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It's not my birthday

Un-birthday, non-birthday, just another day - all of them sound better than saying, 'It's my birthday'.

Birthdays are regular, inescapable events that roll round, bringing with them the equally regular and inescapable expectations of other people.

"What are you doing for your birthday?"

"What are you getting for your birthday?"

"Are you treating yourself? We went away to Paris for my birthday and next year I'm getting Jim an experience day on a helicopter."

I know that last one is quite specific, but people do very specific, special things for their birthday, often trying to top what has gone before or create dramatic experiences to celebrate coming, screaming into this world.

For my birthday I am always reminded of the Hobbit approach to birthdays where the birthday person is expected to arrange a big party for everyone and buy presents for all the people in their life. I actually like (LOVE) the idea of giving other people presents instead of receiving them myself, but setting the focus on others is what birthdays feel like.

I have to appear to be happy (It's your birthday!)

React suitably to presents (I could love them and still only look vaguely pleased)

React suitably to visitors (open the door for a start)

React extremely suitably to going other places specially for an occasion centred around me (deep breaths, deep breaths)

All of the above are reactions arranged around other people but starring me as the central player. This is the nightmare of getting married all over again.

The eyes are on you at birthday time. Whether you try to react suitably or not, the attention is very firmly fixed.

And if you don't like birthdays? Well, apparently this is an alien concept, especially if nothing horrible has happened to make you dread that date on the calendar. The dread of the birthday itself is not an acceptable reason. You're also not allowed to dread the visitors or the presents, or even the singing - how can anyone over 10 enjoy the singing??

This year was different. My eldest son is jollying off to Japan again and will miss my birthday, so he asked if I would like an early birthday.

I considered it: the wrong day, not my birthday, only me and my sons here, a small array of presents opened nearer lunch than breakfast, no visitors, no singing and no going out with a face on.

I grabbed that early birthday! And spent most of it in pyjamas. I reacted well to the presents because, being my sons, the presents were exclusively chocolate and books, so, you know, no forced reactions needed.

I stifled the niggles of nerves first thing in the morning as the negative association of Birthday was strong enough to creep in when I realised it was my unbirthday day. Stifled it right down, faced the day, and enjoyed it.

And my actual birthday?

In honour of it, I might eat chocolate and read books. Or I might not do anything, which would be my own special non-reaction to the day.

And for the record, eldest son started singing Happy Birthday at bedtime, then cackled. Some things are truly inescapable.


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