“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?