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The Art of Forgetting Birthdays

birthday cake

What, you’re having a birthday? Again?!

Ok, so we’ve already agreed that I don’t have a birthday and am therefore impervious to the aging process but apparently some people out there are still adamant that they wish to celebrate getting one day closer to the grave and that the rest of us must mark this occasion also. Well, not only am I terrible at acknowledging the day of my own creation, I am currently in a vortex of guilt regarding the fact that in the past two months alone, I have managed to miss no less than 3 of my own family members’ birthdays.

It’s not that I dislike my family members, well, not all of them, so I really don’t intend to make them feel as shunned as the last can of Spam on the charity raffle prize table, it’s just that I appear to have a knack for letting “memorable” dates sail past me with the grace and ease of a pro figure skater. This is not easy when you consider the measures I have set in place.

Firstly, these dates happen on the same day every year, it’s not like they are randomly plucked out of a hat, willy-nilly. It’s also not the case that I have a terrible memory for dates and figures – I can still remember the phone number we had in a house I lived in when I was knee-high to a grasshopper and the date of my first pet’s untimely demise (the two are unconnected in case you thought there was a some horror movie-esque telephone pet slayer stalking my childhood).

Secondly, not only do I have these dates stashed safely away in my diary, I also have a very understanding and thoroughly pre-emptive mother who sends delicate little reminders regarding the upcoming age-related occasion, at least one week in advance. Half of me thinks she’s a smug overachiever for this; not only has she remembered someone’s birthday but she has also remembered that I will have forgotten and has remembered to remind me. If she wasn’t so lovely, I’d swear she only did it to highlight my failings. Evil cow. (Love you mum!)

On top of the memory and the mother, I also keep a handy stash of generic greetings cards in my desk drawer and another at home, for last minute dashes to the post office. You know the ones, a jolly little flower or an innocuous graphic print, the sort that are eternally suitable for a sudden neighbourly condolence, a “sorry you’re quitting your job as a metalwork teacher to move to the Congo to sell second hand umbrellas” and yes, even a happy birthday. Still, with all the tools I require to not miss yet another family anniversaire, *WHOOSH* there is goes, leaving a vapour trail across my calendar.

I’m not going to try to convince you that in my defence I’ve been so terribly busy and stressed of late that I keep forgetting I have a family, I’m pretty sure that a gaggle of A&E doctors would fall off their chairs laughing at the very thought (assuming, of course that a gaggle of A&E doctors actually have the time or inclination to read my humble witterings) so I shall instead pose the following argument – They keep breeding.

Time was, I only had to remember my parents, three siblings and a couple of cousins and that was more than enough, but then my darling sisters/cousins all met people they thought might make suitable spouses and got the silly idea that procreation would be fun. Ok, I’ll admit that it is fun but did you know that children are one of the most common STDs?! Anyway, there are now almost double the number of family member birthdays to forget.

I’m going to come off as a bit of a selfish brat here, and that’s partly because I am, but bear with me and save your hateful remarks for the comments section below, or better still, direct your angered energy somewhere more constructive – send a letter to your local government about some of the truly awful things they do. Or the makers of TOWIE for same. I actually feel slightly hard done by regarding the number of children’s presents and cards I have to buy each year because I have actually chosen not to have any children of my own. Having made this decision, I therefore find it rather galling that I’m still forking out what hard earned pennies I have left after rent and shoes and booze (you know, “the essentials”) for bits of tat from Claire’s Accessories and Mothercare! Apparently, opting out of the gene pool production line doesn’t exclude you from having the gift purchasing duties of other people’s bratlings thrust upon you year in, year out.

Now, as much as I know we’re all meant to love children, especially those related to us, and as I have pointed out above, I don’t wish to make any of my family members feel like a tin of reclaimed meat product, but as someone who has no affinity for children and whose toy purchasing ability is akin to that of a man buying lingerie for a new girlfriend, I can often be heard to have the following conversation with the shop keep of a High Street toy purveyor:

Shop keep: “Hello you gorgeous young single girl with fabulous dress sense and a cracking set of pins, how can I help you?”

PFPT: “Well, that was an incredibly wordy yet accurate greeting. I’ve had a text from mother which has alerted me to the fact I needed to buy a child’s gift three weeks ago.”

Shop keep: “No problem at all. What hobbies do they have?”

PFPT: “Errr, do kids have hobbies?”

Shop keep: “Ok, how old is the child?”

PFPT: “….ummmm about this high” [hovers hand vaguely between knee and waist]

Shop keep: “That’s ok, let’s try something easier. Is it a boy or a girl?”

PFPT: “Hang on, I think I know this one!”

Shop keep: “Is there even a child?”

