Birthday Battlefield

The holidays are the worst. All those happy families gathering to exchange thoughtful gifts, sharing laughs and loving hugs. I finally let go of that pipe dream last year. I waved the white flag and drank the bottle(s) of wine and finally realized my family will never be that family, no matter how well I can cook a turkey or decorate a Christmas tree.

Now layer onto that a Christmas Eve birthday. My Christmas Eve birthday. Flashback to being a teenager, when my mother completely forgot my birthday because she was so preoccupied with Christmas preparations. Flashback to my twenties, when my mother and siblings forgot my birthday because they were too busy trying to charm my partner. Flashback to my early thirties when my mother pointed to the new Martha Stewart laundry hamper in the hallway and said “happy birthday” before brushing past me to get back to competing with my sister’s in-laws for miss christmas congeniality.

My birthday has become a battlefield.

When I became single again 3 years ago, I was terrified of facing my birthday alone until a dearly cherished friend became my birthday captain. She took charge of the day, banished all talk of Christmas until December 25 and for the first time in years – maybe ever – made me feel that my birthday could be something to look forward to. I loved her for it, and felt so lucky to have someone so genuinely wonderful in my life.

This year I decided I was finally strong enough to go it alone. I could manage my birthday. I would still meet my birthday captain for a casual dinner, but I would take the power back  and not let this one stupid day throw me into an emotional tailspin. But I miscalculated. I didn’t consider the day before the birthday.

It started with the chocolate. Boxes of chocolate being consumed, one after another. Oh dear, that’s not a good sign. And hours of watching Felicity. Oh god, my life isn’t actually any better than it was when I first watched this show 10 years ago. