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So last night I went to a birthday party for my friend, Shanelle. Her mother is Jewish, her father is black, and we went to Don Cuco's in Glendale, which is the reason for the title of the post. (I don't know how the joke ends, but if you think of something funny, please post.) I sat way at the opposite end of a long string of tables arranged together, making strangers laugh so that I wouldn't have to go to the trouble of getting to know them. I ate a fried burrito; the guacamole was fresh and chunky (nicely done, Senor Cuco).
It got me thinking about birthdays, mine and other people's. I am bad at birthdays. I didn't get Shanelle anything, a fact that only occurrred to me just now as I am writing this with her sitting in our apartment enjoying the AC and DSL, among other acronyms. Is she mad? Probably not. By now she knows that I am a bastard, but she wants to be my friend anyway. Yes, she is kind of crazy (see for yourself at seriously-meh.blogspot.com).
Getting people birthday cards and presents is something of a deontological process for me--I do it because I think it is my duty. I want to be a good friend, brother, husband, son, whatever, and this is something people appreciate. But I just don't do it automatically. I guess no one really does it automatically. No one finds themselves borne against their will to, well, wherever birthday presents come from (this kind of ignorance may be part of my problem).
All I know is that I am in the middle of a birthday backlog. My niece had a birthday in May, and it sprang up all at once, before I even knew it (yes, I know how a calendar works, but it's so rigid and formal and boxy). I couldn't think of the best thing to get her--one major reason why I am birthday-retentive--so I waited for inspiration. The birthday came before the inspiration did, which meant that a late present really had to be something spectacular. I am still waiting for inspiration. In the meantime, a few other birthdays have come and gone (including my mom's), but I feel obliged to address my niece's birthday needs first. (I'm not sure if this is what Paul meant by "all things in order.")
So now I am basically cut off from my family. I cannot see or talk to them, because they might know that I've missed some birthdays for no good reason, and that I still don't know what I am going to do about it. No plan for birthdays, no plan in life. Suckage.
So now what? Do I just concede that I am not good at birthdays? Do I get stuff for people when I have a good idea, but remain incommunicado otherwise?
I think being bad at birthdays is just a red herring. I think I may be bad at relationships. That's the deeper concern. (This is not an invitation for comments about how I am, in fact, good at relationships.) Steph was telling me that she prioritizes her relationships--what does she want, and how close does she want to be in a particular friendship? I just kind of float along, and the friends who make contact with me get a response. But what about the people who don't initiate? Well, I think you probably know the answer to that question from your own experience.
So happy birthday to all! If I missed it, it's probably because I don't remember when your birthday is. But, if it makes you feel any better, I do at least feel guilty about forgetting you. This is who I am, and if I am to change at all, it will be many missed birthdays from now.
Pete, don’t feel bad, Daelyn didn’t give it a second thought. If it makes you feel any better, she just got her birthday present from us about 3 weeks ago, I guess it runs in the family. Anyway, miss and love you guys and in case I miss it Happy 29th Birthday!
Thanks for the grace. For those of you who don’t know, this is my sister Stephanie, and the mother of the niece I was talking about. Apparantly, there is some sort of genetic disposition we have to being bad at birthdays. Or if it’s not genetic, then I think it may all stem from one rusty pocket knife. I’m no therapist, though (but I may need one).
Okay, I take issue with the following comment: “I just kind of float along, and the friends who make contact with me get a response.” In fact folks, Peter doesn’t necessarily respond to those friends who “make contact” with him; I emailed him several days ago and still nothing. And don’t let him tell you, “But it’s only been four days…I was going to email you today.” No, no, my email is already in the deontological-birthday category, one of those emails that will linger too long in the inbox, causing guilt at every log-on. And now we all know the chances of that email ever getting answered. So, don’t get your hopes up people. I think there actually may be an elite list of those who–if they initiate–actually get contacted by Peter, and since this list is not public it is really hard to tell whether initiating is worth it. Alas, those of us on the second tier can only find out through trial-and-cold-silence-equaling-rejection. Nevertheless, Peter is such an attractive and charismatic fellow that some of us–even second-tier suckers like me–are doomed to continue initiating and being rejected. I just sit by my computer and wallow in misery, waiting for the email that will never come. The life of a codependent Peter-groupie is hard (sniff), but it is just is who I am, and if I am to change at all, it will be many missed birthdays from now.
The place where birthday presents come from:
And No, I didn’t care about you not getting me a present, I didn’t actually notice.. til this blog.
Suckage= your greatest word yet
For you it was a rusty pocket knife, for me it was 10 pairs of used mis-matched earrings. Both of us scarred for life and bitter towards birthdays forever and we were so young and innocent at 12 and 13. Good times!
For those interested in my vindication, here is the email I sent to Aaron:
Thanks for contacting me! I love it when fans write in. Unfortunately, I get so much correspondence that it sometimes takes me awhile to read and respond to everyone. I will put the autographed picture in the mail today.
Stay in school and study hard!
ps: In answer to your question, no, I don’t have a tiered friendship system. My system is more orbital (think electrons, not planets). There is room for a certain number in each orbit–1s2, 2s2, etc. Now if you’ll remember back to chemistry class, you know that electrons can change position without warning. That’s because electrons are unpredictable. Well, so are my friendships! I sure hope that clears it up for you!
I find it interesting that this post about missing birthdays comes just days before your very own birthday. What a sorry plea for birthday wishes. So here you go: Happy Birthday!
Well I guess I should say Happy Birthday to you, Peter, and tell Stephanie (your wife) too while you are at it because I missed hers. I am really bad at birthdays as well. I am also not particularly excited about receiving presents either. Not that I mind, but I would much rather hangout or talk to someone than have them buy me something. I think that the people that are the best (most consistent) givers are also those who like to get. I am not saying that liking gifts is a bad thing, but some people like them more than others. My mother-in-law, for example, grew up in an orphanage, never receiving real gifts, and now she is very into giving gifts (as you can see by the sheer amount of toys in our house). She is also into receiving gifts, and is not a happy camper if she doesn’t get one (but she tries to pretend she is fine, to her credit…and please don’t ask how I know this). I also think it is generational, as I think there are a whole generation of people who missed out on a lot of practical life skills (like how to manage a household) so we could make sure and study calculus, british lit and advanced chem. I am not actually using calculus a lot now…but a nice course in thank you note writing would go a long way. This also could be an excuse, and I might just be trying to rationalize the whole thing. I have managed to take up quite a bit of space now…as I put off writing thank you notes a day longer. Thanks for the convicting post.
Wasn’t meaning to be convicting, sorry. Or you’re welcome. Whichever seems to fit.
And happy birthday! (Stephanie remembered, of course.)