Anita Mechler: Birthdays

Lately, I’ve been thinking about birthdays, getting older, time marching on, being one year closer to death. Birthdays are a great time for reflection on all those existential questions like: where I am going in my life, career, relationships? do I like the person I’m becoming? why hasn’t the word spinster gone out of style yet?

I just celebrated my 34th birthday a little over a week ago and some of my favorite people on the planet have birthdays in January: my dad, my sister, and my derby wife. I also share the day with David Bowie and Elvis Presley, which is pretty fucking awesome and I like to brag about this every chance I get for a little undeserved ego boost. My birthday happens during what I like to call, “the ass crack of winter”, that time just a week after the New Year when people are willing to celebrate your birthday, but they have to conquer an obstacle course of ice, snow, wind, and bitter cold to get there, especially if you live in “Chiberia“.

I long for my Texas birthdays, when the weather was non stop sunny and in the upper 70s. You could have a piñata dropped over your favorite pecan tree, time outside felt endless, and your biggest worry was your ice cream melting too fast. Now I have to weigh the willingness of close friends and the tundra outside.

My birthdays have become increasingly quiet and have ended earlier and earlier, which to me is a sign of aging and perhaps even maturity. Honestly, I sometimes miss the days of my 20s when I threw huge parties in my small apartments, wanting to pass out before any of my 50 guests got there because I had already imbibed too much. But I don’t miss waking up the next morning to find the carnage of the night before, while nursing a Godzilla-sized hangover.

Nonetheless, I hold to some beliefs about birthdays, I think they are special. I believe that everyone should be able to take the day off from work for their birthday. If they can, they should take a four-day weekend. Nothing says “I love you” to yourself more than being lazy and self-indulgent on the day of your birth. I also think that there should be a special delivery service that you can use on your birthday so that you have everything brought to you, like a massage therapist, a cocktail (or several), dinner, and even your friends, if you so choose.

Perhaps Patton Oswalt has it right with his belief that people should only celebrate certain milestone birthdays and not care about the rest of them. One year, I had decided that I would have such a fabulous birthday by inviting everyone to a casino where we could eat crab legs and sushi at their buffet and win millions at the slots.

Unfortunately, there were several problems with this plan: the casino was in Indiana and my friends and I all live in Chicago, I don’t own a car, and the aforementioned “ass crack of winter” time of year. It was bitterly cold that day and there was ice everywhere, the wind was the kind that mercilessly cut through all 4-5 layers of clothing, past your epidermis, and down to your bones.

Alas, I was determined to have a great time because it was my freaking birthday, damnit. My then boyfriend and I waited outside in the cold for at least an hour hoping to catch a shuttle bus to the casino, which had several locations all over the city. Too bad for us, it turned out that the shuttle website we had checked before leaving our apartment was completely wrong about this particular shuttle stop. We had to take two trains to a friend’s neighborhood to beg our way into their already packed car to get there. Everyone was cold, hungry, cramped, and cranky. We got to the casino and then found out that the buffet line was over an hour wait. This caused the group of people to split up and look for a more reasonable wait time at the more unreasonably priced restaurants in the casino. By the time we finished eating, we had just enough time to hit about 2 slot machines before we had to get back on the shuttle bus to go home. It was the most sad trombone birthday I think I’ve ever had.

On the other hand, nothing beats feeling special for at least one day, when no one should fuck with you, and during which you should be able do whatever you want to treat yourself. Thank heavens for my friends who braved the cold and the ice and that stupid casino birthday idea and who have come out to my private karaoke room birthdays, my pinata in the back enclosed porch birthdays, to my “let’s get so drunk I can’t speak English” bar birthdays. I am thankful for my boyfriend who let me hold onto my unrealistically fabulous dream of a sparkly time at a smoke-filled casino in Indiana. He was there for me in that packed car, trying to cheer me up as I dealt with the disappointment of all the things that had gone wrong that day. I’ve learned that the most important thing for me to do is to honor myself, indulge in those wishes, gather my small group of friends around, let go of expectations, and just indulge in existing.


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