When I was younger...
...oh, so much younger than today...
...I couldn't quite grasp the concept of my birthday - or anyone's birthday, come to think of it - being anything other than an occasion of celebration, presents, wonder and love. On some level I got that grown-ups weren't QUITE as fussed about the special day as kids, I boggled at the idea of actually hating your birthday.
I first encountered the idea when I was a wee bairn myself, watching Gina Riley's breakout While Your Down There skit show. This particular skit was about two little girls appearing in some Playschool type show, and how in between takes they were bitter, dysfunctional actresses who saught comfort in the bottle of ribina bottle and smoked candy cigarettes. "Six years old," Gina reflected bitterly in her ribons and school dress, "so much OLDER than five! I told my parents I didn't want a birthday but did they listen? There was cake, candles, presents, a clown... I COULD HAVE DIED! I fled to my room, Teddy Bears' Picnic ringing in my ears..."
It was funny coz... it's not true, right? How could anyone hate their birthday when nothing bad happened on the day and they got everything?
Amusingly, Paul McDermott provided the alpha and omega of my understanding of this. First, with DAAS Kapital when he played his axe-crazy Big Gig persona who has a nervous breakdown when none of the others apparently remember his birthday. Of course, Tim and Rich were just pretending... mind you, beating Paul up with a baseball bat and pretending to be members of the KKK were a bit extreme...
And then, in 1996 I think, Paul was in Good News Week doing one of his deadpan gags: "Why would the idea of a birthday depress anyone? Apart from being another year older, poorer, fatter, more cynical and realizing the last year has amounted to absolutely nothing and things will never improve."
I once had a proper birthday party once. A proper one. Cake, balloons, pretty much everyone I knew at the time invited, party hats, everything. And I found the experience excruciatingly embarrassing. I didn't have many hardcore friends and so most of the kids who turned up I either just knew or actually disliked. I cringed as we sat down to watch The Goodies and the Beanstalk. It was MY birthday, and I was - for some reason - worried about how everyone else was feeling, if they were bored or thought my homelife boring or pathetic. The party went reasonably well, but I never wanted another one like that.
And then there was the problem of the date - it meant that, 9 out of 10 times, my birthday was the first day of school. Bit of a mood killer it had to be said, and it also means that there's a very long stretch of the year without a birthday to lighten it up. And I've have to go to school on my birthday. In 97 it was worse, I had to start a new school full of people I didn't know and the knowledge that everyone who might have been even remotely interested it was my birthday were all gone and having much better times.
Yeah, the birthday fun bled away rapidly after that.
Was part of it down to my gross consumerism? When I started high school it meant I could, if I chose, visit the city after school with bookshops and ABC retailers and generally places I normally went to with parental control to get presents for birthday and such. I didn't have to wait till Christmas to get the latest EDA, I just had to wait till I had the cash. In Christmases gone by, one of my major presents was a copy of DWM. Nowadays, I often struggle to remember if I've bothered to get an actual copy or just the CBR on this very computer.
This meant, basically, my parents could rarely get me presents. I mean, my dad wanted to surprise me with a copy of RTD's The Shooting Scripts - awkwardly cut down since I already snatched a copy with my Santa wages. My mum tried to get me new books, but I already had them. Shit happens, but it means that no one is really getting me presents and I'm so into instant gratification I can't save stuff up. I've only got myself to blame.
I hate my birthday. I feel old now. I feel my life is, for better or worse, wasted and I've betrayed any principals I once held. My last birthday was a week before an attempt at self-harm and being diagnosed with severe depression. In recent years there was a vague kind of attempt at a tradition, with us visiting an amazing Mexican restaurant in Newtown. But my dad suggests I do something different - like WHAT?! It's my birthday, if I want nachos I should fucking well get them, but now I could never go there without cringing and thinking my parents were sick of the place after the previous three times they had ever been there. I continue to obsess over others. I spent under 200 bucks on myself following my near fatal accident and could barely live with myself. Thank god Jahan Redsen was there with his flintlock to keep me from throwing myself under one of those curiously old fashioned busses.
On December 6 last year I nearly died.
Yet ever since the nasty thought has popped up making me wish I'd gone all the way and not chickened out like everything else I've ever done in my life.
I was going to do a list of my prior birthdays, but it turned into a list of presents I could barely remember. Things spluttered to a death circa 2002 and ever since then, I've just been more and more depressed every 4th of February.