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Kim Schulze

Birthday Blues

2013-05-31 14:54
A decade ago I could chronologically list the birthdays of nearly everyone I knew. An internal calendar so caringly nurtured that I still remember those birthdays today, even though I'm no longer in contact with all those people. On my own birthday, I'd also get several phone calls, birthday cards and presents – no matter how big or small. Those days were awesome.

These days, however, people's birthday enthusiasm is limited to the 3 seconds it takes to see the notifications on the side of a Facebook page and writing "happy, happy" in a convenient pop-up box.

Gee, thanks. I'm really experiencing with the utmost honesty that happiness that you are wishing upon me. Really. Can't tell you.

Now, I'd love to blame it on getting older and the myth of the magical birthday waning, but I think that has ass-all to do with it. I blame it on good-old getting lazy. This is one area where our technological advances have had one effect only: Short-cutting the legitimate interest and authenticity that used to make up the birthday wish.

Before social networking, we'd thoughtfully pick out over-priced cards in gift shops, making sure to get the prettiest or funniest one. We'd also thoughtfully write lovely or funny messages inside them. Some people now call this a "waste of money" and if they need more ammo, a waste of paper, as people "throw them away anyway".

I realised it wasn't a waste when I recently got married. Everyone gave us a card, and it was lovely. One guest got us a card filled with glitter that said, "Congrats on your BIG GAY WEDDING!" Another bought the most complex, giant, unfolding, soap-opera of a card from India, which featured several inside jokes and hilarious quips regarding each bizarre drawing. It was a Valentine’s Day card, and it was brilliant and hilarious and full of love.

The situation was clearer to me when I recently celebrated my birthday. I got more 2.5-second-occupying Facebook messages than I could count or thank people for. (I'm not begrudging people who's only form of communication with me IS Facebook – that's very sweet.) But the varying forms of "happy birthday have a great day" didn't leave me beaming with attention-laden euphoria at turning a year older. Because I know how damn easy and thoughtless that process is – I do it too. We don't even bother to write anything interesting or sincere on each other's birthday walls. It's become so generic and, I feel, almost deliberately impersonal.

You could pose the argument that perhaps it's simply a matter of our realising that celebrating being spawned into the world is overrated and ridiculous. If that is your stance, I think it’s a pity and it’s sad. People have weddings and can’t wait to get married because they want that one big day that’s all about them, but before and after that, the one thing we can rely on is our birthday. A day when people should be nice and give you gifts in return for your bringing cake. It’s fun and whimsical and perhaps pointless – not like celebrating an actual achievement – but we all need some more candyfloss-like light-heartedness.

We're all so stressed and busy that we aren't aware of what's slowly becoming the offensively careless process of quickly typing birthday wishes to someone on a public platform. It's not like we hate each other, or even that we don't care enough. It's clear to me that now is the time to bring back the whimsical nature of the OTT birthday celebrating. We need now, more than ever, to feel special and loved for no other reason than the fact that we’re alive. We need clashing balloons and sweet cupcakes and dumb hats. We need gag cards and streamers and those tooter-whistling thingies. Potentially with penis adornments. And then we need to remember that other people need them too.

It's such a simple, traditional way of caring and helping each other out – make each other feel special. Trust me, a real card with five minutes of thought in it is much more heart-warming than that generic tweet or wall-post. Bring back the birthday!

And if you have no other option, at least make your Facebook post funny and interesting. Use a balloon emoticon.
* You can catch Kim on 5FM every weekday from 12:00-15:00 with more hilarity and quirky content. Candid opinions and the occasional outburst also available on Twitter, @KimSchulze and Facebook,

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