Thought Catalog
September 1, 2012

Birthdays When You’re A Kid Vs. When You’re In Your 20s

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What is the issue?

My birthday party is tonight. I’m throwing it at a tiki bar in North Hollywood partially because it feels ridiculous to do so and partially because I just really love tiki bars.

I’m turning 26.

For the first time in awhile, I’m not freaking out about my age. Once I hit 25 and exited the coveted 18-24 age bracket, I was like, “Whatevs. Just wake me when I’m 30.” 26 doesn’t feel much different than 25. They seem interchangeable. They leave the same impression. Both feel very young adult.

I stopped caring about my birthday after I turned 22. And I don’t mean, “OMG, I don’t care but I really do actually. You better give me presents and cake.” No, I legitimately don’t care. It’s whatevs. I just want my parents to give me a Trader Joe’s gift card and to maybe make out with someone at my party tonight. I used to be the birthday diva, the birthday queen. Now I can’t even be bothered. It sounds depressing but it’s not. It’s actually a relief. When you have no expectations, you can’t be disappointed. By setting the bar low, I’m allowing it to be high.

I used to have the best birthdays when I was younger. My mom would plan everything. I would just tell her I wanted and, within reason, it would magically appear. I wouldn’t have to make any phone calls for the arrangements. My birthday present was being able to have no stress.

One of my favorite birthdays was actually one of the simplest to plan. I was turning 17 and I asked my mother if I could get a jolly jump, a cake from my favorite bakery, and invite some of my closest friends to hang out with me in the park. She said, “Yes, of course!” and that’s what we did. It ended up being a blast. Just lots of talking and laughing and cake-eating. We collapsed the jolly jump obviously. That’s as badass as it got. This was the last birthday I had that didn’t involve alcohol. It’s crazy to think that I might not ever have a birthday again that doesn’t involve booze. I’m not complaining. It’s just funny to think about it.

My 18th birthday was the opposite. It was my first real BIG birthday. I rented a limo, which was the first and last time I ever set foot in one of those things, and went to Los Angeles with seven of my closest friends, where I had rented a hotel room on Sunset Boulevard. (I KNOW, I KNOW, SORRY GUYS. MY SUPER SWEET 16 OVER HERE.)

I’d like to tell you that this birthday, with all of its extravagances, was not as good as my 17th, that it tried too hard and failed. But that wouldn’t be accurate. It was, in fact, one of the best weekends of my life. My friends and I had just started drinking and smoking cigarettes but in that totally fake “teen rebellion” way. At dinner, in Los Angeles, we ordered a bottle of wine and were stunned when we didn’t get carded. Oh my god, were they serious? Wow! Yes! We got alcohol. Let’s get crazy!

When the bottle came though, no one drank it. It just sat there, symbolizing a triumphant victory, but left completely untouched. I even took a picture of it with my Polaroid camera.

I took a picture.

No one drank it.

We never slept that weekend. I got a blowjob on an ottoman. My best friend walked in on me having sex in her hotel bed and refused to talk to me or my BF for the rest of the trip. It was hilariously dramatic in that inconsequential teenage way.

We didn’t know Los Angeles. We had no idea where to go. We went to The Ivy for dinner one night because I had read about it in Us Weekly. Our jaws dropped when we got the bill.

We mostly stayed in our hotel room, drunk off freedom and the hotel minibar. By the time the weekend was over and we had to go back to our hometown of Ventura, all of us were ravaged. We drank from the cup of freedom too fast and now we were paying the price for it. One of my friends ended up getting mono as a result of that weekend.

Then the birthdays changed. I went to college and started to feel the panic for the first time that I was getting older. “I’m no longer a teenager!” I cried out on my 20th birthday which was Quinceañera themed. It was all so silly. Birthdays became a source of anxiety and dread. Who to invite, where to throw it. Were the cops going to break it up? I can’t invite that person because that person hates them.

I spent my 21st birthday in the Hollywood Hills with a bunch of the people I grew up with. People made me do so many shots that I ended up passing out at 1:30am while everyone else raged until the sun came up. At one point, someone wandered into my bed completely naked and mistook me for their boyfriend. Um. When I woke up, it was 9am and they were still people on the deck who hadn’t slept and were topless for some reason. It was weird. It was a very 21st birthday.

People like to cry on their birthdays. I don’t cry. I like to get drunk very quickly and go to bed. Perhaps the reason why so many people don’t like their birthday is because it serves as a marker for where you are in your life. Do you have a lot of friends to invite to the party? Do you have a boyfriend? A good job? Depending on your answers to these questions, you could either be overjoyed to celebrate or want to retreat into a hole.

Birthdays are pressure. Birthdays bring with them anxiety and stress. It wasn’t always this way though. Your parents used to do everything for you and all you’d have to do is show up. Simpler birthdays for simpler times for simpler ages.

Ultimately it’s best to not think about the past or the future on your birthday. Just focus on the day and try to surround yourself with the people you love. Everything else is just icing on the birthday cake.TC Mark 

Matt Comi