And while it may sound melodramatic to say it, it’s for this very reason that I don’t post my birthday on Facebook.
I don’t mean the year—no one I know puts their birth year on their profile anymore—but the actual date itself. As far as my Facebook friends know, July 10 is just another day in that week following the Fourth when everyone is simultaneously complaining about how hot it is and worrying about how fast summer is passing.
Those wild parties in my 20s that were supposed to be such a blast always ended up far more stressful than I’d anticipated. I’d send out invitations then be terrified that no one would show up. I’d be crushed when someone would decline. I’d spend half the party having fun, half being disappointed that so-and-so said they’d be there but didn’t show. The sheer volume of human beings from all walks of my life in one tight space was overwhelming. So many people to say hi to, to introduce to others, to ensure were having a good time. It was my birthday, but I spent most of it fretting.
I understand why people love their birthdays on Facebook. I’m not one of those people who grouses about how fake and meaningless all those “HBD”s are, how weird it is that your wall is flooded with messages from nursery school chums you haven’t seen in 35 years and distant cousins you’re not totally certain you’re related to. It is indeed fun to be celebrated, to receive a deluge of celebratory posts and corny cartoons and photos of cake wrecks all in your honor.
But for me, the Facebook ruckus around my birthday is just another stressor on a day when I’m theoretically supposed to be enjoying myself. I don’t throw parties anymore because the planning and executing and management of a crush of people in a confined space turns what’s meant to be a good time into a demanding job. I don’t put my birth date on Facebook because even the low-key series of “happy birthday”s brings with it a similar type of stress.
It’s not so much the need to be gracious when receiving the Facebook messages, although that in itself is a tiny responsibility. It’s that all those long-lost friends bring with their innocent wishes a million memories, good and bad. They force a reckoning of one’s entire life, they turn one’s birthday into a meditation on nursery school and summer camp and college and old jobs and that wedding where you met that one guy and that boring seminar where you met that woman and that weird person you dated for a week and the friend you haven’t heard from in a year and all the other millions of moments of your life. It’s too much.
And so I don’t post my birthdate on Facebook. It’s not that I don’t like people or don’t appreciate my friends or want to participate in the nonstop cocktail party of social media. I just don’t want to participate in it today.
On my birthday last week, I slept late, got an iced coffee, exercised and went out to lunch and dinner with family and friends. There were no parties, no presents, no long-lost friends surfacing in either my real or virtual lives. A few old friends remembered and texted or called or emailed, and I was glad to hear from them. I had no expectations, I had no responsibilities, I just had to be right where I was, in the present, having a lovely, manageable, uneventful day.