic. I found it to be no better or worse than any other. I do admit, however, that I was a bit shaken by the "See you soon" message Dr. Kevorkian left on my answering machine.
Last year, when I turned Buddy-Holly's-projected-mortality-minus-1, I told myself to accept the aging process. To welcome it. To embrace the creeping gray, the creases and furrows, the sag, the bran, the obligation to clip and use coupons, the youth-hurled honorific "obsolete motherfucker," the goofening of my vocabularation, the suppurating sores, the lengthening of my vestigial tail. And by God, that's exactly what I'm doing. Or I was until they repossessed the new 'Vette.
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