It Sucks to Grow Up: The Birthday Edition

Candles spell out the traditional English birt...

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Most nightmares cannot come true. It’s impossible. The odds of the shark from Jaws chasing you down the street while you are trying to find your pants so you can get to your advanced Sociology final, a class you’ve never even been to, by the way, are very slim.

There is one nightmare that people do live, over and over. It’s a nightmare so horrible that many people would immediately curl up in the fetal position if faced with this punishment.

Children’s birthday parties.

I’ve been to several children’s birthday parties in the last few years. It’s one of the biggest issues I have with having friends and family: They assume you want to give their kid a present.

This is, of course, not true. I have no interest in trying to figure out what a three year old girl wants for her birthday. I don’t even remember being three and I certainly don’t know what a preschool aged girl plays with, although I’m fairly certain it is pink.

The worst parties are for babies. When a kid is able to walk around, you feel like they may actually be having fun at their party. Plus, they are usually held at Chuck E. Cheese, so I get to play skeeball. Why they won’t put skeeball in more adult restaurants, I will never understand. When the kid spends the entire party stuck in a chair elevated four feet off the ground and people come and stare at them like they are an exhibit at the Guggenheim, it seems more like a bizarre form of child abuse.

Despite the unpleasantness, kids love their birthday parties. They love presents, they love cake, they love fire on their cake, they love spitting at the fire on the cake and making everyone eat a dessert covered in their slobber. It’s like little kid heaven.

For adults, though, birthdays become just another day and parties become a hassle.

Yesterday was my birthday.  I have celebrated many of these in my lifetime, having had one every year since birth. I know, it seems like overkill, but I like the world to celebrate me.

In the past, I’ve noticed the differences, but never really paid attention to them. This year, though, the differences became abundantly clear (Abundantly Clear- that would be a great name for a bottle water company).

I remember as a kid wondering what I would get for my birthday. I, naturally, had a list a mile long that consisted of things ranging from an action figure to a Leer Jet. I had a theory, a theory which I still use to this day for Christmas gifts, that if I throw an incredibly expensive item or two on the list, for instance a plane that cost twice as much as my house, it would make the $50 items seem less expensive. It has never worked, but someday someone will fall for it. You have to have faith.

I would spend hours trying to guess my gifts, usually failing to do so, which only served to heighten my anticipation.

Fast forward to an adult birthday.

This year, my phone rang two weeks before my birthday. It was my mom.

“So, what do you want for your birthday?” she asked.

I thought for a minute, completely stumped. I had nothing I really wanted. “Um… I guess a new battery for my laptop.”

“Is that it?”

I realized I was boring and quickly tried to come up with a fun and impractical item. I thought about asking for a monkey, but I’ve had enough trouble potty training my dog and she doesn’t even throw her feces. Also, I knew I would never actually get a monkey. “Yeah, that’s about it.”

“Well, what do you want to do for your birthday?”

Nothing would seem like an unacceptable answer, but that was what I wanted. “I guess we could go out to eat.”

Suffice it to say, there was no giant party for me. Also, I got a check. Happy Birthday, me.

That’s exactly what I wanted out of my birthday, though. Maybe I’m becoming old and cynical, but my surviving another year doesn’t hardly seem party worthy.

I figure I will continue to care less and less about my birthday. I’m okay with that.

Next year, though, I’m holding out for that monkey.

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163 thoughts on “It Sucks to Grow Up: The Birthday Edition

  1. “I thought about asking for a monkey” now that’s funny right there. I know what you mean though. For my most recent birthday, my Mom had offered to take me out shopping for some new work clothes. I reluctantly agreed because, well, I needed some new work clothes. Anyway, things got busy and the holidays fall right around birthday so the day came and went without said shopping trip taking place. A few weeks later, my Mom handed me an envelope with like $150 in it. She said it was my birthday present since we never got to go out shopping. I’m pretty sure I gambled that money away. I still need new work clothes.

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  3. Pingback: $175 for Broadway-Themed Child’s Birthday Party from Broadway Bound Kids ($350 Value) - Daily Couponds

    • Everytime I’ve ever been to Chuck E. Cheese’s, I’ve laughed at the fact that they sell pitchers of beer at a children’s restaurant. At least, I did until I went with a child. Now I know why parents take to drinking while they are there.

