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Why I still love birthdays.

Posted in Aging, Life & Love, and Women's issues

Anna Wintour birthday cardWhy I make such a big production of my birthday is a bit of a mystery to me too. “How come you are so fixated on celebrating your birthday? You are like a teenager” a friend recently remarked. A fair question, at a time when most women favor a “don’t ask don’t tell” age policy.


I thought about it for a moment and then I came up with a narcissistic “Well, it’s the day I was born.” An answer that produced what seemed like endless mirth.

It got me thinking. Why has it never been just another day? The reasons might have evolved as time went by. Certainly it has nothing to do with receiving presents or organizing a big bash. Nor  has it anything to do with milestones: from hereon, the milestones don’t look particularly appealing other than for being physical there to see them through. More likely, it has become an excuse to be entirely selfish for 24 hours straight and not having to apologize for it: doing what I want, with whomever I want, leaving work and any responsibilities at the door, at a time when my life is a merry-go-round mostly run by the necessities of others.

That is why I make a point of not working, not even a little bit. The few times I ended up working on my birthday were always disastrous: the year I went to a business related conference and my boss, feeling sorry for me, stuck in a boardroom on my birthday, sent a huge bouquet of flowers to my hotel room that triggered a massive allergy attack.
Or the year I was on tour with a band: we had dinner after the show, someone ordered a cake and the band serenaded me with “Happy Birthday.” My boyfriend, who had flown in to be with me, then proceeded to pick that very night to dump me. That must have been the last time I was at work on a July 7.

happy birthday cardAs silly as it sounds to my grown up friends, I take immense pleasure in planning the entire day, which is only spent with people I really, really want to be with. I love receiving phone calls and text messages and I keep a black book of those who forget: although these days, thanks to Mark Zuckerberg, overlooking someone’s birthday is rather hard work. It’s not about gifts. It’s about the attention which, for someone who doesn’t particularly relish attention, might seem incongruous. I might be making up for the invisibility I tend to create on most social occasions.

A few days ago, exiting a hospital lobby, I held the door open for a female doctor who was walking in. She looked up, as I waited, and said “Sorry”.  Sorry? What for? Because she was delaying me? Because I was stuck holding the door? It reminded me of an article I had read a little while ago on why women say “sorry” much more often than men. The theory behind it is that, over the centuries, in order to get what we wanted, we had to find pleasing and non-threatening ways to get our point across. Apologizing for what we were about to say became a reflex. Then apologizing in general. Apparently, we are much more likely to apologize even when an apology is not called for.

I have noticed I do it all the time. A small collision on public transport or in the street, not necessarily caused by me, will push the “sorry” out of my mouth. The wrong food delivered to the table will be sent back by prefacing “I am so sorry but…” when none of it is my fault. In truth, I might have divested the word of its original meaning and transformed it into an iteration I pepper my speech with. Another way of keeping narcissism at bay, of not wanting to be the center of attention.

Unless it’s July 7. Then I feel entitled to remind all and sundry that is the day I decided to grace the world with my presence, stumping my parents for a name as they had not prepared an option b, and there is no female version of Giacomo. I wonder, had I been a Giacomo, if I would have walked the planet with more confidence and fewer apologies.

Nevertheless, I am turning 53 and it might be time to update my behavior: tomorrow, while fluttering between hairdresser, restaurants and museums, don’t expect an apology if you inadvertently bump my elbow or deliver a steak instead of pasta. I won’t even apologize for the silliness of behaving like a 16-year-old on her birthday. On July 8, I will revert to normalcy. Minus the unnecessary apologies. Maybe.

Anna Wintour card from curvyfashionista.com

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22 Comments

  1. Happy belated birthday Camparigirl. Hope you had a fabulous birthday putting yourself first. I like what Oprah Winfrey had to say: “The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate.”

    July 13, 2015
    |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      Thank you Manu! I did have a great day…now all forgotten as I am back into the thick of it. I should find occasions to celebrate more often.

