Thoughts and illustrations on living on the autism spectrum.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Happy-Nappy-Slappy-Sheeple-Mechanical Cultural Imprint-Ageless Everlasting Essence-Rigamarole-Great Cosmic Planetary Dance Around the Sun-Burfday

“Birthdays are a social construct,” Bill said to me, at one of the very first Asperger’s groups I ever went to. Like so many of society’s conventions, a device invented by the NT’s as one more excuse to socialize, wrapped in the guise of honoring the birthday person. He went on to say, when his Aspie son wanted a special toy, and his birthday was 3 months off, he didn’t wait – he got him the toy as an early present. And 3 months later, they just had a party, and everyone was happy.

I think there is truth to what Bill said. Birthdays are rarely about the person having the birthday. Birthdays are for wall posts from people you haven’t seen in 20 years, and won’t see again, but hey look, we still keep in touch. Birthdays are for cake, because it’s called birthday cake after all, and it being a birthday, we have cake on it. Birthdays are for office parties, a nice excuse for us all to take a break, and more cake. Birthdays are for sending cards with dancing monkeys, and flatulence humor, and bug-eyed grinning dogs on them. Birthdays are for presents, perhaps socks or a CD rack or electric shaver cleaning cartridges, things the birthday person needs but would rather not buy for themselves, because the things they really want, they’ve already bought when the mood struck. In other words, birthdays exist so others can pay their respects to the birthday person, or fulfill a social obligation to do so, in the best way they know how.

Who am I to go against the social construct? I am not cynical about birthdays at all. I believe my birthday is a day to be celebrated, with thoughts of peace and reflection, and looking ahead. I often wish I could observe it by doing something meaningful and memorable, as if I truly owned my special day.

How would I spend the day if it were really up to me? Who would I spend it with? I haven’t really bothered to consider the question. This week, that morning, I went for an early walk in the park, through the wet grass warmed by the rising sun, with no one else around. It was the best moment of my day.

Now that the ritual is over, maybe I should have an unbirthday celebration. Or maybe a whole lot of unbirthdays. Just a day to be awesome, to spend as I choose with those I choose. Maybe it’s your unbirthday too?

How do you celebrate? What would you do, if it were up to you?


  1. Great post, Matt! I'm glad you had a great moment on your birthday. That's all that life is....great moments among the others....whether you are NT or not. Birthdays and gift-giving are complicated for everyone!!

  2. My son turned 20 last week, so it was a big one. I asked him about 2 weeks before how HE would like to spend the day. He eventually wrote out, by hand, a list for us: stuff he wanted to show us online, a pay-per-view movie he wanted to watch, a piece he had written to be read by his dad so he could listen to it, and what type of cake and dinner he wanted. We did all that stuff and had a great day. We hadn't done it that way before, but I would recommend this procedure.

    And: What Jennifer said! :0)

  3. Ullie, that is wonderful that he thought it all thought and you could accommodate him.

  4. Happy un-birthday is much better than an unhappy birthday. Happy Un-birthday!!

    I like to use it as an excuse to go out to eat. It's so hard to justify spending that much money when we can eat so much cheaper at home. Mine is coming up,this post just reminded me.

    My son was adopted. I never realized that it was such an unhappy day for many adoptees--the day their birthmom gave them away. For his 18th birthday he will go meet her. That's a kinda cool un-birthday present!

  5. That is a cool present, brains, I hope it goes wonderfully!

  6. Your picture was kinda scary... But I get the idea of the post.


  7. Chris, yes it is. You will probably not want to click the link in the post to view more of them then.

  8. My Birthday and every Un-birthday would be spent backpacking the high mountains and fishing a little trout stream.
    As always, Matt, great writing!

  9. Happy Unbirthday to you, Niko! That sounds like a nice way to spend it.

  10. Happy Existence Anniversary!

    My wife and I usually go out to a restaurant on our birthdays. Primarily because you get a free desert (even if you have to wear a huge sombrero or something to get it!)

    My eye picked out "Dance around the Sun Burfday" and I was thinking "Yes, tomorrow is the birthday of Ra!" At least as calculated by when the star Sirius appears somewhere near Chicago. Snorfle. Context shift.

  11. Hehe, I snorfled a little at this... Happy Burfday, Ra!