Thursday, September 28, 2006

So, the actual birthday itself...?

Not too impressive. Before I explain why, let me preface this by saying that our family doens't really go all-out for birthdays and anniversaries. We celebrate them and acknowledge them, but unless you're a kid in the family, chances are it's going to be with minimal fuss.


Last year, when my husband turned 40, I made an effort of recognizing it in a bigger way than usual. With the help of a friend, we threw a little surprise party for him. Cake, cards...nothing fancy, but it was more than he was expecting, I'm quite sure. I wanted him to know that I knew this was a special birthday. After all, marking four decades of life doesn't happen every day.

But you see, I realize now that I broke one of my cardinal rules of life when I planned that party. How? I had an ulterior motive. I'm not sure I even realized I had it at the time. But I'm pretty sure it was there. I'm strongly against ulterior motives in life...I sincerely believe in giving without expecting anything in return. I think I live by that fairly well most of the time.

But the party...yes, the party was genuinely for him and I wanted him to know how much his friends care about him and that I care enough about him to go completely outside of my comfort zone to plan a gathering of that sort. But. I think I may have also thought that by giving him a little party, he would GET THE HINT that I might like to have my 40th birthday similarly acknowledged this year. Nothing extravagant. Just a small gathering of friends, some cake, some cards...a time to laugh and have fun. To celebrate life.

And then, as luck would have it, just a couple months ago, one of our friends threw a surprise party for his wife's birthday...not even a milestone birtday, but her 42nd. Just because they'd never had a special party for her before. I thought that was the sweetest thing in the world, and I commented on that to my husband a couple of times. And I thought...surely he's PAYING ATTENTION and is GETTING IT that I might really appreciate something like this for my birthday.

So. Yesterday. Birthday. 40th birthday. I got a couple e-greetings from friends and my mother-in-law wishing me a wonderful day. Talked to my mom on the phone twice...she remembered it was my birthday on the second call. With all that's going on in her world right now with the move, I couldn't really get upset at it slipping her mind. My kids, however, said nothing. My oldest is usually pretty good about calling and remembeing, but he didn't call until today. And the younger two? Ok, I thought. They're kids. It probably isn't the first thing on their mind.

So we went through our day yesterday...went to soccer, went to the library...ran into a couple friends when we were out and about, both of whom wished me a happy birthday IN FRONT OF MY KIDS. Did they pick up on this? No. No they did not. Not one utterance of birthday wishes from either of them. Fine. Whatever.

On the way home from soccer, we stopped at McDonald's for a snack. When we got home, I attempted to snag a few of my son's French fries since I didn't get any for me. He, channeling the attitude of a greedy little piggy at that moment, would not share. So, feeling beyond miffed at this point in the day, I said, "You know, it's my BIRTHDAY and you didn't wish me a happy birthday, so the LEAST you could do is let me have some of your FRIES!" At that point, both kids chimed in with a happy albeit remorseless chorus of "Happy Birthday!!!" (But he still wouldn't share his fries, the little twerp.)

Now, I've been on the verge of weepiness all week long...mostly due to life transitions happening in my life and that of a close friend, not really about the birthday at all. However, this obvious lack of any caring whatsoever by the people in my life who are SUPPOSED to love me had really gotten to me. So when my husband came home from work -- after having NOT called me ALL DAY to acknowledge what day it was -- and the first thing out of his mouth was, "So, how was your day?" he was lucky I didn't skewer him with a pitchfork then and there. (Not that I keep a pitchfork in the kitchen, but you get my drift.)

I didn't answer right away. I waited. I was giving him the benefit of the doubt. A chance to THINK and REMEMBER and not completely blow it. So, he asked again. "How was your DAY?"

I have my limits.


Despite how miserable I felt and how big a pity-party I was throwing for myself inside my head, I almost felt sorry for him because he truly had one of the most convincing deer-in-the-headlights looks on his face I've ever seen. "I'm sorry..." he started, but by then I was a full-blown mess and retreated to the bedroom. I mean...I accept the fact that when it comes to this kind of stuff, he has always been clueless. Downright CLUELESS. He's the first to admit that. And for 14 years, I've made the best of clueless. I've put up with it.


For 14 years, my birthday has fallen exactly FOUR days after his. His is the 23rd of September and mine, two, three, FOUR days later....on the 27th. Every year. No deviation. He used to joke that it was a good thing his was first otherwise he'd never remember mine. Clearly his early alert system failed. What about using Outlook reminders? Writing yourself a note? PAYING ATTENTION to your WIFE who has been YABBERING ON AND ON FOR A YEAR about how much she is totally, genuinely looking forward to her 40TH BIRTHDAY?


So, that was how my birthday went. Not at all how I'd anticipated celebrating that day. I'd really love a do-over. :::sigh::: Of all birthdays...I can't remember ever looking forward to one as much as I was this one. Not 16. Not 21. This one was supposed to be special. And I guess it still was. It was special to me as I spent an entire year looking foward to it and ruminating about it and reflecting on what it means and truly being happy to have gotten to this point in life. It really does feel like a milestone to me. I just would have really liked someone else to share in the celebrating. I'd have liked my family to GET ME enough to know how much it would have meant. I think that's what is bothering me the most. That they didn't. And that makes me feel kind of lonely.

I know this post sounds really whiny and oh-poor-me...and that really isn't my style. I don't tend to go this direction very often. I try not to let myself get consumed with self-pitying issues because really? Life is bigger than this and it's too short to waste time being bogged down over a forgotten birthday. I wasn't even going to blog about it because I was worried that people would come away from reading this thinking, "Man, what a self-centered b*tch she is." I've been trying to just put it all out of my head and forget about it and get on with life. It's just silly, I tell myself. But it's still eating at me. And that tells me that it isn't completely silly and I need to be honest with myself about how I'm feeling instead of doing what women do so often and just brush the things important to them under the rug lest they seem selfish.

So, I'm being honest. Yesterday really was not a good day. My feelings were hurt more yesterday than I can recall happening in a very long time. I know it's not the end of the world, and I will get over it. Already today a good bit of the sting of it all has left. (I probably couldn't even have written this yesterday, frankly.) And tomorrow will be yet a better day. And then on Saturday, we leave for Florida, where a whole new leg of this life journey will begin, and the lost birthday will not seem so hard. Time is a good friend.

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