      Thanks for reading.

      Like

  4. I just heard about your blog from Sandi the other day, and here you are, a whole year older and Freshly Pressed to boot!
    I say ask for the monkey, next year. It’s always worth a try!

    Like

  5. I LOVE SKEE BALL. I totally agree with you. I don’t meet many people who specifically site skee ball as being fun, so I hope you aren’t joking.

    Perhaps you should have asked for a home skee ball machine. The fun would never get old or die, like a monkey would.

    Like

  6. It seems as every year passes I find myself getting more cynical about my birthday. Every attempt to celebrate seems to fail, as I’m not doing it for myself but others. It’s sad but my ideal birthday would be to lie in bed all day and eat food, or just not act like it’s my birthday at all. To me it’s just become a bad day but with gifts.

    Like

  7. I celebrated my 49th birthday this week–alas. I didn’t get a laptop battery–a lack!

    Congrats of freshly pressed and hang on for the ride–you may need another battery or two to keep up with comments!

    Kathy

    Like

  8. Completely agreed. When I was little, I wanted all sorts of toys and doodads for my birthday and Christmas–the more impractical the better. Now, I mostly ask for gift cards, money, or books, and actually get a little irritated when I get an unexpected present.

    Also, my parents tend to see that I like something (for example, I bought a pair of purple jeans a few years ago) so then all I got for all holidays that year was more colored jeans. I think I ended up with six pairs. No human needs that many colorful pants.

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  9. I totally agree with your ideas! Not that I necessarily hate children’s birthday parties (primarily because there’s cake involved) but yesterday I celebrated my 21st birthday and reading about how I had no expectations for gifts was quite hilarious because the same thoughts went through my head yesterday.
    Thinking about how when I was younger I expected so much, but now I really don’t care if I get 20 gifts or just one.
    All in all, your post made me laugh in a good way.

    Like

  10. “I like the world to celebrate me” – in my opinion, this is the best line of the entire post. I was thinking of eating a chocolate bar for lunch…is it too late to celebrate you by doing so? (Really, I just want an excuse to eat chocolate…).

    Happy Birthday 🙂

    Like

  11. Ahhh, the joys of growing older. I like money on my birthday, I have too much collected junk from all of those previous birthdays. Plus, as you get older you really don’t want anymore junk cause at some point we’d just have to throw it away.

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  12. Between all the 1st birthdays I find myself invited to these days, and a certain round-number birthday of my own coming up (I asked for a camera battery), I totally relate to this!

    Thank you for sharing this humorous and well-written post with the world! You made my day! And, congrats on being Freshly Pressed!

    Like

  13. Awww that’s too bad you feel that way about kid’s birthday parties. I’m assuming you don’t have kids of your own. My daughter will be turning 1 this year and will probably have a party for her. But I do admit that some of these extravagant children’s parties are more for the moms than the kids. Like a 1-year-old is gonna remember having a pony at their party and a 3 tiered cake. But I do want something for her baby book and I try to only invite other people with kids or family. I do think it would be kind of odd to just invite a co-worker to your kid’s birthday…..so the big question is, how old are you? 🙂

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  14. I hate trying to make excuses for not going to a kids birthday party when I’m way past kid stage and my kids are almost fully grown.

    Once, at Chuck E. Cheese for a birthday party for my nephew, we saw a little kid throw-up in the balls in the bouncing ball pit. The kid got up and walked off. How do they clean those?! I immediately told my kids they were not allowed in there–ever!

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  15. Hey bro, congrats on the FP! It seems that once I start following someone new, within like a week or so, they land on Freshly Pressed. Seriously, this has happened more than once recently. I guess I should start following myself now!

    Like

  16. I’ve never heard of skeeball, I’ll need to find it somewhere and become addicted. Kids parties are the best memories, a time when we celebrated getting older but now we just kind of mourn it! You know, you should ask for the monkey, you never know! Enjoy your day, happy birthday!

