In the Market for a Birthday Monkey

I saw my name in bright lights early. I had hit the big time by the time I was a pre-teen.  While some child stars had to wear Vaseline on their teeth and skin-tight flammables before a leering Ed McMahon, my fame came easily and without Aqua Net. It also came annually. Every day, as the family Suburban made the voyage to school, we passed the Dairy Queen marquee.  One day a year – November 30th – that luminescent billboard boasted my name with a birthday message. Sure, there were years they’d run short on letters, resulting in “Hpy Bdy Ern”, but I was temporarily famous nonetheless. Not everyone in our Ozarks town had a mother who ate enough Blizzards to earn that kind of clout with the Dairy Queen store manager. Combine the exhilaration that comes with seeing your name on a board usually reserved for advertising $2.99 Combo Meals with my mother’s penchant for festooning my door with toilet paper and streamers, I was one step short of wearing a tiara and a sash to homeroom. When I was in high school, it was en vogue to have balloon arrangements from your friends and family delivered to the Principal’s office. If one were really lucky, the Mylar assortments would be delivered not all at once, but staggered throughout the day, so that all of your classmates could witness the frequency with which you were paged to pick up your packages. I’d feign embarrassment and false humility with eye rolls to all staring at the helium rainbow hovering overhead while really hoping I’d qualify as a float in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Birthdays changed once I’d left my mother’s house and forfeited the benefits of Blizzard addiction. My college friends attempted to replicate the grandeur, but not even the local Chinese Buffet infamous for Hepatitis breakouts and ludicrous menu misspellings would co-op their sign with my birthday message.

Once marriage and my own family arrived, my birthday devolved to a non-occasion.  The first birthday post-children culminated in my husband encouraging me to run out to pick up a cupcake while he watched the baby. I read once that Katie Holmes had cupcakes delivered to her movie set on her birthday, but I bet that was after Tom Cruise had all the vanilla beans in Madagascar sent to the most renowned pastry chef in Paris who personally baked those cupcakes and walked them (transatlantically) to the birthday girl. I had hoped that would be the dark blip on my birthday radar, but the following year was even worse. G’s dog had gone through a particularly heavy shed during the summer, leaving me grumbling about living with Cousin Itt and owning a vacuum with a motor meant for a blowdryer when we needed one with the horsepower of a Boeing 747. G’s interpretation of these rants was that I would really appreciate a more robust vacuum…for my birthday. Alas, for my 30th birthday, he bought me a Dyson.

A goddamn Dyson vacuum. Had he not returned it within moments of unsheathing it, I would have hung myself with that patented Air Multiplier technology.

You pragmatic types to claim you would love to receive a cleaning implement for your birthday, think twice. Christmas, or the Lunar New Year, or Victory over Japan Day are all suitable holidays for these gifts, but your birthday is not. After enduring two back-to-back pregnancies while still working, I was expecting nothing less than a cruise, the Hope Diamond, a singing telegram from Madonna, or the dedication of a newly discovered constellation in the solar system.

This year is shaping up a little like Vacuumgate. My birthday is today and I would normally have something to look forward to – at the very least a major appliance to return – but G is out of town. An important business trip has whisked him away to a function that sounds a lot like a high school Model UN trip. The circle of dear girlfriends I’ve left behind since moving to Maine was always accountable for taking me out to a celebratory dinner no matter what stood in our way. I was so delusional with fever one year that I started a fire by placing my menu on the tabletop candle, but not even arson was going to keep me from breaking birthday bread with my friends. The distance of the Northeastern Seaboard will, however.

In lieu of dinner, I had planned to take advantage of the 60 minute foot massage and pedicure at a local spa one of my closest friends had sent. My feet have not been attended to since an August pedicure, which left the Vietnamese woman sloughing and puffing in dire need of trail mix and a Gatorade. I’ve been wondering if OPI made a nail color to match the purple hue of my daughter’s latest black and blue when G burst my birthday balloon. “Isn’t a foot massage going to put you into labor? That’s what that pregnancy book said. You should hold off on that with me out of town this week.” See, G read about 4.5 pages of a pregnancy book to prepare for the birth of our first child, and from it he walked away with two nuggets. The first is that he should never, ever, under any circumstances offer me a foot massage. The second is that some women experience an enhanced libido during pregnancy. Both assertions are complete bullshit, but I have learned through three pregnancies now that I’m not going to have my sore and aching feet rubbed. He’s learned that he’s not going to have something of his rubbed.

