Sunday, April 6, 2008

What is wrong with birthdays?

Well, they don't make sense.

I recently turned 21, and the hoopla surrounding my 'coming of age' was quite confusing. Everywhere I went I got comments of '21 eh? That's the big one!' and 'going hard eh?', when they knew that I do not celebrate birthdays.

I haven't celebrated my birthday since I was 16. I just don't see the point of assigning a specific day to celebrate...uhh...what exactly are we celebrating when we celebrate birthdays?

Are we celebrating a certain person's existence and what they mean to us, or are we just celebrating the fact that a certain person has avoided death for a year? If we are, can't we just celebrate these achievements in our own way every day of the year?

Why do we feel the need to put all adulation aside to a specific day? I'd much more rather loved ones said "You're special to me and don't forget it" every day of the year than an overblown party on my birthday.We all need to feel special once in a while, and I don't exclude myself from this.

I've posed a lot of questions so far, but I feel I don't have the sociological background to begin to answer these questions.

For example, we all know that the birthday party is an important social ritual, but why is it? How exactly am I participating in the social order by attending or hosting a birthday party? It's just all so confusing for me, and this is why I can't bring myself to celebrate a birthday.

Don't get me wrong, I'll still wish people a happy birthday, because it's polite, but on my 'special' day, I don't want anything. No presents, no cake (the cake is a lie rofl etc.) and no parties.

Aside from the celebratory aspect of the birthday, the birthday is seen as a cursor in life.

Think about it. In the Jewish faith, once a boy hits 13, he is a man. In Australia, once we hit 18 we are an adult. Once a woman hits 40 they're over the hill.

Why do we feel the need to structure the achievements of our life around the framework of the birthday?

I for one think it's a social yearning for structure that leads us to celebrating and reflecting on certain milestone birthdays, as if we need guidance as to what to do next with our lives.

I've met plenty of 18 year olds that can not be classified as adults, and plenty of 40 year olds that can not be classified as 'over the hill', and I'm betting that you have too.

If this is the case, then does the milestone collapse on it's own flimsy structure?

In my opinion, yes dammit!

I tend to think that age can not be defined by numbers or the passing of the moon, but rather what you feel. This whole age thing is a construction of social invention, and the birthday is society's way of reinforcing this idea.

So before celebrating your next birthday, think about what you're doing, and what you're playing into by acknowledging it.

P.S- Thanks to Mel for promoting the blog, and keep on reading!

1 comment:

Melaisis said...

This is sorta irrelevant, but it still kinda applies:

All my friends are turning 17/18/19. This makes me considerably younger than you, James; but I like to think I don't act like it. Still, this so-called 'coming of age' (I'm British, aye) seems to be somewhat important to my companions, so its a succession of madd parties for me. This is great and all, but the whole thing just seems like an excuse for people to get drunk.

Ironically, all of these parties, around the same circle of people, just really makes the whole scene turn into a cycle of monotony. The people get boring, the beer tastes stale and, ironically, the next celebration turns into 'just another party'. I respect you for not celebrating your birthday elaborately, for that in itself makes it more symbolic and special to you. Of course this wasn't exactly your original point, but all the same.

I'm currently reading a fantasy trilogy by Robert Scott. The books are boring as Hell, but the 'age' thing raises an interesting concept: They count age in months, not years, only celebrating the occasion every hundred months or so. Fittingly, I think if we did as you suggested - and rejoice on a more regular basis - the useless hype surrounding such events would be greatly diminished. This is probably better for society. I mean, after all, if I see another 'Sweet 16' episode I'm seriously going to commit a random verb ending in 'cide'.