    Like

  17. werd. my birthday was two weeks ago, i only wanted to do nothing. i did not get what i wanted. i would have liked skee ball… or air hockey. maybe next year i’ll ask for an air hockey table…

    Like

  18. Very true words you’ve written there. And i’m sure cynicism comes with the territory. Good luck on finding that monkey, and congrats.

    Like

  19. But birthday’s are so much fun! (Last year, when I turned 18 on the lastish day of school, I threw myself a food-party at school by getting everyone to bring food in. It wasn’t till the day that people realised what I’d done… :D)

    Like

  20. When I was much younger, birthdays and Christmases meant the world to me, as it meant new toys. Nowadays, they are just another day for me.

    Like

  21. As a person with a birthday in March, yes we are cool people, thank you very much. And dude I would have held out for the monkey. I’ve always wanted one. Anyway, the child birthday nowadays, is just a ridiculous show for the parents of how much money can be spent. How many ways can we spoil our children? My nephew was a year old when my sister spent $500 on a party for him. I know that there are people out there that spend a lot more, but $500 is still a ridiculous amount for a child that is too young to remember the party anyway. So really who is the party for? I think, as far as presents go, that people never take into consideration that there are parents out there that just can’t afford to spend a lot of money on someone else’s child. Actually, we can’t afford to spend a lot of money on our own children, so why would we spend it on another child. It has been my experience however, that if the present given is not considered “suitable” whatever that may mean, your child is not invited to the next party. So you spend. Don’t get me wrong, I love children. I love watching them play and have fun. But if you look back 100 years ago, a child’s toy was something that was handcrafted. The child would play with that toy for hours and not get bored. We spend hundreds on toys and children just toss them to the side. Do you think perhaps that maybe we as parents are attaching too much importance to 1. toys and 2. birthday parties? Whatever happened to pin the tail on the donkey and hotdogs. Those are my memories.

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  22. You are really, really funny.. and when a writer is able to communicate such sarcasm, impatience/ stoic tolerance, wittiness and a sincere lack of enthusiasm through writing – in an interesting way – it is praiseworthy. I’ll be subscribing, reading and commenting so long as you keep writing.

    One of my favorite quotes..
    “they love cake, they love fire on their cake,..”

    Truth.

    And, I appreciated your sudden, creative inspiration – go start your own Abundantly Clear water bottling business! It sounds like one of those eco, vegan, organic, re-usable deals to me and there’s a whole herd of slovenly dressed, underweight hippies out there who will BUY IN (including myself).

    Aun Aqui

    Like

  23. It’s not that I hate birthdays, it’s that I hate celebrating my birthday because I have really bad social anxiety! I always have this feeling like people came to wish me happy birthday because of the satisfaction that someone other than them got older.
    On a similar note, my best birthday was spent on a plane with no one saying anything to me.

    Like

  24. It’s my wife’s birthday on Saturday and my brother’s birthday is tomorrow April Fools Day. My wife is incredible and never seems to age! She never remembers how old she is either so birthdays are usually a fun day and one full of excitement and enjoyment! Looking forward to celebrating with her!
    As I said my brother’s b-day is April Fools day. I remember always when he celebrated his birthday there would always be some kind of prank or April Fools joke associated with celebrating his birthday. It was always fun!!!

    Like

    • My B-day is New Years Day and lived in Pasadena CA. Growing up we always went to the Rose Parade and then afterward to the Rose Bowl Game. We did that for over 40 years and have fond memories of all the wonderful times with family and friends!

      Like

  25. Half of Los Angeles is the extended family of my fiancee. There is a birthday party like every freaking weekend, so I feel your pain. Have hope, though, because children are growing more precocious everyday. It can’t be much longer before that three-year-old toddler appreciates a gift card.

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  26. Many congrats on being Freshly Pressed. Birthdays are, indeed, terrific, and everyone should have one each year. Just be careful not to live next door to Jeffrey Greenburg because when you are walking up to your house he will say “Hey, what are all those people doing in your house?” thereby completely ruining your surprise party.

    Like

  27. How ironic for me to come across this posting! My birthday is on Saturday, and everyone is asking me what I want, or they want to know what I’ve planned for it. Truthfully, I have two exams next week and I planned on studying – LOL. I forgot about it being my birthday; you’re right, it simply has become “just another day.”

