My birthday is next week. Sunday, December 4, to be exact. I wasn’t thinking of doing much, but I don’t want to end up like some of my friends who, unlike me, are reclusive sorts who emerge from their dank, squalid flats only to grab groceries, score weed and report for jury duty, and they aren’t really into their birthdays that much. You hang out with them one day, doing very little of consequence, and you find out a week later, by accident, that it was their birthday, and all you did to celebrate it was watch some shit on telly.
Honestly, I don’t understand these people. If you can’t celebrate your birthday, shit, what can you celebrate? On my birthday, I revel in my own self-indulgence. I organise and announce my own birthday party, preferably at a spacious bar with plenty of cheap drinks, invite any friend within a 100-mile radius and then kick back and enjoy a drunken evening with my closest associates. That’s what a birthday is supposed to be about – your most beloved cronies, gathered around a large table, talking shit and enjoying one another’s company.
This is a yearly ritual for me, inviting all my pals in my chosen area and begging them to come and chill out with me. Birthdays are our checkpoints, the times we can sit back and reflect on how much has changed in a year, discover whether we’ve moved forward, or backwards, or whether we were running on the spot for all those months.
It really only started with my 30th birthday, in Camden Town, London. It was a crazy time; my mate Ross organised it and we ended up in some bar or the other with Rowan, Sarah, Sergio, Joe and some others. Ross, bless him, even got me a birthday cake. I don’t remember much else of that evening, although from the photos, I must have had quite a time (there is one of me kissing a girl I don’t know who, I am told, was also celebrating her birthday that day). There were also text messages on my phone that I did not send… I think… including one to a girl I fancied at the time that went something like this:
Her (responding to a text from my phone): Are you drunk?
My phone: Yes! So come and take advantage!
Her: OK. Where are you?
And so it went from year to year, the only blip being a couple years ago when I was under strict doctor’s orders to take it easy. Still, I insisted on travelling some distance to attend an office Christmas dinner at which everyone surprised me with a drunken rendition of Happy Birthday and a cake.
Last year, it was surreal. I was in Covent Garden, with just a handful of buddies, when I was introduced to this almost preternaturally attractive girl who won my heart by buying me shots all evening. At the end of the night, she came over to me, gave me a hug, told me it was great to meet me, then took my right hand and put it on her left breast. I didn’t see her again until about a month ago, when I learned she was a nurse named Kate that I had quite a connection with, and we sat down over a couple drinks, and she denied the whole birthday thing, but I knew she was full of shit and I liked her anyway.
And that leads us to this one. Another year gone, and I will start this birthday, as always, uninspired, unmotivated, undisciplined, unworthy… But then I will find myself at a bar somewhere, having scrounged together the few real friends I have in London willing to come out on a Saturday night. And I will drink and smile and laugh, and all will be well. My birthday always reminds me how lucky I am to have people who care about me, a decent job that pays the bills, a roof over my head, and good health.
I will not allow myself to be one of those birthday people, the ones who get all freaked out about their age, ohmigod I’m almost 40, I’m not married, I haven’t achieved this or that, I’m wasting everyone’s time, boo fucking hoo. That will not be me. I will drink and I will smile and I will laugh, and all will be well, oh yes, it sure as shit better be. I will not wallow, become depressed, wonder how in the world I ended up here, ended up doing this, ended up acting this way, ended up thinking this.
True, I don’t always feel like I have it all together. Of course, maybe no one ever really does. But next week is my birthday and goddammit it, I’m going to celebrate, even if there really isn’t anything special to celebrate. I am not going to let anything get in the way of a drunken birthday. If I’m going to earn any kind of small victory, it will be that.
Happy birthday to me…