COLUMN | Unhappy Birthday

I did something sly and naughty this week. I kept a big secret. I wasn’t hanging around in a sauna in a skimpy towel, working my way through a selection of sex toys, snorting Crystal Meth or shoplifting. My secret was far worse: I was having a birthday, a secret birthday.

I’m not ashamed at aging. I’m irritated by aging (thinning hair, ear hair, nostril hair and other hair related things) but not ashamed. I don’t mind being in my early 40s at all. I feel more comfortable in my skin and more assured of what I do and don’t want and am able to better articulate this.

One thing I don’t want is to be made a fuss of. I can’t abide those silly office things where colleagues put a few quid into a pot and ritually buy each other a card with a silly slogan and a gift voucher for some shop you wouldn’t necessarily set foot in under usual circumstances. I’d rather get something useful like a packet of cigarettes or a tenner off my supermarket shopping. I hate all those inane Facebook messages and tweets from people you barely know that only know it’s your birthday because the site tells them so. I’m not keen on shelves full of cards that the combined cost of would buy me something useful (e.g. cigarettes). They seem a bit of a waste of money to me.

I’m pretty rubbish at pretending. I can’t do faces of delight when offered a present I don’t want. I’m actually pretty impossible to buy presents for. Who’d want their clothes or household items chosen for them? Not me, for sure. From the age of about 5 I was quite determined to choose my own attire and soft furnishings. The usual suspects are out: booze and chocolates (drink issues and migraines rule those out). That leaves books, DVDs or music which are surely impossible things to buy for someone unless you actually inhabit their head and police their taste and monitor what they’ve already read, seen, own or have listened to.

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I do like cake. Cake is good. I just can’t be bothered with all that embarrassing attention that goes with it. I nonchalantly spent the day at work and almost forgot it was my birthday, pulled up occasionally when I typed the date. It was perfect. My partner insisted on taking me out for a meal, which was sweet and a friend made a cake for me. We quietly consumed it whilst watching T.V.

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I’m not totally miserable but just know what I like. Being older is great. Being able to choose to do or not do something is better than anything.

About the author: Chris Bridges
Chris is a theatre and book obsessed Midlander who escaped to London. He’s usually to be found slumped in a seat in a darkened auditorium.

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