Rose Keating’s weekly column as published in the Waterford News & Star’s Well! magazine
OCTOBER 7th. The most wonderful time of the year is almost here.
Actually, no, sorry, that must have surely been a typo on my part. I should have written the most terrible time of the year, because that is the only truly correct phrasing that I can describe my birthday.
I used to love my birthday. Love it with the burning passion of a thousand fiery suns. Love it more than anything in the world. Love it more than chocolate, Christmas, new books and fresh blankets.
Birthdays were the best invention the world was ever blessed with. Birthdays meant cake – usually chocolate, another major plus. Mum always baked one the evening before, and the rooms of our house would warm up with the smell of dark cocoa, sweet vanilla, melting butter.
Cake would be enough to make this day very worthy of note, but on top of cake, birthdays meant presents. Books and neon pink nail polish and red lipstick and CDs of Florence and the Machine, Radiohead, Two Door Cinema Club and all the other bands I haven’t listened to since I was sixteen. Back in the ancient time when I actually owned a CD player. The actual present itself never really mattered – I didn’t really care what I got for my birthday. I just liked that it meant that someone had been thinking about me.
‘I am 21, and intend to remain so for many, many, many years to come. I am going to have my birthday cake and eat it too.’
And that leads us to the best part of birthdays – they’re a day of people thinking about you. Your own personal holiday. A day quite literally devoted to you, and you alone.
Could there ever be anything more beautifully self-indulgent, more hedonistically narcissistic than a birthday party? Hello, dear friends and family members, please come to my house at this time to celebrate the existence of ME. Bring presents x.
The egocentric wonder of it is unparalleled.
Yet, for some reason, egocentrism no longer does it for me. The thrill of being spoiled with a day devoted completely to myself is no longer something I look forward to.
No, dear reader, slowly but surely, October 7 has become a date I come to dread each time it creeps round. Not only have I stopped looking forward to it, it is a date I have come to fear.
I’ve been doing some research for my birthday this year; I have a number of tabs open as a result. The first tab I have open cheerfully reminds me that our brains begin to slow down at the age of 24, apparently. Another reminds me that humans reach their peak performance between the ages of 18 and 21. Another seems to be informing me that my cells have in fact begun to die; I am about to turn 22, and my body is already getting ready for the grave.
When Taylor Swift famously sang the words, “I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling 22”, was this what she was referring to? Because to be frank, I wouldn’t have thought she was talking about the gradual cell death occurring inside of our bodies. Yet, as someone verging on 22, I’m beginning to think this is the only possible thing she could have been talking about. How is any 22 year old meant to think about anything else? How am I possibly meant to celebrate my birthday without thinking about how my body has already apparently begun to decay? How do I enjoy chocolate cake while staring into the dark gaze of the abyss?
So this year, reader, I have come to a conclusion. A solution to the dark, sticky problem of my ageing body. The only possible action I can take is to simply refuse to accept that it is my birthday. This year, my birthday is not happening. I refuse to accept it.
Granted, my friends might not allow this. Granted, I have plans to go for birthday cocktails on Monday and granted, I will also be deeply disappointed if cake is not consumed at some point during these proceedings. But, this is all just coincidence. Inconsequential. Cake, cocktails, birthday cards – these are all simply objects of the physical realm. Not the real problem at all.
The real problem, the true adversary, is time. Time is my enemy, my foe, my nemesis. But, I am choosing to ignore time. Because after all, time is nothing more than a concept. An abstract idea. Time isn’t real – we only make it real through our belief in it. Time, when you think about it, is rather flexible.
As a result of this, I am very simply choosing to not turn 22. I am 21, and intend to remain so for many, many, many years to come.
I am going to have my birthday cake and eat it too. After all, who’s going to stop me?