I hate having a birthday in December, and it has nothing to do with astrology. (Apparently, people dislike Scorpios, and I shouldn't be friends with a Pisces…. Whatever that means.)
After Christmas steamrolls Halloween and Thanksgiving, it crushes December birthdays like those pneumatic rollers that mash down the pavement in front of the newest Applebee's.
Want to have a get-together? Sorry, there's another ugly sweater party this weekend. How about lunch? Coffee? Oh, your mom is in town and you're going shopping? Cool. Cool.
Did you know some people celebrate "Birthday Months"? They cram every weekend with a new adventure. Every day is a celebration of themselves and an excuse to fly out of town to that city they've been eyeballing or to hit the casino with some extra cash. It's the month they expect out-of-towners to pop in to say hi.
I sound spicy talking about it, but I'll be honest, if I had the ability, I'd do the same. I'm just jealous.
Those of us born in the season of trees, lights, high plane ticket prices, and shit weather will never know what that's like. We're lucky to get a text.
It's a burden we all share. Ask us about it. You'll see it in our eyes.
A couple of weeks ago, I went to register my new car. By "new" I mean new to me - it's still old.
(If you're a consistent reader of my work, you'll be happy to know I found another hatchback with a manual transmission. Toyota Matrix Part 2: Electric Boogaloo, baby!)
Anyways… It was there at the tax office that I met a fellow foredoomed human.
Cindy was the lovely older lady who helped me get Part Deux legal. She was one of those well-put-together office women with naturally gray hair that we millennials try to achieve by artificial means. Up to this point, she had been very serious, muttering "you sure have a lot of cars, Holly" while thumbing through my paperwork and catching every mistake.
While typing my birthdate, she froze. She took her eyes off the monitor to look at me in a way that I've seen many times.
"You were born in December?" She asked. The tone would be more fitting if she had just discovered that I was related to Prince or something - as if I was some passing anomaly she would never meet again.
"Yeah," I sighed. My shoulders dropped. They always do at the thought.
"I was born in December too," She said. Her voice lowered. Her shoulders dropped too.
"It sucks, doesn't it?" I knew I was opening a door, but I was fine with it. It was familiar territory.
"Yes! It's terrible!" Her nod was fervent, exaggerated to untrained eyes.
Without missing a beat, she recounted her past birthdays - how one led to her not speaking to her sister for several years - and continued listing a slew of wrongs that had plagued her every December.
I was no longer "Holly with too many cars," but a long-lost friend. If we both had a drink in hand, it would have been complete.
For those of you who have birthdays in suitable months, our interaction may seem dramatic, but you have to imagine a life punctuated by annual disappointment, and predictably on the very day that's about celebrating your alive-ness. It can wear on a person.
I've been lucky enough to have a parent who knew the struggle. My dad and I shared our shitty birthday month, so he and my mom made a point to acknowledge it. Birthday and Christmas were never combined, though the same wrapping paper might be used (this was at my own request. I was eight years old and I liked penguins and polar bears). Most years the Christmas tornado had been evaded, and a day was set aside to be my own.
Even with determined parents, some things are just unavoidable. My birthday is smack dab in the middle of "Oh ****, it's almost Christmas" and it shows. Let me tell you, sometimes it's better to have it not acknowledged than to receive the obvious "I forgot and panicked" gift or text. It creates a layer cake of emotion. The first layer of feeling forgotten, and the second of feeling like a burden. The two combined make for a pretty disgusting cake.
I try using gentle nudges to avoid that terrible feeling, by making my wish list for both my birthday and Christmas. By putting it in the title, I hope it can't be missed. It's right above an adorable photo of my cat (it looks like you're buying gifts for him, by the way. Highly recommend). My hopes are that by plastering it on the Christmas list, close friends and family can have their own personal "oh ****, it's almost her birthday!" moment in the privacy of their own home, without my involvement. For everyone else, I hide my birthday on social media to avoid dealing with it altogether.
I've heard countless stories from December babies, so if you have one in your house or friend circle, I've made a nifty list of tips:
-Do not combine their day with Christmas. Ever.
-Worse than combining, I've heard stories of birthdays skipped completely, as if Christmas took care of it. Do not do this. (If you do, I might have a hand gesture for you.)
-If you forgot, don't make a big deal of it. Don't dump all the details of your strife or give a mountain of excuses as to why you forgot or why it didn't go as planned - that just makes it worse. Move on and mark your calendar for next year.
-If the person with an unlucky birthdate is close to you, maybe set aside a day, a weekend, or a trip amongst the holiday chaos. It could be good to get a break anyways.
-If December really is too much (I get it, sometimes I'm annoyed by my own birthday and think damn, I don't have time for this), plan another day in another month. We're flexible, trust me. We get it.
We didn't choose to be inconvenient. It sucks, but perhaps it's contributed to our character. Every Christmas-consumed birthday bearer I have met has a sort of resilience and steadfastness that I like to think is from years of accepting life's chaos and knowing not everyone can have the same experience.
When talking with Cindy, I jokingly told her we should start a club. Her eyes lit up. "We should!"
"Right? We all get together and set aside a day that is for birthdays only. No Christmas allowed."
Her enthusiasm made my suggestion feel less like a joke and more like a good idea. I thought about how fun it would be to get trashed with a sea of people whose shared experience is receiving weird rushed gifts, or having to go bowling on their special day for the fifth time because it's too cold outside.
When I get my shit together in regular life, I'm doing it. I'll find the day and the place - no red and green allowed. Show your ID to enter, and not to prove you're of drinking age, but to prove you've had to put up with some garbage one way or another. Christmas could stand to stay in its lane, even if it's just for one day.