December 15, 2000
National Q-Tip Safety Awareness Day


What can I say? 

One day a year I'm allowed to act like a big, cranky, stoopid, ridiculous, emotional baby.  (And yes, I know: I ALREADY act like a big, cranky, stoopid, ridiculous, emotional baby for at least three days every single month. But once a year it's nice to know it isn't hormonal.)

What I want to know, though, is when exactly did this happen? When did things change?  When did birthdays become this horrific emotional nightmare to be dreaded and avoided and wept over, year after year?

Or have they always been this way?

I don't think so. I scan the memory archives of childhood/adolescence, and the truth is I am hard-pressed to come up with ANY significant birthday memories, good OR bad.  Grandma threw me a couple of parties when I was a kid -- once in first grade, another in sixth grade -- but they were just your run of the mill,11th Birthday ~ 1968 cake-and-ice cream, new party dress, Drop-The-Clothespin-In-The-Milk-Bottle, *Uninvite Your Best Friend Two Days Before The Party* childhood celebrations. Mostly I remember my birthdays as being non-events, muted and overshadowed by Christmas. Roast beef for dinner. Blowing out the candles on my cake. Flashcubes going off. Opening presents at the kitchen table. New books. Birthday cards, addressed in scratchy alien handwriting, from elderly out-of-town relatives I barely knew. Itchy new sweaters. Toys that broke an hour after I opened them. Drop-in visits from my parents (separately, of course). 

Normal childhood birthday stuff.

My eighteenth birthday was memorable  ...  what little I remember of it. At least I made it all the way through the Beach Boys' third encore before vomiting on anybody.

The day I turned twenty-one, my mom bought me my first legal beer. Later that night the Balding Aluminum Sales Guy and I went out to dinner, where I had my first legal screwdriver, my first legal Cabernet Sauvignon and my first legal bottle of champagne. 

The following morning I had my first legal puking hangover.

The last *adult birthday* I can remember genuinely enjoying was my 24th. I'd just given birth to Jamie, a few days earlier, and I was still floating along on a lovely postpartum/New Mommy *high.* (Not to mention all those lovely postpartum/New Mommy pain meds.)  I was in love with my baby, I was in love with being a mother for the first time ... I just sort of padded around our house all day long in my nightgown, with my newborn baby daughter in my arms  ...  baking caramel rolls, greeting visitors, smiling into Kodak Instamatics a lot. That was a sweet birthday.

A lot of the "Mommy Birthdays" were sweet, come to think of it.

Sometime in the late-80's/early-90's, though, I decided I'd had "enough." No more birthdays. No more birthday celebrations. No more ridiculously overblown birthday expectations that never quite turn out the way you planned. "From now on," I announced to family and friends, "December 15th will be known as 'National Q-Tip Safety Awareness Day.'" And I warned them that any overt mention of Mom's Birthday would result in swift and lingering Frowny Faces. (Read this: I still want you to make a fuss. I'm just not gonna look like I'm enjoying it, OK?)  And it's pretty much been that way ever since.

Lately, of course, I've manufactured all sorts of interesting new reasons to hate December 15th every year. I live a bazillion miles away from my children. I have to work on my birthday. Flowers make me sneeze. There are no safety pins in my birthday cake. I can't get my boyfriend to propose.

I'm in my FORTIES, forcryingoutloud.

All of this, of course, leads me to wonder: what if things were perfect?  What if all of the conditions were exactly, perfectly conducive to the birthday of my dreams: I woke up to find the sun shining on freshly fallen snow ... I had the entire day off from work ... David was playing the Beatles' "Birthday" on his Rickenbacker, and all three of the Tots were sitting on the sofa, singing along ... a vanilla buttercream cake was baking in the oven ... there was a stack of presents on the kitchen table ten feet high, and one of them looked suspiciously like a ring box.  Would I be happy then? Would I enjoy myself? Would I manage to get through the entire day without mopping Maybelline off my chin?

Or would I still find a reason to bitch?

Good Angel/Right Shoulder: "Yo! Secra!
Maybe all of the negative emotional energy
you generate by being a big grumpy poop about your birthday
every year is more satisfying to you than
generating POSITIVE energy would be."

Bad Angel/Left Shoulder: "Yeah? Did *positive energy* ever
get you that PONY?
Shutthefudkup already."

Oh well. No time to speculate about any of that right now.

David will be here to pick me up in twenty minutes for the much-ballyhooed birthday dinner. It's time for me to wander down the hall to the ladies' room and transform myself from *Demure & Professional/Executive Ass Secra* to *Cutely-Slutty/Birthday Girl Secra.*  (In other words: time to let my hair down, throw on that extra coat of blush and yank the stoopid "modesty panel" out of the front of my dress.)

Let the *National Q-Tip Safety Awareness Day* festivities begin.


repaying a little more of that karmic debt

two years ago: december baby
one year ago: birthday bitching

throw a rock