The Venus Flytrap: The Unbirthday

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In January, I had a deep weep session – in anticipation of the end of July. The event I was dreading was an annual affair that I had never before not looked forward to, or celebrated, or otherwise been excited by. Yet there I was, seven months from it and already filled with an unprecedented sense of panic.

My unamused older friends thought this was way too much drama to turn, as one of them put it, one year older in puppy years. Only, through the runny mascara-streaked lenses of my anxiety and alarm, it was very clear to me that it was people years I was dealing with. And 25 in people years was an absolute shock.

Leos can’t help but announce their birthdays. Birthdays combine the best of the famously leonine generousity and the equally famous leonine narcissism: stroke my ego, and I shall smother you with really excellent cake. So I did announce it. Variously, I made passive-aggressive statements about aging disgracefully and how any visiting wise men were welcome to bringeth Stolichnaya from the East, Sampoerna from the East Indies and… something from Easter Island (the clever quip got quashed by the questionable lack of cheer). And just as I do every year, I bought myself way too many beautiful things, “for my birthday” – only this time I was simply channeling my distress into retail therapy, not just exploiting a damn good excuse to the fullest. Especially reproachable behaviour considering that since I spent the day itself holed up at home writing, and then indulged a most unglamourous KFC craving, none of those accouterments saw the light of (birth)day anyway.

But that’s okay. The only thing better than being the birthday girl is being the unbirthday girl.

An unbirthday party is where Alice met the Mad Hatter, the March Hare and the Dormouse in Wonderland. An unbirthday party was what I had, the first one a week ahead of the big day, when a couple of friends down the coastline whom I had definitely spent some time wandering in rabbit holes with called up one morning and said, “We’re half an hour to Mahabs. Have lunch with us.” You could say I am presently in the midst of an unbirthday series.

I could bore you at length about just why hitting 25 had me so stressed, but as I discovered between that curveball realization in January and my birthday, this was textbook quarter-life crisis behaviour. Only, being an overachiever, I ran smack into it five whole years before it was due. Many told me they’d experienced it themselves before turning thirty; it coincides with what in astrology is called the Saturn Return (yup, in Western astrology as in Tamil curses, Saturn is one and the same). Most also said that a sequence of Mad Tea Parties was the only known remedy.

Knowing all of this was right on track did make me feel a little better. I’m even quite cool about what is supposed to be the real bugaboo, the big three oh, considering that I seem to have mostly exhausted my quota of quarter-life angst. Besides, as one hedonist friend put it, if there’s any number that people who frequent Mad Tea Parties should worry about, it’s 27 (just ask Janis or Jimi). Which is… oh oh.

An edited version appeared in The New Indian Express. “The Venus Flytrap” is my column in the Zeitgeist supplement. Previous columns can be found here.

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5 responses »

  1. Shar,

    Unfortunately, I’m one of those weird people that loves her birthday. I love growing older and love looking forward to a day that everyone is pressurised into being nice to me due to the occasion. Yeah, I’m cheap like that, but it’s the one day of the year, I’m really happy and I enjoy the feeling…
    :)

  2. Since I’m 55, I’ve seen a lot of birthdays and unbirthdays…and I feel that growing old is a process, often very enjoyable because it’s called “life”…so there’s no single day that I can carve out to feel good or bad about. And…why do you seem to feel that growing older is necessarily bad? And that being young is necessarily good?

    I find that it’s only in one’s twenties and thirties that such thoughts arise….later in life, I’ve learnt to like the process, and the experience that I’m accumulating. So…don’t worry about the 25 and the 30 and all the days in between….life is every day and night and a mixture of the enjoyable and the dreadful, the good and the bad….and as a package, quite wonderful….the alternative is a big unknown!

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