    Thanks for the laugh regarding children’s parties. I especially LOLed at: “When the kid spends the entire party stuck in a chair elevated four feet off the ground and people come and stare at them like they are an exhibit at the Guggenheim, it seems more like a bizarre form of child abuse.” How funny!

    Like

  28. I never liked birthday parties as a kid. So when my brothers and sisters ask for a party, I think they have lost some marbles somewhere (A good gift?) But I still go to Chuck E. Cheese. IS that immaturity? Most likely.
    I do the same thing with my lists, except I like to ask for something ridiculous like “A Jedi Boyfriend”. It always seems appropriate. But yeah, I never want to go anywhere on my birthday lately either.

    Like

  29. Hey you are bad mouthing my stock in trade! How Very DARE you!;)
    But seriously now, over the many years of being in the business of children’s parties I have seen it all, trust me.
    Do take a look at my blog as it is all about trying to turn party hell into party heaven.
    And yes, I do entertain at babies first birthday.

    Great blog. I shall be back for more.

    Diane

    Like

  30. I’m glad I checked the Freshly Pressed section today. Your post caught my eye since I’ll be having a birthday next month. I thought it’d be a “man I’m getting old” schpeel (is that even correct??) and my misery could have a little company. This post didn’t do that and it’s nice it didn’t. My misery needs no encouragement. It was funny, you’re funny. Thanks.

    Like

  31. Yes every year I place high expectations hoping people, friends, family, my children will remember and do something spectacular. I turned 40 this year and I got a membership to CostCo! Next year I’m buying my own gift!

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  32. Eh after about 10 years old, it’s all downhill when it comes to birthday excitement. I got an oil change once. Practical always wins. That, and the de rigueur flowers, of course.

    Congratulations on being FP!

    Like

  33. Pingback: It Sucks to Grow Up: The Birthday Edition (via The Life and Times of Nathan Badley…) « eloisie

  34. As a young boy, I remember asking my father what he wanted as a birthday present. He would always answer, “Some Peace and Civility”. It always annoyed me – I just wanted to know what to buy him, because I knew as little about what my middle-aged father might want then, as I know what a young child wants now, given that I don’t have any children of my own. At 41 years of age, I now instinctively give the same answer as my father when anyone – young nephew or older friend – asks what I want for my birthday. I think I finally understand it now.

    I enjoyed your Post – congrats on making ‘Freshly Pressed’.

    Like

  35. Today was one of my best friend’s birthdays, which happened to coincide with a dinner we had previously planned, before realizing the date in which the dinner fell on. Everyone brought her cards and we sat there, getting food thrown at us, at a hibachi restaurant. She almost made it out of the situation unaffected by the embarrassment of a birthday dinner, but someone ratted her out by screaming Happy Birthday at her while the waitress was there. And suddenly, there was a going and a flaming candle standing in some ice cream, as we all sang a jovial, half-assed rendition of Happy Birthday. It seems this type of thing is something that can never be escaped. Birthdays just get more awkward as we get older.

    Like

  36. happy birthday for a late bless.Actually I really like to hold a birthday party because I love to be together with my friends with a lot of happiness.I think birthday party is a way to show your love to someone and a gathering for friends.

    Like

  37. This post was hilarious! Seriously made me laugh out loud multiple times. I still enjoy celebrating my birthdays and claim to be the birthday princess for the entire month, but I understand your point about children’s b-day parties. Even so, I’ll probably make all my friends suffer the same when I have kids.

    Like

  38. I once played Snow White at a 4 year old’s birthday party — I had an anxiety attack in the bathroom just before I “went on” and in front of the mother whose child’s birthday it was and who was paying me for the gig. “They’ll know I’m a fake!” She calmly said, don’t worry about it, their only 4. Here’s an apple.”

    Hold on to the dream! Birthdays don’t have to suck!

    Like

  39. haha! your post was hilarious, absolutely hilarious. Being as ADD as I am, you should get an award for making a long post that I actually finished. Your style is really active with the reader. Great read, haha…

    Happy birthday buddy.

