Discover more from Discourse Blog
An Ode To Unlucky Birthdays
It's not your fault that the sins of others hang on your birthday like a haunted specter!
Some people hate celebrating their birthdays. I am not one of those people. I am, indeed, a “birthdays” girl. Not someone who needs a birthday week—even proud birthday havers know when a party is dangerously straddling the boundary of My Super Sweet 16 territory—but someone who loves to celebrate the anniversary of their existence with the people they love.
I wasn’t always a “birthdays” girl. Blame my wavering allegiance to birthdays on puberty and the discovery of embarrassment in the general acknowledgment of that aforementioned existence. But even through the disillusionment and discomfort and tight budgets and working schedules, my mom maintained my love for my birthday by always making the effort to make me feel special. That, and my birthday comes a week before Halloween, a serendipitous excuse to throw massive Hallo-weekend ragers in my honor (to all my summer birthday comrades, solidarity with you).
However, I suspect there’s a less wholesome reason for my vain amusement in celebrating my birth—one that’s likely rooted in my birthday’s lack of notoriety. As I’ve gotten older and my birthday verve stayed strong, I’ve watched friends and family age and take pride in their birthday less in less. Some of this is because they’re aging and find less comfort in celebrating themselves for a day. But more specifically, it’s because some of these people have been faced with circumstances beyond their control that wind up lending a truly heinous nature to a day that, in theory, is supposed to be unfalteringly special to them.
What makes a birthday truly heinous? Let me count the ways:
I have a friend who shares a birthday with Donald Trump (which is also Flag Day), and who has annually been confronted with that reality (which he also reminds his friends of, consistently) since 2015. A former coworker of mine shares a birthday with Hilary Clinton (which, in 2015, did not seem so bad at the time, but I imagine in retrospect hangs over her head like a cursed omen).
And then there are the days we can never forget. A family member of my husband’s has a birthday the day after September 11 (he’s so young that I’m not even sure he remembers what his birthday was like pre-2001), while our editor Jack Mirkinson has a family member whose birthday is on September 11. My husband also has a recently-tarnished birthday — the day after the January 6, 2021 insurrection (what we did to celebrate his birthday that year, I cannot remember for the life of me). It’s the tip of the iceberg for a Fall Out Boy-updated “We Didn’t Start The Fire,” birthday edition.
What terrible luck, to be born on a day doomed for unfavorable significance. And no, while I don’t expect such awful coincidences to completely stop a person from celebrating their birth, I would completely understand if the haunting of their birthday by any specter, live or dead, was enough to derail their focus on a day that should be about celebrating them first and foremost. To the birthday havers who can’t seem to shake the cloud hovering over their celebrations, solidarity with you, too.
That’s not to say I haven’t had bad birthdays. On my 10th birthday, I spent the evening crying over overwhelming and incomprehensible pre-algebra homework, while my 21st birthday, which I celebrated with an amazing party thrown by my best friends, was overshadowed by my shitty long-distance boyfriend dumping me the next day (the dichotomy of girlhood!). And last year, I thought I had hit the birthday jackpot by getting to see Lizzo perform with nearly a dozen friends. I cannot express to you how devastated I am to have been very wrong.
But still, my birthday isn’t forever scarred by any of these events, and for that, I consider myself lucky. I get to claim that I share a birthday with Ciara and Katy Perry and call it a day. Though understanding my luck, I am almost assured to have this bubble burst now that I’ve spoken my unconstrained birthday to existence.
Tell me, dear reader, what cursed birthday coincidences haunt you and your loved ones? Whose bullshittery do you find yourself revisiting with each year you age? Or, if you’re like me, what terrible birthday celebration has made up for your lack of cursed birthday coincidences?