Thursday, February 02, 2012

Facebook Birthday Envy

All of my birthday experiences confirm that birthdays are just ordinary days on which you happen to get cake and feel super embarrassed while people sing to you. But somehow I always expect my birthday to be amazing. And I feel a little envious when I witness someone else having a truly phenomenal birthday.

I'm not sure why I feel entitled to amazing birthdays because I am not stellar at making other peoples' birthdays special. Occasionally, I write a "Happy birthday, ______!" message on Facebook or attend a birthday party. But I can't remember the last time I bought someone a thoughtful birthday present or mailed someone a card. (I know, I'm sort of awful, aren't I?)

Very rarely, my birthdays-should-be-amazing belief has led me to random bursts of thoughtfulness. In high school, me and my friend Holly planned a surprise birthday picnic for another friend. We selected the perfect park location, arranged rides for everyone (pre-license days), probably baked a cake, and might have even arranged for our parents (and the birthday girl's parents) to write notes excusing us from our class after lunch. It was really quite magical. I also made some homemade birthday cards in high school. Freshman year I made a birthday card for my friend Phil, and senior year he wrote this in my yearbook: "One good memory, the time you made me a belated--or maybe it was the day of my--birthday card. That was something that made my day 4 years ago." And yes, if you must know, I just spent 30 minutes browsing my old yearbooks looking for that quote. But aside from some uncharacteristically thoughtful actions, I've never been amazing with birthdays.

On top of not really deserving amazing birthdays, I am 25. Let's be honest, hoping for amazing birthdays when you're 25 is like still believing in Santa or like hoping that this time you watch Bridge to Terabithia she isn't going to die.

And the truth is, I've always had really solid birthdays. First, I have some amazingly organized relatives who send me cards every single birthday. Usually with $5 (yes, still). After browsing the birthday cards yesterday at WinCo with sections like "Sister from Brother Funny Birthday," "Aunt Religious Birthday," and "Basketball-playing Blond Childhood Best Friend Birthday," I'm, quite frankly, amazed that they can find a fitting card each year. Let alone remember to mail it each May. And every year that I've spent my birthday at home, my mom makes a cake and decorates the kitchen wall with crepe paper, balloons, and happy birthday signs. In elementary school, I had a backwards themed party, a Disney birthday, and a slumber party. In middle school, my friends surprised me after school by taking me to see Mission Impossible II for my 14th birthday. In high school, one of my friends took me to a concert on my 17th birthday. I celebrated my 22nd birthday in London and had a to-die-for grilled cheese sandwich at Borough Market and saw the play Mousetrap. And then there's all the thoughtful cards I've received, the friends who have taken me to dinner or made me cakes, the birthday phone calls, the blog posts and comments, and the personal presents I've been given.

But the birthdays-should-be-phenomenal monster within me still wants something more.

So, when I turned 24 I decided I had to take matters into my own hands. It was, after all, my golden birthday. I started dreaming big, and I decided that the thing that would make my birthday magical would be getting at least 24 happy birthday wishes on Facebook. 24 posts for my 24th birthday on the 24th of May. Magical. So, I told all of my family to make sure to post on my wall, and I refreshed my Facebook throughout the day. Facebook post number one came at 11:36pm on May 23 from Elisa: "Happy birthday (in 24 minutes)! If you were here, I'd make you a cake with skittles on top." At 7:19am on the 24th, my sister posted the sixth birthday wish: "HAPPY BIRTHDAY! I went out of my way to log on to facebook to try to make your birthday dreams come true." The fifteenth post came at 12:13pm from Kathleen. Things were looking good, but I still wasn't there. Jim posted "Happy Birthday!" at 7:02pm, making a total of 23 posts. Almost there. And finally, at 8:41pm, Stu posted the twenty-fourth post stating, "Id call you instead but I dropped my phone. in the boundary waters. Happy birthday my friend. :)" I had done it. And it was truly a magical birthday. 

But this magical birthday has left some serious damage in its wake because this is at the root of my Facebook birthday envy. Every so often a birthday catches my eye, and I go to the birthday person's Facebook page and count their birthday wishes. And it is always more than 24. And I feel so much envy I can barely contain myself.


Elisa said...

First of all, I think you are a great and thoughtful celebrator of other peoples' birthdays. Those skittle cakes are legendary!

Also, this May 24 I am going to post on your Facebook wall so many times throughout the day. It's going to be incredible.

Ryan said...

I feel Facebook envy too! When I see someone who has received 20+ birthday wishes, I ask myself, "How is that even possible?!" It blows my mind to realize that some people are able to maintain so many social connections to the point of receiving Facebook birthday wishes. I think I get about 4 (6 at the absolute max) non-family Facebook birthday wishes. Envy.