    Like

  40. So, what now…are you going to be too big for your britches since you got “freshly pressed?”

    congratulations!
    Sandi

    P.S. I was looking for something and I noticed, wait a minute…that’s Nathan’s post!

    Like

  41. I work as a nanny, so kiddy parties are a fixture in my life- and more weekends than I care to confess.
    Terribly boring yes! But the food……! The only thing that gets me through is stuffing my face with all the sugary goodness. I just revert to my 5-year-old self, and gorge. Fairy bread, gummie bears, cheezles, mini hotdogs, cotton candy oh my.

    Like

  42. Your post is super funny and totally made me smile! Haha. Good laugh to start my day with 🙂
    I wrote a post about my birthday coming up just a few days ago, so it was quite interesting to read your post 😛

    Like

  43. I thoroughly enjoyed your post. We have forgotten what birthdays are about and how to celebrate without a big show with something to prove. Materialism and commercialization seeps into many different celebrations and that takes away the true meaning… I have learnt not to plan for my birthday and go with the flow. If every day was like a birthday would be the best celebration. When the day comes around then it would be just like every other day- awesome. Admittedly I like to spoil myself with special gifts on my birthday but I also do that on occasions every other month as well. Great post- made me think. I thought about reblogging your post but you might be tired of that since a few others have done so. But hey, I love it so I might as well! Thanks!

    Like

  44. Pingback: It Sucks to Grow Up: The Birthday Edition (via The Life and Times of Nathan Badley…) | TRAVELITERATURE

  45. Nice…I did not celebrate my bday on party..
    and I dont like a party, I just want a simple and
    memorable…I want only to be there my family…

    Like

  46. Happy Birthday!
    Birthday shouldn’t be a dilemma ( for us Adults). It’s ok to be sentimental all, and at the end of the day we simply wish to be a better person.
    My wish for you, Good health and more friends! Would you count me in? Happy Trails!

    Like

  47. I love this! I am quickly getting to the “other side of life” and it is strange to me that so many of my peers throw birthday parties for themselves (or their spouses do). I get the big milestones in life. 13, 16, 18, 21, 50. Those are some noteworthy birthdays, but 33, 37? What in the world? I think there comes a time that you realize you’re a bit to old for all that “life is about me” kind of stuff. 🙂 And the “computer battery”…priceless. So true! Good stuff!

    Like

  48. Love your post. As a side note, don’t assume that all little girls want something pink for their birthday. Break the gender specific trend and give the girl an action figure. I would have loved it.

    Like

  49. I just attended a joint birthday party for both my niece and nephew, double the fun! After singing happy birthday to my nephew and his star wars birthday cake, he attempted to blow out his four candles. It his attempt he spit all over the cake. I mean, globs of clear saliva dripping from each corner. His parents cheerfully laughed and smiled as this was happening. I politely declined when asked, “Who wants cake?!”

    Like

  50. See, the first problem is the math. Your math is all wrong. Stop adding up those years each and every year. I only get older every four years, like leap year. Besides, birthdays are great excuses for cake. And cake is one of God’s truly fine creations. I loved your tale of birthday woe. I’ll have to come back to visit. Visit me at sherriwinston.wordpress.com

    Like

  51. A beautiful article and brilliant protrayal. I just turned 22 and the same thoughts were going through my mind. The worst part of your birthday is that you count your accomplishments till now and when you do, its horrifying, the realisation that you are almost worthless and have done nothing of any substantial importance in real world is overbearing and terrifying.

    Like

  52. Happy Belated birthday and what a great post 😀 Hated BP’s as a kid, no different now – my ideal birthday: mountain retreat with a good bottle of red and my other half – keep the prezzies 😉

    Like

  53. Happy belated birthday! Mine was the 25th. I too felt uneasy while answering the “What do you want for your birthday?” question. My top three answers: a nap, new socks, and for spring to arrive.

    I’m boring too. 🙂

    Like

  54. To me, every birthday after 40 makes me depressed. Each celebration becomes more boring. My last birthday, my 43rd, I was on vacation in Sydney at the Warner Bross theme park, drained in rain with my nieces, bored to death.