Without a husband, or my mother, or those friends, and with heels that have fissures the size of the San Andreas Fault, this year feels more like a Tuesday than a birthday.  If you ask my kids to name the person of honor, they’ll respond jubilantly with ‘Dora!’ or ‘Santa!’  To capitalize on this, by the end of the day I may be wearing a red velvet hat or a backpack with a monkey on my shoulder. Regardless, we will be visiting a Dairy Queen after dinner where I will point to the marquee and tell them about the time their Mama was a birthday queen and local celebrity.  Even if it was just for a day.

(Tell me about your birthdays – good or bad).

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18 thoughts on “In the Market for a Birthday Monkey

  1. Happy happy birthday :) I’m 42, and birthdays just don’t get celebrated the way i’d like them to anymore. My husband is not big into holidays (thanks to his parents) and it’s just part of his genetic makeup to really do it up like I’d want him to. So, I’ve learned, sadly, to accept that both fate and financial circumstances have intervened to make birthdays just another day around here.

    However, incidentally, I bought myself a new Dyson yesterday because I kept asking for one as a birthday or Christmas gift from husband and he never got me one. So I paid for it out of my own money. Woo freaking hoo! (BTW…it’s amazing and worth every penny).

  2. Ah, you were one of THOSE girls.
    I never had school on my birthday, which would SEEM awesome, but it’s not because it meant I never got to bring in the number donuts for the class, never got to walk around with a balloon, never had my locker decorated – if my friends had cared, they’d have simply done all of these things on our last day of school before Christmas break, but who bothers with much of ANYTHING on the last day of school before Christmas break? And in adult life I’ve had work on many a birthday, but nobody ever did much for it because, again, everyone who mattered was away. I leave behind me a string of broken promises that “we’ll celebrate in January when everyone’s back”.

    With all of this you’d think I’d resent Christmas, but in fitting with my festive character I’ve instead decided that I *own* Christmas. And the entire month of December along with it. My G has also gotten into the accidental-but-now-encouraged habit of giving me my present really early (which of course does not mean I don’t expect flowers and dinner on the day itself). And I have encouraged friends and family members to get me one big awesome gift for birthday/Christmas instead of feeling the need to keep the gifts separate. Might as well milk it, y’know?

    This year? The big 3-0? I’ll spend most of my birthday driving to a farm to pick up a newly-killed bird, then brining it at home. Awesome.

  3. My birthday is 4 days away from Christmas. The first year we were together my then boyfriend/now husband made the mistake of wrapping my bday present in Christmas paper. Anyone with a bday close to Christmas knows you. don’t. do. that.

    The next year he had learned his lesson but was out of bday wrapping paper so instead he left everything in the white giftbox and wrote on top “this is not Christmas wrapping paper.”

    Funny….after both of those incidents, he didn’t get something of his rubbed either.

    Hope you have a great birthday!

  4. Oh! Happy birthday. I hope you got your blizzard.

    I’ve had some good birthdays – and some which were lame by any standard. Like then one where I had to COOK ON MY BIRTHDAY and yelled at my husband and sister and they stepped in to cook and then put a ton of pepper on the sauteed mushrooms and were afraid to tell me for fear that my head would explode. Which it would have. Jerks.

  5. Meh. You know Katie Holmes took one look at those cupcakes, said, “Oh, how lovely!” and gave them out to all her underlings.

    And I would have questioned the motives behind a new vacuum for my bday. Because my husband does the vacuuming.

    This year I got the most awesome “Happy birthday Mommy!” greetings from my 2.5 year old twins, an iTunes gift card (yes, I love those), and a tshirt with an clever take an a Dr Suess quote. Unfortunately, it only reminded me that i will never look like those sassy chicks on the snorgtees site. Yay for needing to exchange it for a man’s tshirt.

  6. Happy Birthday! I know the feeling of having to celebrate a birthday in a new town. I did the same thing at the end of September, albeit not pregnant. You make me laugh and I enjoy reading your posts.


    Picture that on the Dairy Queen marquee… :-)

    Speakin of birthday’s…guess who’s birthday was yesterday…guess…guess….


    So…we are almost birthday buddies which is pretty awesome I think.

    Wanna know what I did? I let my child run wild through the house and I stayed in my PJ’s until approx 4 PM at which time I fixed my hair and got dressed so that Farm Boy could take his beloved wife and daughter to The Cheesecake Factory where I ate a salad and we all shared a huge piece of pumpkin/pecan cheesecake. Exciting stuff huh? Oops…I almost forgot…I made a hair appt to get rid of the 5 gray hairs I found last week. Can you believe THAT shit?? GRAY FREAKIN HAIRS?!?!!!