PFPT: “I’ll just take a gift voucher. Children like playing with those, right?”

It’s really quite traumatic for all involved and not something I ever envisaged having to undergo several times a year.

A concession had to be made and that concession was that my siblings and their significant somethings no longer get the loot in order to give their offspring a fighting chance at getting something in the post within a 3 month window of their birthday, and I get a fighting chance of staying this side of bankruptcy (it also helps me limit the bitterness and resentment at having a returns ratio on gifts of 2:5 – for those not skilled at gift mathematics, that means for every 5 gifts I buy, I get 2 back. Kids see, not so generous with their 50p pocket money!).

My calendar now looks like it has been machine gunned with birthday reminders and still those dates whizz past. Something must be done or the guilt spiral I’m on will grow ever bigger and end up as a tornado of self-pity and drop a house on some poor unsuspecting witch. There is only one clear solution if everyone is adamant about continuing this ludicrous birthday tradition; in order for me not to spend the entire year forgetting, you’re all going to have to move your cake-and-cards day to Christmas Day.

Then I can forget you all in one go.

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About prettyfeetpoptoe

I live in London and have both my own legs so I am fortunate enough to get out and about on occasion. I form many views on the things that I see and do and love nothing better than a session of linguistic gymnastics in order to share these views.

38 responses »

  1. Have no interest in my own birthday and little interest in other people’s birthdays outside of the consumption of alcohol on licensed premises. My reasoning for not purchasing a card and taking it with me to said social gathering is “you’ll only have to carry it around, then probably lose it and you’ll feel bad for doing so. So I’m saving you post-alcohol mental anguish by simply not giving you a birthday card”.

    I have very little family. My Mum phoned me a few days ago to remind me that it’s my Dad’s birthday next weekend which is wise because I’ve forgotten both of their birthdays numerous times over the last few years. Yes I feel slightly bad, but what annoys me is the assumption that because other people like birthdays (and remember them), I, by some flawed reasoning, should too.

    In my opinion, the secret to immortality is not by having children, it’s by denying one’s birthday exists.

    Reply
    • It’s true, the secret to eternal youth is to not eat birthday cake! (As we’ve already agreed).

      I have no objection to birthday drinks. This is a tradition I’m happy to support but greetings cards are there to be fill recycling bins one week later. I think both you and I are going to remain friends for a very long time because neither of us will EVER invite the other to some awful “everyone’s chipping in £200” birthday weekend in a cottage.

      Reply
      • I promise never to organise any form of birthday celebration for either you or I. The only celebration I want people to organise on my behalf (primarily because I won’t technically be there) is my funeral. And then in keeping with the way I lived my life, I want my coffin to turn up 20 minutes late.

        Reply
        • Bravo!

          I’ve decided that I want a hugely depressing funeral, none of that “she would have wanted us laughing” rubbish. I want heaps of people, all having had to spend a fortune on new black outfits and taking days out of their busy lives to mourn me. Maximum invonvenience, maximum tears, maximum fuss. They won’t forget me in a hurry!

          Reply
  2. Rich Crete

    I’m with you 100%. I’ve been advocating Birthday, celebrated by everyone one day per year. Then I won’t forget. Merging it with xmas is even better, tough.

    Reply
  3. missy amber

    Just one small issue (other than the fact that you KNOW you buy the best presents. Ever. Fact). Your maths is dodgy. Not the ratio bit, but the multiplier earlier. Siblings getting hitched and reproducing does not, I’m afraid, result in “almost double” the number of birthdays. If you factor in said siblings, spouses, assorted children, add in a little time for divorces and remarriages that graft a few extra branches onto the family tree – plus if you get hitched yourself you get to add all your beloved partner’s family too – well, that’s a hell of a multiplier. And as an extra add on, you forget that when you “grow up”, you start having to remember aunts and uncles and second cousins, and all the other people that Mother used to sort out.

    I’ve just done a quick tally – back in the halcyon days of singledom, I would have to remember just 5 family related gift occasions. Now I’m all hitched up and surrounded by fecund relatives, I have 27 days that I need to visit Clintons. And that’s before I start on people I actually choose to spend time with (and their children, and my children’s friends………)

    Husband Dearest has 13 Aunts & Uncles who all have partners, something like 38 cousins who are mostly married, nearly all have a couple of kids, and some of those kids have kids. He gave up everything except his mum’s birthday years ago.

    Reply
    • Any credit for my present purchasing skills lies squarely on the fact I have a solid advice council (you know who I mean) and when in doubt, I throw too much money at the situation and hope it goes away. If still in doubt, get the most annoyingly noisy and disruptive child’s toy known to humanity and sit back, relaxing safe in the knowledge that I live over 100 miles away.

