You reach that certain age when birthdays have ceased to be a big deal.
Yeah, yeah. This is one day when everybody (well, almost) goes out of his way to be extra nice to you. Once upon a time there were only a handful of people --- usually relatives and close friends --- who know the exact date of your natal day. But then, thanks to social networking, especially Facebook, your birthday is will be as big as the number of friends you have acknowledged and authorized to gain access to such delicate information.
So today is my birthday and if anyone asks me how I decided to spend it, I will tell them that the day has been categorized into three specific activities:
(a) Replying to a barrage of text messages from friends with all sorts of birthday greetings ranging from the pre-cut-and-paste "Happy birthday to you" --- to the more exotic forms of greetings which include chimpanzees and other mammals --- to the very serious Bible quotations talking about each candle added on your cake means that the Kingdom of God is close at hand.
By seven in the evening, my fingers were practically undergoing major cramps from punching thank you's in all possible variations and permutations hoping that the well-wishers do not feel that my replies carried the sincerity of a postal stamp pad.
(b) Replying to an even larger barrage of Wall Posts on my Facebook page. Lesson #1: If you have more than one thousand friends, prepare to dedicate a substantial mount of the day giving short but sweet replies to each birthday greeting ... or eventually learning the shortcut of pressing the LIKE button underneath each message just to get some semblance of gratitude back to the sender.
The thing about Facebook is that it goes on forever. The messages started coming in at 8AM ... and as midnight approaches you feel that the number will diminish. That is, until you realize that as a specific date ends in this time zone, the day still has an extension on the other side of the world. This only means that you have to learn Lesson #2: Birthdays in social networks last a day and a half. The messages will diminish but they will come trickling it ... until noon of the following day ... not to mention the "belated" greetings.
(c) Forgetting about watching what you eat because you are literally swamped by cakes. Considering the amount of time spent in the gym, birthdays are such waistline busters considering how cakes seem to naturally flow right into your territory. Now if you only lose ten pounds each time you blow candles after a chorus of "Happy birthdays",then that would be fine.
But then that is not so. Just today alone, I received a grand total of four cakes --- two of which were Estrelle's sinfully delicious butter concoction with even more sinful sweet butter roses. And the night before I was literally indulging in what looked like a vat of bannofee cake that was floating in a kingdom of cream. So that means another extra four hours of cardio? No ... because when the butter cake stares right back at you ... all sense of resolution goes out the window. There is always that excuse that anyway it is your birthday.
You can feel guilty next week.
(d) Still deliberating on how to deal with seeming innocent but extremely intimidating questions like, "So how old are you na?!" Maybe there is a book of etiquette somewhere that explicitly states that it is extremely bad manners to ask for anyone's age --- regardless of gender. Well, there could be some clarification that such questions should not be thrown at someone who is obviously past the age of forty.
There seems to be no problem fishing out such info for someone in his twenties or even thirties ... but this becomes a touchy issue when you are about to indulge in your midlife crisis and somebody (in dire need of conversation or merely trying to be socially competent) reminds you that menopause is an inevitable reality.
But then again, when you really come to think of it ... there is really no point in complaining or making issues out of all these. Everybody has a birthday and whether we like it or not ... regardless of what these days reminds us, they will come and go each time of the year to remind us that we have added another notch to our belt.
There is nothing wrong with ageing. Even Vicky Belo will tell you that: you can do anything to defy its effects but ageing will happen because it is meant to happen. Regardless of all the hours spent primping one's self ... or all the money invested in preserving youth, everyone will grow old. It is a matter of accepting this as a fact ... and with honor.
Not unless of course you belong to the family of Edward Cullen. But that is most unlikely.
I realized that ageing is something I had to deal with about six years ago. That was when I decided that it was about time I ceased to look like an avocado and started taking my blood pressure regularly.
That was the time I went on a South Beach diet and made a religion out of going to Fitness First. That was the moment when I decided to quit smoking and really watch what I eat, lead a healthier life and try very hard to diminish my stress despite the challenge of my line of work. But then there was also the reality to face.
Birthdays remind you that your metabolism has slowed down by another number of percentage. Birthdays also remind you that ageing is the process of cellular deterioration as well as the revenge of gravity when skin starts to go south. Birthdays remind you that you cannot buy elasticin to remove the jowls, the crow's feet and the laugh lines. Include the double chin, the liver spots and the eye bugs.
Birthdays also remind you that even if you spend an impressive number of hours in the gym, you reach that certain age that you can no longer have the body of a 20 year old ... even with surgery. I mean, after you hit forty ... neither science nor natural health can make you resemble Anne Curtis or Derek Ramsay not unless you place on your bet on reincarnation.
So accepting that, birthdays should not be all that threatening. It is a matter of embracing the age and realizing that indeed your birthday should be happy not because everybody tells you it should be so ... but because it truly is. What other reason is there to celebrate in life than to realize that you have lived through another year ... and there are even more years to come to live through more journeys?
And what about those text messages and Facebook postings?
Be thankful. Be grateful. Yeah, yeah, yeah ...you cannot measure the value of your life by the number of birthday greetings you receive. Let us go into that whole quality versus quantity bit. But damn it ... it still feels so good. It doesn't only feel good ... but it feels great when so many people remember you on that single day of the year that you can honestly call your own. Regardless of how you tend to pooh-pooh the situation, it feels great to be validated.
It still feels great to have a birthday even if you decide to work on that day (like I did) and not really have a celebration.
Having a birthday in itself --- is a celebration. And, as Jim Paredes said via Twitter, "Have the best rest of your life." That is really what birthdays are really all about. It is deciding that you will have the best of the rest of your days ... making sure that you matter in this present earthly form.
So what about age? Does it really, really matter? Only if you believe that there is a cut-off age when one can wear skinny jeans. Only if you subscribe to the school of "acting your age". Uhm, what does that necessarily mean? That when you hit forty, you start starching your boxer shorts or justify the growth of a beer belly as a natural reaction to midlife crisis? Uhm, I should think not.
Birthdays remind you of mortality: you decide on how you intend to be immortal by the sheer power of how you are living your life. And that happens every day.
OK, for those who asked --- I just turned 57 today. And I am proud of it. How many people look like this at that age which is supposed to be three years from forced retirement? Ha! Deal with that.