Wednesday, June 1, 2016

I Don't Do Birthdays (Especially Mine)

So May came and went. I'm glad it's over. Such a crazy month. So many birthdays happening throughout. Including mine.

I've never been fond of birthdays. Especially mine. No, not because I'm getting older (everyone gets older each passing day, and birthdays are just like any other day). It's one of those social obligations that throws out more trouble than they're worth.

1. Keeping Track Of Birthdays

I know a lot of people. Some of them I count as friends. Let's narrow them to 150. (It's called 'Dunbar's number'. It refers to the (theoretical) maximum number of stable relationships that we humans can maintain at any one time. Path, a social network, even caps the number of connections you have to that number.)

There are 365 days in a year (except Leap Years, of course). Let's assume each of those 150 friends' birthday fall on a different day. That means for 2 out of 5 days every year (41.95%), we have to wish 'Happy Birthday' to someone.

Now, that's damn a lot of wishes. Not to mention the added pressure to wish as early on the fateful day as possible, otherwise your wish would be perceived as 'insincere' for being belated and a mere imitation of the early wishes. Some people even treat it as a 'race' to make the first wish in a group chat, launching a barrage of smileys and emojis at the stroke of midnight. How stressful.

That's why many of us depend on Facebook, calendars and some mechanical method to keep track of birthdays. Nice try, but that's cheating, in a way. The proper traditional way is to remember birthdays by heart - that's how it really shows you care about the person, see?

I'm tired of wishing 'Happy Birthday' to 150 people every year. I'm even more tired of replying 'Thanks' to the 150 people who wish me 'Happy Birthday' on my birthday every year. Please, can we agree to a pact that none of us need to wish each other 'Happy Birthday' for the rest of our lives?

I doubt that will happen, though. People get a kick out of birthdays too much. So I'm really hoping for some tech whiz to come up with a bot that auto-wishes all my friends on their birthdays, and auto-replies to all birthday wishes that I receive on my birthday. Now, I would really pay for that shit.

(Till then, I have resorted to keeping my birth date on Facebook hidden, to save everyone's trouble.)

"I wish... Mom would stop throwing me birthday parties and save up for my college trust fund."

2. Throwing Birthday Surprises At Work

'Surprise Birthday celebrations ' - one of the worst corporate culture ever created (ranking slightly below Friday afternoon team meetings).

A thoughtful kind soul (from the same team of the birthday person, because that's part of their job) will discreetly send a mass email to the rest of their colleagues to gather in some special room at a certain time of the day. Much elaborate planning goes to tricking the birthday person into attending some non-existent meeting, and then... SURPRISE!!!

Sure, these birthday planners get 'A' for Effort. But 'F' for Actual Surprise.

It's different from friends throwing surprises for friends. Sweet girl tells her boyfriend that they're off to a romantic dinner somewhere, and then once the blindfolds are off and... SURPRISE!!! He walks into an apartment full of balloons and friends. That's more natural, and doesn't happen every freaking year.

Back in the office, surprise birthday happen to everyone, whether they like it or not. Seriously, how does anyone seeing such 'surprises' sprung on their colleagues on a regular basis not see this coming? Duh, of course they do! But everyone just acts pleasantly 'surprised' when their turn comes. An empty ritual. Even the least likable person in office gets a birthday cake. To deny someone such celebration probably counts as 'constructive dismissal' by now.

No, you don't get a day off on your birthday, but you do get a pretty cake!

3. The 'Who Treats Who' Conundrum

Till today, I'm still lost. Who pays at the birthday bashes? The birthday boy/girl? The guests? Or do they all just kinda split the bill like any other day? Maybe it's a local thing, and tradition differs from place to place. But where I come from, the lines are blurry as ever.

Not too long ago, I was with this bunch of friends. We had a habit of meeting up to celebrate each others' birthday. The meet-ups were initiated by the others, but I played along. And I would normally suggest that we treat the birthday boy/girl - because we were the ones doing all the inviting and planning, and it felt like the proper thing to do - and so we did.

Okay, pause there a moment, take a step back. So for a few years, I had this habit of throwing a party during my birthday, where there will be lots of - ahem - drinking and dancing. I would be the one doing the initiating and inviting, and footing most of the tab while collecting some reasonable pre-agreed fee from the rest. I don't even see it as a birthday bash, but more like an excuse to throw a nice party and get different people to mingle and have fun.

Of course, there will always be some who decline to join in, citing that drinking an dancing ain't their thing. That's fine, I'm not offended. Some will ask to privately meet up to celebrate my birthday. That's great, I'm flattered.

Okay, back to this bunch of friends. So my birthday came along. They kept bugging me to meet up, even though I tried telling them that I was busy and I wasn't in the mood to celebrate my birthday at all(a year which incidentally I didn't throw any party). Eventually, I relented. We met up. And after the nice meal, they decided to split the bill.

What the ****? I almost flipped the table, but I didn't. I just smiled, paid my share, and moved on.

This incident burns brightly in my mind, because they were rather close (then). But I could also vaguely remember a host of other incidents where people would invite me out on the pretext of celebrating my birthday, and offer to pay a portion of the whole outing's bill (dinner/coffee/drinks). Seriously, what's up with that? Don't pull the "c'mon, it's your birthday" card out to guilt-trip me into coming out and then expect me to pay for something that I wasn't even in the mood of doing.

Look, it's really not about the money. Rather, it's about imposing obligations upon people. Cut that out, okay? I don't do birthdays!

The kind of birthday bashes that I'd like to attend

I Don't Do Birthdays

For those folks close to heart who genuinely wished me, treated me, bought me gifts for my birthday: I'm truly grateful, and this piece is really not about you, so keep up whatever you're doing (especially the treating and gifts part, ha ha!)

But for the rest of you who treat my birthday as a means to discharge your 'social obligation' and to feel good about yourself: go away, chalk it out your calendar, leave me in peace.

Yes, I don't do birthdays. Please remember that. It's not that hard. In fact, it's even easier to remember that, than to remember two digits and a month.

Thank you, and happy birthday in advance for all your birthdays from now till always.

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