Monday, December 17, 2007

Happy -.5 Birthday

Apparently you're halfway to zero. Congratulations. The fact that your mom insists on celebrating these milestones leads me to believe that there are going to be a frightening number clown and pony related parties once you start hitting positive numbers. Your mom also had a birthday yesterday and mine's right around the corner so it seems like as good a time as any to fill you in on how these work.

1-10 These are good the good ones. Clowns and ponies aside, you essentially get a bunch of your friends together, add sugar, and everyone wrestles. Well, that's what we did at my parties anyway. Actually, I might have just had the one party when I was eight. And come to think of it, I don't remember any wrestling at other people's houses, so maybe I've got this all wrong. If your pin someone the first time we send you to a party and people look at you like it's inappropriate, tell them it's your father's fault.

11-18 Increasingly object oriented. You want things. RC planes, game systems, newer game systems, cell phones, cars, etc. and you evaluate the quality of the birthday based on what you get, which is mostly clothes and savings bonds (again, I can only speak from personal experience). Parties become increasingly complicated. You can't just move the furniture and scream "Cage Match!" anymore (the more I dwell on this the more atypical is seems). Who gets invited, who comes, what they wear, who says what to who, all this crap eventually begins to seep in and pretty soon no one wants to come to your lasertag and putt putt extravaganza because having fun is lame. You anxiously tick off the years the way inmates scratch at calendars so that you can be an adult and sell your stupid clothes and savings bonds and buy important things, like 40 inch speakers for your 15 year old car so that when you drive around people will hear your loose trunk lid vibrating and know that you are not to be trifled with.

19-21 If you do it right you've gone away to school and these are your first birthdays on your own. Likely there is heavy, though not legal, drinking, and you spend the first day of each new year on a bathroom floor. Everyone agrees this is way fun. You kind of stop getting gifts, or they tend to be the kinds of things your friends found in their car on the way over. "Um, we got you this package of gum and 73 cents. Happy birthday" These are as close as you will come to the wrestling parties of old.

22-28 Oddly, the more legal your drinking becomes, the less aggressively you do it. Eventually you decide that vomiting is not the only way to end an evening. The parties get progressively smaller until you end up just eating dinner with some friends and begging the waiter not to sing to you. If you've been in a relationship for any amount of time, your presents start being things that you were going to buy anyway, but timing dictates that they get wrapped and presented as gifts. This is how you end up with birthday vacuums and printers.

29-30 Suddenly the calendar starts reading like a death clock. You probably throw a big 30th, embrace the reaper as he saws the 2 off the two in your decade count and replaces it with a 3, and depending on how closely your life resembles what you predicted when you turned twenty, you may once again end up drinking yourself into a night on the bathroom floor. Gifts become cards, or if you have kids at this point you start getting stuff that's really for them by proxy (strollers, toddler carrying backpacks, etc). People think you're joking about that Xbox, and any suggestion that there should be wrestling results in weeks of unreturned calls and emails.

30+ So far it seems like the key to these is whether or not you're still getting better at something. If you're say, an NBA player (or a 5'11 individual trying to dunk a basketball) then these all probably feel like nails in your coffin. If you're doing a job you've been doing for say, 8 or nine years that you thought you'd be doing for one or two then the approach of this day starts to sound like a fire alarm and you may or may not drink heavily, and may or may not start talking about moving to Guatemala or going back to school to become like, a geologist or something. You may act out by actually having your birthday at putt putt. People come out of ironic detachment but end up enjoying themselves until they're in line for the go carts and the babysitter calls to say that the toddler is chasing the dog with a butcher knife. You end the night laying out radical plans like so many new outfits that you're going to wear in the year ahead and whether you're planning on getting that promotion or digging that well in Uganda, you quietly say to yourself, "This year is going to be my year." Some year's you're right, some you're wrong. At some point you may stop saying this to yourself.

Only then do you get old.

Novel - CH14
Dunking - 29
French - Bon anniversaire


a2 said...

Geologist?? Who would go back to school for that? Stuntman, maybe, but geologist? Booooring!

Heather said...

Who goes to school to be a stuntman? That seems like a hands-on, apprenticeship-type thing.

And, Kyle, what makes you think you can comment on the birthdays 30+? How many of those have you actually had? 1?


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