Your Birthday Isn't Important

Is it?

Your Birthday Isn't Important

I have a poor relationship with my birthday. It doesn’t mean a thing to me; it never did. No one ever really cared for mine, apart from my family, of course. No one went out of their way to make sure I was remembered. And I didn’t like telling anyone because to me, surely, if I was important to any extent, I and my birthday would be remembered without question. I get it, people forget things, but my mum made a list of all my old primary school “friends” (it’s complicated) and their birthdays so we made sure I didn’t forget them. But everybody else was apparently remembered and celebrated by their friends, so why not me?

I felt useless and worthless and my birthday was always a constant reminder of that. I only ever celebrated with the family I lived with—my mum, dad and younger brother—and that was only in the house with a birthday cake and a candle. Most years I would have a family friend and that family around to celebrate but I honestly have no memories from those times. I didn’t have any friends to celebrate with so that’s the best I got, really.

This has been in conversation a lot recently with a friend of mine whose birthday is coming up and I think it’s just the way we view our own birthday celebrations, but we can’t seem to wrap our heads around why people are so insistent on having everybody in their world for a night on the town where the person being celebrated has to plan everything and invite everyone and pray that people show up.

I mean, I get it, I’d want to be with my friends on my birthday too. It’s a day about me and I don’t want to be by myself. But why do I have to go through all the effort to organise my own birthday celebrations and hope everyone turns up to it?

I asked a couple of friends, who I assumed would enjoy the idea of birthdays and celebrating, about their relationship with birthdays and why they enjoy the day they were born. One said “Personally, [I think] it’s an excuse to get pissed,” which I’ve seen is true in some cases. I mean, I don’t really see people boasting about a night in with their closest friends enjoying each other’s company. But, I guess, people who do that don’t always wait until their birthday to do such a thing. It’s socially accepted to go out and get as smashed, hammered, fucked, or whatever term you want to use, as you want because it’s your birthday and you’re “allowed,” so to speak. The only celebratory pictures I seem to see on Instagram and/or Facebook are revelries of those nights out or a nice picture of a birthday cake of sorts. It’s very rare that I see any sort of mellow celebration pictures because none are ever mentioned or people just don’t feel the need to tell everyone about their night.

Another reminded me that “Sometimes it’s just having fun with all your friends at the same time.” This is a really important point that he raised. Birthdays are a great excuse to be with all of your friends at one time in one place. And a second point he raised, “Sometimes it’s more for the [memories]”—this was interesting to read. Sometimes it really is just for the memories. I, personally, have very few, if any, memories from my 18 birthdays. None that I treasure or really make me happy upon remembering, at least.

I can fully see that people can get their want to be around their friends from their younger years. You know, when your parents threw you a birthday party and invited all your friends to be with you on your “special day.” It felt good and I wouldn’t be surprised if you felt important, loved, and appreciated. Some of the best times of your life are sometimes with the people you love and with people who love you.

Talking to these three people, overall, gave me a range of different insights into birthdays and the importance of such. None really changed my mind about how I view birthdays or how little I care for my own, but it was nice to see that there wasn’t a singular view that I was ignorant towards. I think that because I think so low about my particular birthday, I never really stopped to think outside of the box I kept myself in.

Have a nice birthday memory of mine: I was packing for NCS (a terrible month for me, but that’s a separate story in itself) on my 17th birthday and I was playing this new song by American singer-songwriter, Melanie Martinez, called “Pity Party.” If anyone’s not heard it before, it’s about no one showing up to a party the character had thrown to celebrate her birthday, featuring Lesley Gore’slyrics, “It’s my party, and I’ll cry if I want to.” I hadn’t put two and two together until my mum walked into my room, heard what I was playing and asked why I was listening to a song about no one turning up to her self-thrown birthday party, on my birthday. It’s an amusing time to think back to.

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Bushra Shahriar

A 21-year-old student studying at Keele University - writer and poet.

See all posts by Bushra Shahriar