Today is my 50th birthday. No! No. Don’t clap. Don’t send me happiness wishes. Don’t click gleeful emojis on my social feeds. Just. Don’t. I have no desire to celebrate this loathsome birthday milestone. Nor shall I feign joy in reaching it. I do not like it, Moe I Go. I do not like the big five oh.
It is, after all, hardly a noteworthy milestone. Not anymore. Not in Canada. Hell, it’d be more noteworthy had I not made it to 50 … a sentence that’ll be damn ironic if I keel over in the four hours yet remaining before the stroke of midnight that marks my actual turning of 50.
I suppose if I’d made whatever Faustian bargain Paul Rudd did that prevents his aging beyond twenty-five, I might be more willing to commemorate the passing of another year of youthful bliss, but I didn’t. And this stupid painting memorializing my once boyish beauty doesn’t seem to be working either. I should have just bought the damn beans that guy kept pushing on me.
What’s with this unspoken rule that only adult birthdays ending in zero are worth celebrating, anyway? For some reason, we’ve collectively agreed that once we reach our twenties, an individual’s continued survival is only notable in groups of ten. And then only if the first digit changes.
It sure ain’t like that prior to our twenties. Our literal birth day is such a momentous occasion that seemingly everyone but us celebrates it. With great fanfare, no less. Even the exhausted woman from whose belly you’ve fallen, clawed out of, or been unceremoniously evicted is deliriously happy for you and you haven’t even survived a single revolution of the planet, let alone circuited Sol once.
Each of our single digit birthdays is welcomed with ever-escalating festivity. Birthday parties with immediate family give way to birthday parties with school friends, neither suffering from lack of decorations, junk food, treats, cake, ice cream, sleepovers, gifts, movies, gaming, destination outings and/or unbridled insanity running rampant throughout the house.
Turning thirteen is a big deal. So much so, some cultures dedicate entire traditions to acknowledging it. You’re a teenager, after all, and your hormones are kicking into action as you embark on the final, glorious stage of childhood where society demands you spend the next seven years avoiding the very thing Nature is obsessively encouraging you to do.
Sixteen gets a little extra attention since you’re now deemed competent enough to commandeer a motorized vehicle. Doing that Nature thing is still frowned upon, but having access to a mobile, if cramped, makeshift bedroom is a small blessing.
At eighteen you’re technically an adult and can now vote. What could possibly be more worthy of celebrating than that? Oh, right, government sanctioned killing! You get to do that too, should you choose, just, you know, ixnay on the aturenay thing, mmkay?
In some places, eighteen also bestows upon you the right to legally purchase and ingest alcohol, a treasured coming-of-age moment inevitably ruined by the beer store clerk who doesn’t card you, thereby leaving you dumbfounded as you realize that you could have been buying booze for who knows how long already.
For others this milestone must wait until nineteen, though the result is assuredly the same. If you’re lucky enough to live close to the border between an age-eighteen province and age-nineteen province, you get to do it twice!
And then that’s it for meaningful birthdays, save, perhaps, for a token nod at twenty-one to our southern neighbour with the quaint, if a bit desperate, ‘I can legally drink everywhere’ battle cry. Thereafter, only decades garner any birthday attention, with the possible exception of 65, retirement age and the slow, methodical reimbursement of your paycheque donations to the State.
There was a time when I fully bought into this decadal farce. My eagerness to celebrate my thirtieth was so strong I ruined the surprise party my eventual wife was planning for me. Even my fortieth was kind of fun. Well, it didn’t bother me, at least. And I certainly went all out for my wife’s fortieth, out of love, sure, but also out of guilt for the thirtieth debacle.
That’s all gone now. As fifty inched closer, I lost any sense of joy for its arrival, and I think I know why. By fifty, we’re no longer marking life’s major signposts. We may continue to count upwards, but we’re really counting down. Down to that great big final signpost chiseled in stone.
You know when you go to the doctor’s office and after you wait for a very long time in the main waiting room your name finally gets called and you’re taken to a private room but the doctor isn’t ready to see you yet so you sit there knowing it’ll be another long wait except now you’re completely alone with no complimentary reading material so you stare at the medical contraption mounted on the wall wondering how long the disposable cones for checking patient’s ears have been in there and thinking it would be fun to mess around with the blood pressure cuff while your peripheral vision glimpses the lone bottle of KY jelly on the counter reminding you that a person only one step above complete stranger will eventually enter this soulless beige room with what looks to be a picture cut out of a 1987 calendar pasted at a slight but immediately noticeable angle on the wall above the scuff marks where the plastic chair in which you sit constantly rubs and shove a digit up your ass?
That’s what turning fifty feels like. Except, I ain’t waiting for no doctor and the examination equipment piquing my bored curiosity is a lifetime of regrets.
It’s bewildering being at this moment. One day I’m diligently building towards my future. The next, that future is fading, unfulfilled, into my rearview mirror. I can’t remember shit. I stumble for words. I got these stupid blemishes beneath my eyes. My hair is grey and thinning. What once required a thorough wetting in order to style can now be made acceptable with a few strokes of my randomly cracking fingers. My neck and back really are aching; have been for years. My sight and hearing’s fading, and I just can’t seem to get it … oh wait, that’s a song.
Funny thing about that song. It was written and performed by a bunch of “adults” in their later twenties lamenting the passing of their teens. They were bang on in many ways but didn’t have a clue as to what was really coming. Like, I actually do have my own reasons to drink now but two beers will put me to sleep and I’ll feel like crap for most of the next day.
So, instead, I’m going to honour this spiteful birthday in the only way I know how. I’m buying an ungodly amount of Kentucky Fried Chicken and I’m going to eat way too much of it with three of the most precious people in my life. I will chase each greasy, disgustingly delicious morsel down my throat with a generous swallow of chocolate milk and when I’ve reached the point where I need either stand up or lie down because the very act of sitting has been rendered impossible by the mass of masticated protein in my gut, I’ll defiantly eat another bite.
Then I will eat an oversized chunk of the birthday cake I’m assuming has been bought for me. With ice cream. And once the kids are in bed, I will take my sweaty, gassy, shapeless, traitorous body to bed and prove to my gorgeous, grayless, perpetually youthful wife that not everything in that song is true of me.
And if at the culmination of that moment, the “doctor” for whom I’m waiting arrives, I’ll coat the bottom end of its scythe with lube and shove it so far up its ass it’ll think it’s a licorice popsicle. Then I’ll stare straight into those bottomless eye sockets and say, “I ain’t ready yet, Death. Still got a lot of bitching to do.”