My birthday is on Thursday. I’ll be thirty-six years old.
Patton Oswalt is a comedian who has my complete devotion. He does a brilliant bit on birthdays and I wish I could advise everyone to go to YouTube and listen to it (it was on one of his records years ago) but I can only send those who are okay with profanity. Using bad words is just the way good comedians roll, I’m afraid, and I’ll argue that the well-placed [beep] is comedy magic when used right. Sometimes the right word is the right word and the word choices made have everything to do with a comedian’s delivery, rhythm, and style.
Patton’s bit examines birthdays — as in, a celebratory day marking your birth — and how you really only get twenty. Here’s how he breaks it down:
Age 1-9 – you get a birthday because you’re a little kid
Age 10 – you get a birthday because you’ve hit the double-digits
Age 11-12 – NO birthday. Go to school.
Age 13 – you get a birthday because you’re a teenager
Age 14-15 – NO birthday. Do your homework.
Age 16 – you get a birthday because you can drive and smoke cigarettes
Age 17 – NO birthday.
Age 18 – you get a birthday because you can vote and shoot a gun.
Age 19 – NO birthday. Get a job.
Age 20 – you get a birthday, because you’ve entered a new decade and you get one every time that occurs
Age 21 – the one exception to the above rule because you can legally drink alcohol, which matters
After 21, the decade rule applies. Unless you’re hitting a 30, 40, 50, 60, etc., marker, your birthday is simply not a big deal.
Aside from being funny, I find it extremely helpful. For years I had strange, inexplicable baggage about my birthday. My family can attest to this and would do so with major eye rolls and heavy sighs. Every year I would get sullen and grumpy and weepy on my birthday. It was the Birthday Problem That Had No Name. But I finally figured it out and it was about expectation. I didn’t have Oswalt’s rules, so I expected something sort of cool or neat or happy to happen every year on my birthday and when it didn’t, I was crushed. It was the same exact feeling you get when Christmas morning (or the entire day) kind of fizzles out or is straight up disappointing. We want so much, we feel so much, and then we come back to Earth. Now that I have Oswalt’s rules, I no longer have the subconscious desire to have a Birthday Parade every year.
And so my simple plan for Thursday is to visit my hairstylist (he is actually French and actually named Christophe) and get gentle, subtle, Breck girl highlights. I’m going to workout so I feel physically good. The best thing about Thursday is that my friend Claus is coming to visit me in Washington, but his plane gets into BWI at 10pm or something, so the tail end of my birthday will be spent sleepy in Baltimore.
That’s thirty-six for you: sleepy in Baltimore.