Tomorrow, May 10, is my birthday, and I am turning 30. As usual in the few days before my birthday, I am beside myself with excitement. I think that a lot of my acquaintances would be shocked to find that my birthday plays such an important role in my imagination, as I spend a fair amount of time and energy marketing myself as a sourpuss killjoy naysayer who sneers at nonsensical conventions and conventional emotions. So, really, I might seem to be more the type of person who would say, “Birthday? Pshaw! To hell with birthdays! That’s kid stuff!” Instead, however, my anticipation has been building over the past week, and I keep poking my husband and giggling gleefully, “It’s my birthday soon!” “I know it is, pokey,” he says obligingly, “isn’t that exciting?”
The really mysterious thing here is that everyone over the age of seventeen knows that birthdays are not particularly exciting stuff. Nothing exciting happens on your birthday. You may have a party, but first of all, the party probably won’t be on the actual day of your birthday, and second of all, it probably won’t be an especially wonderful party. You may get gifts, but they probably won’t be exactly what you wanted, unless you were careful to specify exactly what you wanted, in which case it won’t be a surprise. We all know these things about birthdays. And yet, every year, I persist in being excited. Even now, I am watching the clock in the corner of the computer screen, thinking, “It’s only an hour until my birthday!”
A little child can be excused for thinking that something magically exciting just might happen on her own Special Day, because a little child has not been in the world for a very long time, and she has no sense of proportion, and it is easy for things to be exciting to her. A little child does not know that the world is, quite simply, exhaustively normal. As I am no longer a little child, I know that tomorrow will not be particularly special. The computer is not going to explode into roses and chocolate at midnight and start singing to me, because computers don’t do that. There will be no bizarrely extravagant gifts, like a spa weekend or a vacation or a Very Expensive Handbag, because we are not wealthy and neither are our friends or family. I know that it will be a regular Saturday just like any other. Even if my husband is very very nice to me, and even if I decide to eat extra cake or spend a little more money than usual, it will still be a normal day. I am very sure about that.
This year, though, I am 30 years old. Having given birth on New Years Eve, I entered this year a mother. And this year marks my fifth as a wife. I don’t know what this all means, but it seems that maybe it is a special year, and I still can’t help but think that tomorrow is my special day - even though I know it is not just mine and not particularly special - my own special day, inside my own special year, for me to be happy for myself.