It wasn’t that long ago that I thought birthdays were for celebrating.
Coruscating like a cushion cut diamond, done up like a dish of fish, partying like it was 1999… and to be candid, back in 1999 I was still coruscating.
But for the past few years, my birthday has been a day to be anticipated with horror, experienced with shock and looked back upon (even one day later) with aching nostalgia. The one coming up is not a tombstone, but it is at least a milestone, so I’ve decided to reflect rather than reject – but don’t expect me to be happy about it… it’s just going by so damn fast.
I’m at that stage where though I won’t lie about my age, I’m not advertising it, remembering with dark humour a time when I thought people who couldn’t face up to aging were pathetic. I think I was 23…
I was born within days of the original Barbie Doll, yet when I finally got a fashion doll of my own for my birthday, it was Barbie’s best friend 'Midge'. I may have been 4, but I knew a spinster when I saw one.
But that was about the only dark cloud; around that same time (pre Sesame Street) I was enjoying Captain Kangaroo, Tom Terrific and My Friend Flicka. My Dad smoked cigarettes with us kids in the car and the windows rolled up – and no one thought anything of it. Kennedy was dead, but barely, my hero was Roy Rogers and my biggest crush was Mighty Mouse. (I used to imagine he’d fly in and save me from doing the dishes, and when I finally read Stewart Little, I couldn’t imagine why that tiny little human girl didn’t fall for him – especially after he’d taken her for a paddle in his miniature souvenir canoe, leaning against the scented sachet with ‘For you I pine, For you I balsam’ embroidered on the pillow slip. I still wonder what her problem was…)
When I turned ten, we had yet to discover designer jeans – designer anything actually – and television (with the exception of Saturday morning) was something to do when they made you come inside. No computers, no video games – just hide and seek, bike riding and building backyard forts.
By my 11th birthday, I still liked to pretend I was a show jumping pony, and boys were just slightly dirtier girls.
When I was 12, I had my first date. He was the shortest, but also the funniest kid in grade 6 and he saved all his paper route money to take me to the Ex. $17 was enough for both of us for a full day: bus fare there and back, all the rides and all the snacks, and a necklace made out of already tarnishing tin as a special birthday gift. I wore white hot pants, a purple bubble shirt (with a yellow ‘Keep on Truckin’ button) and my hair was tied back with a Happy Face pony tail elastic. There was a quick peck goodbye at the door - and my career as a femme fatale had begun.
When I was 14 I learned to French kiss, though I learned it with my brother’s friend, the way all decent girls did.
When I was 15, I got my first real French kiss, fell in love for the first time and had my heart broken, all in the space of a school field trip. We still didn’t have designer jeans, sparkle nail polish or hand held hair dryers – but somehow (unlike now) I always had something to wear and I could be out of bed and into the world in 10 minutes – including breakfast.
For my 16th birthday I finally got designer jeans (the ones with the star on the back pocket) sparkle nail polish and my neighbour experimented on my hair with highlights. I have never looked as good again.
When I graduated high school, I went to the prom with the boy I had a heart-stopping crush on (the biggest since Stewart Little) but ended up dancing with the boy I would be involved with for the next ten years. Our first date was the day after my 18th birthday.
(The sad truth is, he asked me out for my birthday, but had to cancel because the CALGARY STAMPEDERS WERE PLAYING. I will forgive him one day. But not today.)
My 20’s were all about career milestones – I was usually the youngest one doing the neatest thing. I had a radio show, a sports car and my own furniture. For my 22nd birthday, I got diamond studs – for my 23rd, the knowledge that my mother was close to death. Yet I went from triumph to triumph, before moving to Monaco to host the afternoon drive show on Radio Riviera 104.
(Many of you reading this may have experienced the whiz kid syndrome; it never occurred to me that it could go from: “wow – how can she be doing that at her age?” to “gosh – shouldn’t she be doing more by now?”)
My thirties were about moving back to Canada and trying new things – being in the right place at the right time for some amazing opportunities. I made money, friends and lots of dates. I was given a surprise party every year for nearly 10 years. I learned to cook, got into working out (as a result) and bought my first home.
(I also lost my remaining parent – careless – screwed up a great job, and found myself emotionally cut off from my brother and sister.)
Things are better now. I’m pursuing a new dream, I spent last Christmas with my family and I’m thrilled to be reconnecting with a very good friend.
There was a time when I couldn’t have imagined this birthday outside of dog years, but as it approaches I’m enjoying the reflections and the memories; my gift to myself this year will be to recapture that sense that it’s all still there in front of me – because the truth is, it is.
It’s just going by so damn fast.