    Like

  55. Wait a minute, but you if get that monkey, then you can have monkey birthday parties and have everyone over to bring presents to your monkey. Bananas, puzzles… I think the real question is what do you buy for a monkey???

    Well written post! It was a pleasure to read it.

    Like

  56. LOL, tell it like it is! The one reason why I will always like any birthday party is because of the cake and ice cream. Having a party, I’m in. I just might show up really late, eat some cake, and leave really early! 😉

    Like

  57. I have a six year old brother who wants his birthday at Chuckee Cheese every year, then spends the entire time hiding under the table so the “scary mouse” won’t look at him. Then a month before his birthday the next year he BEGS to go back to “the place with the cool mouse.” Damn mouse.

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  58. Pingback: It Sucks to Grow Up: The Birthday Edition (via The Life and Times of Nathan Badley…) « Catch Your Cheating Mate

  59. I almost always did that trick of placing something really expensive on the list and then place something that I really wanted on the list too. Sometimes worked sometimes it didn’t; the whole thing relies on the person reading the list between the lines.

    and How far is too far when it comes to Birthday Parties, personally never been invited to a kid’s birthday party so I don’t have to consider how deep I have to go since there is deep then there is which way is up.

    Like

  60. Haha belated happy birthday. Mmm You should have asked for that monkey though. Next time get one, get a purple monkey … haha i had one once when i was a kid. You are kinda lucky you can go out to eat on ur birthday… i have exams on all of them – by default:P

    Like

  61. It doesn’t stink to grow up; just be thankful you’re able to do so. I never hide my age – too silly. I’m proud that I’ve made it this far.

    Happy Birthday! Although intriguing, a monkey would seem like a messy addition to the household whereas a laptop battery would make perfect, practical sense lol

    Congrats on being FP!

    Like

  62. You should sell this to parenting magazines. The first and best piece of advice I ever received as a mother was “Your friends do not want to come to your kids’ birthday parties.” And as a result of my heeding the advice, I still have friends.
    Congrats of FP!

    Like

  63. You should sell this to parenting magazines. The first and best piece of advice I ever received as a mother was “Your friends do not want to come to your kids’ birthday parties.” And as a result of my heeding the advice, I still have friends.
    Congrats on FP!

    Like

  64. Wow! Really enjoyed reading this article. This week is my Birthday as well and I was almost in the same predicament as you. However, I am a woman and therefore there is no end to the list of things I could ever want. And it seems as the older I get the longer the list becomes each year….But Happy Belated Birthday to you anyway. Hope you had a FANGA-ful day!

    Hillary
    FANGA!

    Like

  65. You are the first real blog I subscribe to. Like, not myself and not the wordpress blog. Not that mines not very real! I need readers by the way I’m very new and sometimes I feel like I’m writing to the wall, cough cough.

    BY THE WAY, you made me laugh! (: I’ve had a Birthday party every year of my life too and sir I intend to keep it that way.

    Like

  66. i was gonna ask the same thing haha! your post as usual is facinating i love to read you, its my favorite blog because you do send me to the place…you must write books not a blog, youre good!
    happy birthday!!!

    Like

  67. That is a great trick! I never thought about putting a costly item on the list as a red herring.

    Love the computer battery thing. I totally need on right now. As we get older it becomes more about what we need then want I guess.

    Then you have kids and you could care less about your birthday, you put everything into your kids’ bday parties and there you go (Chuck E Ch. this month for my 2 year old).

    Story in your honor:

    The family sat down for their meal, grandpa Joe was at the end of the table, as usual, spilling most his meal on his shirt. Everyone was talking about what to get Jimmy for his birthday when Joe, who had been mute for years, piped up “I want a monkey!”

    Like

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  70. I was bored on my lunch break and then I stumbled upon your blog article. This was so intriguing that I was late in coming back to work. Can’t wait to send this with my coworkers!

    Like

  71. I almost always did that trick of placing something really expensive on the list and then place something that I really wanted on the list too. Sometimes worked sometimes it didn’t; the whole thing relies on the person reading the list between the lines.

    and How far is too far when it comes to Birthday Parties, personally never been invited to a kid’s birthday party so I don’t have to consider how deep I have to go since there is deep then there is which way is up.

    Like

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