Today is my birthday.
I never expected to spend the last two birthdays of my 20s in lockdown, but here we are. I have no choice but to spend my birthday at home (or on a socially distant walk). No chance to brunch with my besties, relax at a spa or organise a weekend getaway so salt bae can feed me meat from a knife.
Dear reader, I’m going to let you in on a little secret… that’s it, come a little closer, I don’t want to everyone to hear me…
*whispers* I’m perfectly happy spending my birthday at home, by myself.
I don’t remember the last time I actually enjoyed my birthday; I’ve always felt so much pressure to “have the best day ever”. In reality, I was often full of anxiety; anxious about the presents I would get and how my reactions would be perceived, anxious about whether anyone would remember or even care that it was my birthday, essentially anxious that people would ignore me or pay too much attention to me.
Learning about my neurodiversity has given me a lot of context for my aversion to birthdays:
I’ve always been sociable but generally struggled to maintain close relationships, planning an event inevitably leads to me worrying that none of my acquaintances are actually “friends” and don’t even get me started on wanting to invite someone I forgot to message back a month ago!
Birthdays always come with an onslaught of unplanned phone calls from distant family members and church friends. I hate phone calls at the best of times, but there’s a social implication that you should answer all calls on your bday and be completely ecstatic and polite when you do.
Over the years, I’ve unconsciously detached from most events that invoke intense emotions (that’s another essay!) a lot of the time, when my birthday is coming up, I just don’t…care. I don’t feel any more or less joy than I do on a random Tuesday in October. Of course, that kind of reaction is a real bummer for other people, so I tend to mirror their excitement when I’m talking to them. Cue me pretending I’m super stoked and have a tonne of activities planned where everyone who has ever met joins me, we have a wonderful time and they give me the best presents ever.
Oh yeah, presents, lets unpack that mess. I hate getting presents. I love to give presents, but I hate receiving them. I’m sure there’s a bunch to unpack with my therapist about not feeling worthy of gifts, but honestly that’s only part of the equation. People often buy things that are nice “in theory”, but really not for me, especially when it comes to clothing. I have about a million check points I go through when I buy new clothes, from brand to design to fit to label placement. You might have seen me in a black mesh body before, but the black mesh body you just gave me has a scratchier fabric, or the CEO just said something transphobic, so I don’t want their clothing near my body. But it’s impolite to do anything but smile when you get a present, so I’ll expend a lot of energy masking and thanking you for my gift before putting it on a shelf until I feel like enough time has gone past and I can donate it without you noticing.
So yeah, I would obviously prefer it we had a competent, caring government and we weren’t still in lockdown while New Zealand are hosting raves, but right now, I’m enjoying the lack of expectation and spending my birthday in my front room, getting buzzed on rose and Funkin cocktails, and playing my favourite narrative story game.