February Fourth – which is my birthday – passed two days ago. And how ‘bout that Super Bowl!
(Writer’s Note: I have no idea what I’m talking about, as this was written more than a week earlier. Still, “How ‘bout that Super Bowl” can be read a lot of different ways, from giddy excitement to grumpy disappointment. Select the appropriate reaction, and move on.)
I go through this detectable cycle around my birthday. Externally, it appears I am depressed, which may actually correspond to how I feel internally. (Where do you think these things come from?)
But then there’s this change, which seems to transpire all by itself, and which I am only aware of through my behavior. (The “Outside-Inside” type of psychology, similar to the English system of acting where, stick on an “Admiral’s Hat” and you’re Horatio Nelson.
Every year, I determine to be “low profile” about my birthday. No fuss. No excitement. The thing’s happening; I can’t stop it. Just take a low-key approach and try to get through it. Tomorrow, it’s somebody else’s birthday, and we’re done.
But then, invariably, this happens.
The morning of a recently past birthday – I take a walk by the beach, stopping at Cora’s for coffee. And the first words out of my mouth after placing my order are,
“It’s my birthday!”
Accompanied by an elevating grin.
So much for “low profile.”
Compounding the evidence of my conflicting “mixed feelings”, when recently asked what I wanted for my upcoming birthday, I definitively laid down the law:
“Just immediate family, hotdogs-and-hamburger barbecue, weather permitting. And a crown.”
You see what I’m talking about? The preamble is “funereal disaster.” The day arrives, and it’s “Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee!”
Unless you’re dogs, you only get one birthday a year. (They, apparently, get seven.) You cannot allow it to slip by. One of my favorite birthdays ever, my daughter Anna took me to Disneyland, where they had this promotional campaign – now, sadly, abandoned – in which visitors arriving on their birthday got in free.
Not only that, they gave you this giant button with your name on it, leading every passing Disneyland employee to call out,
“Happy Birthday, Earl!”
And not just “Earl.” Because of the telltale “Birthday Buttons”, you got to meet and greet everyone else there born on that day.
I don’t know if we are an astrologically “cool” population, but the “Co-Birthdayers” I ran into seemed equally terrific. There was even talk of a reunion!
“Uh-oh. Here comes “The Worm in the Birthday Cake.”
Despite the celebratory overtones (eschewing the more cynical “celebratory veneer” – so there!), what can I tell you?
For years – starting around age sixty – I imagined each ensuing birthday as another block placed atop an increasingly teetering stack.
There is only one way that can end.
I just sighed.
(Optimists simultaneously shaking their heads.)
The thing is – and I shall restrict it to writing –
I do not want to “Write ‘Old’.”
(If I actually have a choice, which I, in fact, may not.)
I am aware, evidenced by your emailed responses, that a preponderance of my readership – bordering possibly on everyone – falls into the demographic who members of a younger demographic politely get up and offer us their seats on the bus to. (To which I curiously respond, “Do I really look that terrible?”) A predictable cohort, comparing “medical scares” at casual outings, and saying, “You know who died?” (Note: If I am off-base about this, my humble apologies, and hooray!)
It is my, possibly delusional, belief that I can appeal to young and old. Maybe I can’t. The next best thing: To appeal to the ‘young’ in everyone.
What constitutes “young” in this calculation?
People whose minds remain enthusiastically “Open for Business.”
There are telltale giveaways when they aren’t, the signaling pervasive one being,
Kneejerk reactions to contemporary occurrences.
It’s funny. It goes two ways when you’re old.
You repeat a long-held opinion because of an ossified perspective.
You repeat a long-held opinion because you totally forgot mentioning it before.
I’m not sure you can do much about the second one. (I myself may have written about this before.)
But the first thing?
We’ve stayed at the same hotel in Hawaii twenty-five times. It’s not even that great. But when we try other places, they seem – Duh! – less comfortably familiar.
“Familiar” –be it a hotel or a personal belief – is not necessarily “The Best.” It’s what we are habitually used to. Which we (may) mistakenly synonymize with “The Best”, or, in other contexts, the truth.
If you see me stuck in an opinionational rut, you have my permission to summarily “call” me on it, or to alternatively – metaphorically – shoot me in the head.
It’s no big deal.
I am apparently not using it much anyway.