    Birthday’s aren’t the same anymore and I don’t like being 25 + 6 cause I don’t feel like I’m 25 + 6. But…I’m not sure what I can do about it aside from deny, deny, DENY!!!



  8. Happy Birthday Erin – all the way from the land down under. I would make you a vegemite sandwich and chocolate pavlova were you here!

    My Birthday is also close to Christmas, and, it is true, you never use Christmas paper to wrap birthday presents. Similarly, you also must purchase 2 cards (made from recycled paper, or not). For my 21st, many, many years ago, we held a party at my parents. They stayed up later than all the “young” adults, got more drunk and threw each other in the pool. I actually went to bed before my dad, who stayed up playing drinking games with my college friends. Oh the shame!

  9. Happy Birthday Erin!!!

    Don’t do them any more. Can’t cope with the disaster that is the day.

    Really wish that not celebrating also meant not getting older, but no one seems to be listening.

    But for you I wish wonderful things. Even if you don’t actually get them today.

  10. Well being that my birthday is AUGUST 25th– I grew up never having a “real” party with my “real friends” you know because no one was home- they were all TOO busy enjoying their summer vacations to care about me:) Sp now that I’m older I make sure EVERYONE REMEMBERS and PAYS HOMAGE to my special day-err month- yes I go TOTALLY OVERBOARD! I think you are just a phenom- I am inspired by your writing, and the fact that you are literally about to birth your third in about three years– u r a super woman in my book- can’t wait till you pop this one out and come visit me in NYC– maybe– you know around my BIRTHDAY?!!

  11. Oh gosh. This is the saddest birthday story ever. I am laughing really, really hard about what your husband got out of the pregnancy book, though. Bless your heart. But happy birthday!

  12. HAPPY BIRTHDAY! Had I know I would have sent you cupcakes with icing made of real Belgian Chocolate.

    My birthdate makes me beloved by the Americans here at the office, it is the 4th of July and they seem to feel that that makes me ‘one of them’. Otherwise my birthdays are completely uneventfull, with a family dinner that I must always cook myself and a cake that I bake myself.

    The worst birthday happened in Egypt. I had brushed my teeth with tap water and to call that a mistake is an understatement. God knows what bacteria I had invited in my body but I was sick as dog. On my birthday and for the whole trip afterwards. Seriously, a Nile cruise and all you can eat is yoghurt and the only thing you can drink is tea. It seriously sucked. Good thing that Egypt makes good yoghurt and that their mint tea is splendid.

    Tell G to read the next page of the pregnancy book. It says there that 90% of the woman completely lose their sex drive during pregnancy.

  13. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, FRIEND! Let’s go out to dinner at the French Laundry tonight, my treat, eh? Man, that would be so cool.

    But seriously, an effing dyson? That is a blow. There’s no recovering from cleaning products.

    Birthdays are considered “unimportant” and “egotistical” by my husband. No shit, asshole. It’s MY special day. Anywho, they have devolved completely. One year he forgot to wish me happy birthday at all. He forgot. Totally 16 Candles. But we celebrated the weekend before! he said. No excuse. Fortunately, the man goes kind of nuts at xmas.

  14. Well, I”m TOTALLY late to the “party” but Happy Belated. Sorry it wasn’t so much the celebration you desired. You and my husband are two peas in a pod. He believes, just as you do that Birthdays should be GRAND events and practical gifts are a sin. I on the other hand think nothing like that. I would have been thrilled with the Dyson. Or not, because I know how much they cost and we can’t afford it. hahaahaha

    Anyway….LOVED your comment about not getting feet rubs during pregnancy, therefore he doesn’t get something rubbed. hahahhahahahah awesome!

  15. It was my birthday the day after yours, (Happy Belated YOU Day) and I was celebrated in quite the same way. My husband was not out of town, but he didn’t get me any kind of gift, card, flowers….anything, and he only remembered it was my birthday after I told him.
    I came back to bed early in the morning after I’d cleaned up a nasty poop explosion from my 2 year old and I made a comment about how nice it was that he had feigned sleep to get out of the morning diaper responsibility… (he denied faking sleep, but he had already shut off the alarm clock twice)

    Top that lovely start with an 11 hour shift in a restaurant with a 30 minute break all day to either pop some caffeine pills or rest my tired head (forget the bathroom, it’s too far to walk)…and that was my brilliant day.

    Thanks for the real life side of marriage. It’s nice to know I’m not the only one who doesn’t live in “Sunshine and Happiness Land” where all the marriages are perfect and the kids behave.

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