Tom Wrigglesworth on birthday celebrations
PUBLISHED: 00:00 10 May 2017
Tom vows to be in a celebratory mood for his birthday this month
Hello dear readers! Big news this month – it’s my birthday, and for the first time since I had any say in the matter, I’m going to try and enjoy it. It’s not a traditionally special birthday either, unless you’re big into cryptography and place a celebratory premium on prime numbers. I wouldn’t be so revealing as to publicly reveal my age, so let me just say I’ll be as old as Winston Churchill would have been, if he was alive today and was 41.
I’ve always been quietly fascinated by people’s relationship to their own birthdays, the curmudgeon in me wonders why we congratulate folk by placing an emphasis on their birth, which is arguably an aspect of their life which was both pure chance and out of their hands. I wouldn’t go as far as to say we should rename the whole thing ‘Happy Not Dead Yet Day’ but you can see the point I’m making.
Of course people’s relationships with their own birthdays change as they age and, like many things in life, it doesn’t follow a proportional or linear continuum. Instead it generally seems to follow the horse shoe theory used in political science. Describing how far left ideals are closer to those of the far right than either of them are to the centre. A toddler will be quick to point out their age with a proud grin, often including half-years or months to help clear up any doubts. And, true to the horse shoe theory, conversation with an octogenarian doesn’t get much past the inevitable comment about the weather before their age is bought up.
For everybody older than 30 but younger than, say 70, their age is often a closely guarded secret that only becomes externalised when they’re prompted to tick a different box at the end of a questionnaire.
A strange sensation happens when you meet somebody who shares your own birthday. An impossible mixture of an unspoken membership to your own special club, and a deep-rooted feeling that they’re somehow trespassing on your very existence. For example I share a birthday with Michael Palin, with whom I already felt a civic bond because he too was born in Sheffield. When I discovered we share a birthday I felt both that bond strengthen, and my eyes narrow in suspicion as I think no Michael, May the 5th is my day, you can have your well-earned awards and recognition, but hands off my birthday.
I feel a further contradiction when I meet people born on an already very publicly occupied day, such as Christmas. Part of me thinks I’d love that, as everybody gets together anyway it seems easy enough to tag on your own celebration while side stepping any sort of planning or ringing round to check availability normally associated with ‘having a do’. That said, I can see why being born in the same day as the Son of God might, in the wrong hands, lead to some fairly far reaching feelings of in superiority. Or worse still, illusions of grandeur.
So as I say, this year I’m going to try and ease off the shy, introverted, grumpy feelings I get when I chalk up a milestone, and actively try and enjoy it, in fact, I’m going to make up for years of ignoring the occasion by claiming the whole of May as my birthday, which includes two bank holidays and quite often, a local election polling day. That’s more than even Christmas and New Year babies get, although knowing my luck, I bet Michael Palin has had the same idea and I’m back to square one, though hopefully, a little wiser.