It doesn’t make sense if you really think about it, but people expect things of us on our birthday: we’re supposed to be happy and excited, make plans, wear a nice outfit, and get drunk. Our birthday should be the one day we’re allowed to enjoy doing things how we want to do them, rather than trying to live up to the standards of others. Sometimes you don’t feel like going out and taking a free shot of tequila at every bar you go to or inviting your weird aunt to come to dinner. Your birthday should be the one day a year that you’re allowed to do exactly what you want without wasting any time worrying about what is expected of you.
Instead of trying to live up to the expectations, you need to make your own birthday cake.
There are many wonderful things that come out of making a cake for yourself. First, it means that you don’t have to sit with a cake on a table in front of you, filled with way too many candles that are dripping wax all over the frosting, trying to keep a smile on your face while a group of your friends and family stares and takes pictures that no one cares about or will ever look at again (and won’t even get that many likes on Instagram). If it’s just you and your cake in your apartment, there will be no forcing yourself to smile while people sing when really you want to cry because you’re thinking about the speed at which old age and death are rapidly approaching and how you’re doing nothing in your life. Skipping the “happy birthday” song benefits everyone. Plus, if you happen to be making a documentary about your life, you won’t need to pay $5,000 for the rights to the song.
Additionally, according to the results of my recent experiments, the act of eating a birthday cake is a much more satisfying and enjoyable moment if you made the cake yourself. You can feel accomplished knowing that you had all of the baking supplies to put the cake together, that you mastered the adjustments on your overzealous oven to actually cook the cake correctly, and that you waited long enough to frost it so that you didn’t ruin the top. You’ll feel pleased with yourself, and that makes the cake way more delicious.
If you make your own birthday cake, you have no one to blame but yourself if you overeat. There isn’t a table full of people blurring the ideas of joy and overconsumption together, thinking that having a bigger piece of cake makes the party a bigger, more fun celebration. It’s just you, and you’re smarter than that. You know perfectly well that having a second piece of that cake won’t make your birthday any better, and there isn’t a crowd of people to make you think differently. If you want to have two or three or five pieces, that’s fine, but you’ll be doing it because you want more, not because you feel like you have to out of some American more-is-better social norm.
If you make your own birthday cake, you are allowed to make it as weird as you want. Use hot pink frosting and purple food coloring. Make it black and put a skull on it. Don’t write on it at all, or write all over it with inspirational quotes. Make it a wedding cake. Set it on fire. Make it gluten-free just to see what it tastes like then throw it in the trash. Whatever. It’s your cake, and you can do what you want.
Your friends give you gifts and hugs and drinks on your birthday to celebrate you being a person. Why don’t we have a day every year where you call your friends and say, “Hey, thanks for tolerating me this year. I really appreciate you putting up with me”? Instead of receiving all the appreciation and attention, give some back to your friends on your birthday. Give pieces of your perfect cake to people you love to thank them for tolerating you for another year of your life. Our eight-year-old selves were onto something when we gave our friends elaborate party favors at every birthday.
On the other hand, don’t share, and eat the entire thing yourself. Straight from the pan. With a fork and a glass of milk. One bite at a time. Because it’s your cake and you can.