I must say, the thing which I find hardest about this blog is coming up with titles for posts. This is perhaps because they don’t really have themes at the moment, but really I’m sure I used to be good at this.
Today (yesterday, the 23rd) was my birthday. The thing which I find hardest about birthdays these days is knowing how to respond to the messages you get when Facebook reminds everyone you’re ‘friends’ with that it’s your birthday. Now, there are some friends where I appreciate the opportunity to rekindle friendships, or reopen conversation because we haven’t spoken in some time. This is really the reason why facebook is good at all, and a birthday is one of the points when you can have an excuse to say something to a person. On the other hand, it also guilts you into putting a half-hearted “happy birthday” message on someone else’s wall because now you’ve seen that it’s their birthday and you have to respond. I noted a couple of years ago that it was a sign of the times that I was “liking” someone’s announcement that they were engaged – removing the effort from these things makes them a little bit worthless, doesn’t it? I should have sent a card. On the other hand, there is the hope that on some people’s birthdays that you will be able to start a conversation with them; there are a couple of people I’d like to ask how they’re doing at the moment because I haven’t spoken to them in a while. Is responding to a birthday message really the way to do that?
My birthday has always been a tricky one, because of the date. This means that I’ve very rarely celebrated it on the night itself – I think a couple of times in my undergraduate days when I went home to Wolverhampton I went to the pub with my friend Andy who lived close enough that getting home in the early hours of Christmas Eve wasn’t a problem. This means that my birthday has traditionally been a family affair, which is fine – it’s a good excuse to do something before Christmas that isn’t Christmas. It also means that I really ought to be okay with my friends if they forget it. And I generally am, I think, these days. Even if I remember all of theirs.
I had a conversation with another friend, Rob, the other day about how I did want other people to celebrate their birthdays. Rob’s birthday is the 25th February, and was one of very few of my friend’s birthdays to fall at a convenient point during term that we could celebrate it. He was also the least willing of my friends to celebrate his birthday! But because I can never celebrate mine, at least not with those friends who live at a long distance, there was always a level of insistence. I don’t think he minded so much. It’s just an excuse to celebrate really, isn’t it? In Germany and Greece they have this bizarre idea that it’s your responsibility to host for people, making it the burden of the individual who has to get older to sort things out and look after people. This seems fundamentally wrong to me, and I try to insist to my Greek and German friends that we’re in the UK and we’re doing it our way, where the birthday girl or boy doesn’t have to buy a single drink all night. At least I think that’s our way – it’s MY way damn it, and I got it from somewhere. Maybe it was the USA.
Anyway, on facebook I just put a simple message thanking everyone for their birthday wishes and responding with a Merry Christmas – this is an advantage of my birthday. I might say something longer in response to some of them tomorrow, who knows.
Here, tomorrow (today), I plan on writing about books. Let’s see how that goes.