My brother once tried to make me a birthday cake. I accidentally ruined it by putting the two domed sides on top of each other to try and get a flat top. The chocolate cake cracked in half and the cherry filling came oozing out. From then on it was christened the ‘Placenta Cake’.
A couple of days ago I turned 30. It’s a big one I know. And as predicted, I spent a good chunk of the day in tears because I knew it would be awful in advance. Don’t worry, not in a drama-queen way, I’m more of a cry-in-the-bathroom-then-wash-your-face-and-come-out-smiling sort of girl.
My brother ignored the day (though graciously turned up to get his free meal out), my party was cancelled due to the blizzards that have magically turned up on January 18th for a few years running now. My friends tend to disappear into the wilds of London, never to return for non-London parties. Oh yeah, and I got my period (inevitably). Yup, last year’s party was pretty bleak too.
Birthday parties aren’t really my style anymore because I tend to end up feeling like this cat.
As we are both penniless recent graduates, my husband said my card would have to be my present (although he did make an attempt at one and bought me…cupcake cases so I could bake something for him like a good little wifey). He also decided that he would have to return to his native USA to find work, leaving me back in Britain for 6-9 months until my visa comes through.
I had booked myself a haircut (if no one else was going to make a fuss then I’d just have to spoil myself) as due to illness I haven’t had one in six months. The husband said we couldn’t afford it so I had to cancel. He then suggested we go to Supercuts but after walking aimlessly around shops he wanted to go to, Supercuts was closing by the time we arrived. I went home to cry and miss my mum. Basically the day was a shitshow and maybe a sign of the year to come.
But it wasn’t very surprising as, to date, the following things have happened on previous birthdays:
14th Straightforward case of forgotten birthday.
16th Mock exams followed by my mother telling the family she had been diagnosed with breast cancer.
17th More exams
18th Exams yet again
19th Row with my now terminally ill mother
20th Then-boyfriend hit a dog that had slipped its lead and ended up on the dual carriageway.
21st My mum had just died, I had just been diagnosed with a long-term health condition and been dumped as a result.
22nd Appointment for a scan at the breast clinic – yay!
To be honest, from then-on I have spent the day hidden away if possible. Or on my own. It seems the best course of action. Which is weird because I love helping other people celebrate their birthdays. I really do! I love picking out presents for them (I keep a running list on my phone of possible presents). I love repeated choruses of ‘For he/she’s a jolly good fellow.’ I love making their favourite birthday cakes (such diverse creations as a bonfire cake made of Matchmakers, a red fondant fez hat, a must-be-followed-to-the-letter blend of chocolate sponge, marscapone cream, cherry sauce and chocolate ganache every year for my father (he forgot this one too), a chocolate marmalade cake – you name it I’ve done it, and enjoyed doing it. I love to see the reactions on people’s faces when they’re happy.
But not everyone is happy. It seems I am by no means alone in having a birthday curse.
This particular long-running forum discussion catalogues a myriad of birthday disasters, quiet birthdays spent alone after everyone forgot, birthday parties where no one showed up, birthdays spent planning surprise birthday parties for other, more memorable people. Also writing in are those who hate the attention their birthday brings from people who insist they have a big party every year (has the Queen been on this thread?), who are always being asked what present they want, who seem, frankly, ungrateful and don’t get the point of the birthday ‘curse’ or the forum thread.
The most startling aspect of this discussion is the conduct of mothers toward their offspring – forgetting birthdays, leaving after graduation to have dinner with their latest toyboy. One poor woman tells of her mother planning a favoured sibling’s funeral on her birthday so that it has remained a day of family solemnity for evermore. Yet her father’s birthday was closer and purposefully avoided for this very reason. The excuse always seems to be ‘sorry – I forgot what day your birthday was’. Which begs the question how, when it was simultaneously the most memorable, painful and joyous day of their lives, surely(!)?
Maybe the day following these anguished typings, things got better for these unfortunate wretches. Because birthday curses are only for birthdays.
As if by magic, the day after I turned 30, some delightful things occurred: my husband got an interview at a London investment bank (fingers crossed) who agreed to pay for travel and accommodation (free trip!!!) and a close friend very kindly booked us afternoon tea at The Ritz for my first proper big-girl birthday which I will always remain flawed at.
And I’m not feeling terrible about my 30s. Whereas the first few years of my 20s were wracked with uncertainty, hospital appointments and a sense of failure, I have tried to make up for lost time and have turned 30 with a very lovely husband, plethora of happy memories and a top degree which I hope to use to make myself proud.
I’m a very fortunate girl (I’ll always be a girl) indeed. Just not on January 18th.
So if you suffer from a birthday curse, happy
crappy birthday to you – I hope the year ahead is better than that one rubbish day!