      You’ve just given me more reason not to marry. Thanks for the maths update.

      Reply
  4. I love how you call people ‘Evil Cow’ ….. So much awesome there.
    In other news, I almost died laughing when I read the part about you deciding to remove yourself from the human gene pool.

    Reply
  5. I’m terrible with birthdays. I know my two boys, my husband, my father and my 4 friends. I don’t send cards to anyone else. And even those I know mentioned above, I forget sometimes. And no one cares. I really wouldn’t mind just letting it go all together. I find it all a royal pain in the ass. So I know exactly how you feel!

    Reply
    • I am more than happy to drink a glass or two to help someone celebrate but if they’re expecting me to have got them a card any sooner than lunchtime that same day? They are going to be sorely mistaken.

      I vote we hold an annual birthday lottery. Only those who are plucked from a tombola are allowed to celebrate their birthday. That would make it so much easier on the rest of us!

      Reply
      • Why not have just a Birthday Day. Everyone celebrates their birthday on that one specific day. Then we don’t have to worry about it for the next 364 days. Sort of like Christmas. Use New Years Day as the designated Birthday Day. You could take advantage of all the post Christmas sales for birthday presents!

        Imagine all the bankruptcy claims from that idea!

        Reply
  6. Clinton Card’s are going out of business the same day you post this. Your powers are scary….

    Reply
  7. I went into a card shop the other day, chose a card in 90 ish seconds. Went to pay and the nice man who owned the shop handed me a pen and said ‘anyone who chooses a card that quickly has forgotten a birthday or doesn’t give two shits about the person its for’ it was the prior, if I didn’t give two shits I sure as hell wouldn’t be sending a card!!!!

    Reply
    • I’m not sure if I like this shop keep or not. On the one hand, yes, a pen at that time is rather handy, how thoughtful. On the other hand, what a smug assumption and a risky thing to do – offering a biro to someone who knows how best to use it!

      Reply
  8. Something tells me you would not dare to forget Mrs Cholmondeley-Warner’s birthday. Not even once.

    Reply
  9. i am just like you!! glad i’ll be following now! 🙂

    Reply
  10. I bet you’ll feel differently when these money-sucking kids are old enough to celebrate their birthdays (and yours!) in bars. I don’t care who’s birthday it is– I’ll celebrate it every Thursday-Sunday night.

    Reply
  11. This post was a modern-day work of art! Nice work.

    Reply
  12. I am in love with your writing style.

    Reply
  13. Fortunately, I don’t have children or a significant other, I am also VERY distant from my relatives. My solution – I hide and move my own birthday every few years, act terribly indignant and offended when other people ask me to get them gifts and haughtily respond that they forgot my birthday and are now disqualified from my spending pool.

    – to carry this off successfully, one must look down one’s nose when delivering the speech and sound thoroughly British. It helps to be holding a tea cup (with tea in it) and a scone, in case things get violent and you have to throw something.

    Reply
    • What a coincidence, I always have a tea set and scone in my handbag! 😉

      Nice plan. I, however, have just cancelled my birthday altogether in order to halt the aging process.

      Reply
      • Considering how long that scone must have been in your bag, chances are that it is now rock hard and would make a perfect projectile! – How good is your bowling arm?

        You realise, of course, that studies have shown that people with the most birthdays tend to live the longest?

        Reply
  14. As usual, your writing has brought a smile to my face. but this time it’s because you have written something that gives me the perfect excuse for having forgotten everyone’s birthday’s for the last two years (OKAY, already. I know I’m supposed to remember them, but ….)
    I have not removed myself from the gene pool, and have five daughters, who are beginning to reproduce. I not only have my childrens birthdays to acknowledge, but also my Grandchildrens birthdays to remember.
    I confess, I have been terrible at it (sigh….)
    I don’t think my Grandchildren will buy your line about having no birthdays meaning you live longer… they haven’t reached that point where things hurt yet, and still believe they are immortal. Birthdays help to break up the monotony of immortality.
    I’ll just have to do better in this coming year.

    Reply
    • Yep, you really have no excuses for not doing the birthday thing seeing as you made the little blighters! You could still just ask them all to pile them into one convenient day. It’s either that or they get whatever random thing you can lay your hands on when you see them and they remind you – nothing like half a box of cereal and television guide as a belated birthday gift for a 5 year old!

      Reply
      • I do send them stuff that I HOPE they like, and will be useful (sometimes). Usually in a big box, all at once. My Mom used to send me things that way. Me and the girls were always eager to find out what was in it, and dug through the boxes of random items as if digging for treasure, which, occasionally, we felt we found in them.

        Reply

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