For the past few years——even though I don’t use them to fill prescriptions, and never have, except for when the doctor from the clinic erroneously sends scripts to them——Bienestar Pharmacy, located in the lobby of the place I go for checkups in Pilsen, has texted me a happy birthday message. No one, save for my family, has done so as faithfully.
So you understand, I’m not complaining. If I wanted people I no longer care about to wish me happy birthday every year, I could join Facebook. I think this is true for most people, but birthdays become less and less significant in proportion to how high they pile up. Last year, when I turned fifty, Gene & Georgetti——my favorite Chicago steakhouse——ruined my celebration by deciding to not be open Mondays a couple days before my reservation. That, and the world having a plague, made it a not very festive occasion.
It’s odd to celebrate something you had no say in other than not dying for yet another year. I don’t track who does or doesn’t remember. A few friends text this time and that’s kind of them to do, but if they hadn’t, I wouldn’t think any less of them. Maybe it would be healthier not to acknowledge or mark the date at all. I don’t know.
This year, my birthday falls on a Tuesday, so I get the expensive piece of meat I’d expected in 2020. I eat it alone, which is nothing to be sad about. If it were, I’d be wreck most days. To a large extent, the solitude is by choice.
One table over, a guy who could’ve been in SNL’s Da Bears sketch orders a Grey Goose chilled in a martini glass (but no garnish, because he’s brought his own). So I get dinner and a show for the price of dinner.
If I had a little more self-discipline, I wouldn’t note anything unusual about the date, aside from it being a Tuesday in early fall. But, try as I might, I can’t entirely rid myself of the need to look for meanings in events that have none. No one determines when or where they’re born. I understand why parents, if they like their children, might want to mark these days, but everything else is some kind of societal marketing conspiracy.
I think back to other birthdays. My fortieth was celebrated in the same steakhouse as this year, but in the company of an ex and some friends. My forty-fifth was in NYC at a different steakhouse, with my parents. Moods varied at these and in other years. Pretty even-tempered this time, I’d say. I got booze delivered to my door from my folks and a nice set of vintage Robert Parker paperbacks from a friend, so I have nothing to complain about.
These birthday newsletter posts have become a kind of running joke, at least to me. A reasonable person might ask why, if I hate my birthday so much and care so little about it, why don’t I just shut up about it. And I’d have no valid counter-argument. So I’ll do so.
For at least 364 days…