“Okay, campers, rise and shine, and don’t forget your booties ’cause it’s cooooold out there today.”
Today is my birthday. It’s a national fucking holiday: Groundhog’s Day. I can get behind being a rotund, ill-tempered yet majestic marmot. My sister is a turkey; I think I got the better deal. Usually, I am rushing to school on my birthday, trying to get there in time to find CNN’s channel before sunrise in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, which is when Phil officially prognosticates. Because today is a Saturday, I did set my TV on CNN last night with the good intentions of getting up and watching at 7:23 a.m. but since I was still awake when the days switched from February 1 to February 2, sleeping in and checking Phil out on the web later http://www.groundhog.org/ seemed like a more reasonable option.
I have done the mecca journey to Punxsutawney twice. It is a hilarious mess bearing little resemblance to the Bill Murray movie and Gobbler’s Knob is located on what seems like a mountain at 3 a.m. in 20 degree weather. I’ve also been to Woodstock, Illinois, where the movie was actually filmed. There are little bronze plaques around the town square documenting memorable scenes like “Ned’s Corner” where Phil steps off the curb into the puddle to escape Ned the insurance salesman. I have kissed a member of the Inner Circle, who are the handlers and officiators of Phil’s ceremony; Gobbler’s Knob is groundhog Mardi Gras for these people.
Charlatans like Buckeye Chuck can kiss my anal glands (Groundhogs have three).
Consistently I am pretty much okay with Groundhogese and relying on the fortune-telling prowess of a furry critter for my birthday. But that is pretty much where the consistency ends because….well… I might be a little more mentally unstable than usual at this time of year.
According to the Mayo Clinic, “Seasonal affective disorder (also called SAD) is a type of depression that occurs at the same time every year…sapping your energy and making you feel moody.” Can I apply this to about January 26- February 2? Especially if “moody” means completely irrational bursts of Honey Badger-like anger and seething evil at the mention of my birthday?
This unpredictable reaction manifested somewhere in my 20’s. I remember having a crying/screaming “conversation” with my mom on my 26th birthday somehow motivated by the logic that she had me when she was 26. Last year I was perfectly fine in the lead-up to my birthday and even tentatively looked forward to it until the morning of. I woke up and Brain was just haywire.
Brain: “It’s your stupid fucking birthday, you’re destined to be alone and a crazy cat lady, you have no future but to die at your desk, you’re kinda fat and your glasses make you look like your Aunt Carol who is a total cunt. Today you will lash out at EVERYONE and lie to mere acquaintances who tell you ‘Happy Birthday’ because, of course, it’s going to be on the announcements at school. Enjoy.”
And so the day began. The Honey Badger was released and ready to fight a hundred cobras. Brain was not disappointed.
In contrast I’ve felt a minimal amount of angst this year. The problem is that last year’s behavior scarred some of my more “glass half full” friends. My birthday has only been mentioned by the very brave or by those standing just out of lashing-out distance and by some…not at all. Wimps.
So for future birthday reference here are some potential Groundhog birthday triggers:
Choosing the restaurant: As soon as someone asks me where I want to eat, my mind goes blank. I’ve never eaten in or heard of any restaurants. Whhhaaatt? Now not only am I responsible for my own food, but I am making a meal decision (possibly an expensive one) for like 10- 15 people. Which for that many people means that extensive planning, questioning, negotiating and reserving has to happen. Even if I’m not the one doing all that, it makes me anxious and fairly certain that I’ve now inconvenienced everyone involved.
Stop staring at me: These 10-15 people will now have their attention focused on me for at least part of this celebration. I like attention but I do not enjoy being the absolute white-hot focus of all involved. This is also exacerbated by situations in which large groups burst into song and I have to graciously nod and smile until it’s over. However keep in mind that my birthday is a paradox. I will be equally agitated if it is overdone or if it is ignored. I need that Baby Bear’s bed balance of “just right.”
Re-evaluating my age/life: I’m just going to sneak this one into the middle of some more trivial stuff. Maybe you won’t notice. This one is probably the real issue but it’s not very funny. Every year when the Christmas songs start, the stations bust out John Lennon’s “Happy Xmas(War is Over).” I love John Lennon but there is a line in that song gets me every time: “So this is Christmas and what have you done,/ Another year over, a new one just begun.” You might as well just replace Christmas with New Year’s Eve and my birthday, which are only a month apart but are both times of self-evaluation. So another year’s over and what I have I done? What HAVE I done? What do I want to do? Where am I going? What other milestones are there to look forward to at this point? Part of the problem is that I don’t fucking know!
I’m pretty sure there are some expected “normal” societal goals that either everyone else expects me to accomplish or that Brain secretly expects me to accomplish. Have big girl professional job that I went to college for. Check. Of course, I’m not qualified to do anything else. Purchased home. Check. Better not lose my job or there goes the home.
Marriage? Haven’t been on a date since 2006. Do I even want to bother? Job interviews are easier than dating. Mother tried to ask me if perhaps I am gay. Check. Wondering who will care for me in my old age. Do I want kids at all? I pretty much can’t stand everyone else’s children and rarely feel any envy while observing them. Would I like it if it were my kid?
I don’t have answers.
Balloons: I understand that they are aesthetically pleasing and an image associated with joyfulness. Fine. BUT THEY ARE GOING TO FUCKING EXPLODE AT SOME UNDEFINED POINT AND I CAN’T DEAL WITH THAT!!!!!! So I don’t want them around me.
Cake: If you bake it and it’s there I’ll eat it, but in general cake is not my first choice of desserts. However it is the first choice of birthdays everywhere. I also think that those giant “cookie cakes” (another standard birthday choice) taste unnatural like the dough didn’t get mixed right or baked thoroughly. My mom has started making a pan of gingerbread for me along with gingerbread groundhog cookies instead of cake. I think there’s a lot more flavor and a better texture going on there. However she is the queen of cakes in shapes: bunnies, giraffes, cats, rainbows, turkeys, cars, hearts whatever we asked for. Shaped cake always tastes better.
Gifts I don’t want from people who don’t know me: Do NOT hand a sixteen year old girl a rifle then act surprised when she bursts into tears. (Also if you got roped into the dinner of 10-15 people but we don’t really know each other, you are not obligated to bring a gift. If you feel you must, just bring wine.)
The weather: I love my national holiday, but Ohio’s February weather is shit. My birthday celebrations can either get cancelled or become life threatening situations due to snow, ice, blizzards, the chicken pox etc… Additionally it is hard to look cute for my birthday when it is below freezing. Layers and parkas are not figure flattering.
There are a couple of other trigger items on my brainstormed list, but I’m not quite over the fear that somehow some family member might read this and then..oh God forbid that I shared my less than positive feelings.
Suffice to say that last night I got to see a good school play while hanging with friends, sat and laughed my ass off with an equally entertaining group of friends at a bar, did a very creamy birthday shot and called it a successful night. This morning I had brunch with the girls, laughed some more, and had a couple of hours of shopping with a buddy. Add on a nap with my cats and it’s all good…
…until next year.