      July 14, 2015
      |Reply
  2. ♪ღ♪*•.¸¸¸.•*¨¨*•.¸¸¸.•*•♪ღ♪¸.•*¨¨*•.¸¸¸.•*•♪ღ♪•*♪ღ♪░H░A░P░P░Y░ B░I░R░T░H░D░A░Y░░♪ღ♪*•♪ღ♪*•.¸¸¸.•*¨¨*•.¸¸¸.•*•♪¸.•*¨¨*•.¸¸¸.•*•♪ღ♪•« Best (albeit belated) wishes. Frankly, I think birthdays are fabulous and therefore MUST be celebrated. Just think of the alternative. Hope your’s was grand. 🙂

    July 10, 2015
    |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      Thank you! And yes, I did have a fabulous day, with a couple of martinis towards the end…

      July 11, 2015
      |Reply
  3. Dear Claudia!
    Happy, happy birthday, lovely lady! After reading this post, I feel even more special that you chose me to spend part of your favorite day. I admire so many things about you, love our conversations, and I look forward to spoiling you a bit and giving you “one of my favorite things.”
    with love,
    Kimberly

    July 7, 2015
    |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      If I ever find the right angle, I will review your gift here. Stay tuned!

      July 9, 2015
      |Reply
  4. I love birthdays. The rest of the holidays can get lost. I especially LOVE my birthday. It is the perfect time of the year. I am at the age now though that I have to treat myself because the flood of gifts and accolades has diminished. Just as well… I can buy better for myself!

    July 7, 2015
    |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      I have splurged on many a birthday. Who best to buy gifts for myself than myself?

      July 9, 2015
      |Reply
  5. Happy birthday! 😀 Thanks for the heads up – I’ll have to remember for next year, so that I stay out of this black book of yours 😉

    Also, I’m liking the sound of this no-apologies attitude, even if it is just for one day of the year…

    July 7, 2015
    |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      After reading the post, a friend called me and confessed to also keeping a black book – I might be on to something here! (and no, I don’t have a physical book…). Thank you for the wishes.

      July 9, 2015
      |Reply
  6. Happy Birthday! have a wonderful day and an excellent year ahead. Great article. I also feel passionate about celebrating my birthday, so I’m wioth you 110%.

    July 7, 2015
    |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      Thank you Alison! Much appreciated.

      July 9, 2015
      |Reply
  7. sofagirl
    sofagirl

    “I keep a black book of those who forget” – seriously? Aieeeeeeee

    July 7, 2015
    |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      No, not really. Just elephant memory…

      July 9, 2015
      |Reply
  8. Mark Norman
    Mark Norman

    Pardon me while I go on a related tangent … The concept of birthdays has gotten screwed up in a lot of minds. It’s called a birthday, not an agingday, yet so many people focus on the one-year-older part. It’s crazy to keep a birthday on the hush-hush. It’s the most important day of the year for a person, even more important than their wedding anniversary and their children’s birthdays. Why? Because if we were never born, we would never be able to enjoy spouses, children, family, friends, and everything that’s dear in our lives. That’s why I shout HELL YES to celebrating our own birthday.

    July 7, 2015
    |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      Now that you put it like that, I feel a touch less narcissistic…

      July 9, 2015
      |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      Grazie cara!

      July 9, 2015
      |Reply
  9. Happy Birthday, Campari Girl! I hope you had an awesome day and that everything went according to your plan. Welcome to the 53s and may you have many more!

    July 7, 2015
    |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      Thank you and yes I did. Back to reality now and feeling those two martinis.

      July 9, 2015
      |Reply
  10. Happy birthday, Claudia 🙂 I hope your day was spent in total healthy narcissism! I always seem to be cursed to have a horrid birthday day, so I am highly envious of those who manage to spend a lovely day doing what they love, but… I’m also very happy for them.

    July 7, 2015
    |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      Oh dear…time to reverse the curse. If you ever need some strategizing for your birthday plans, you know who to call!

      July 9, 2015
      |Reply

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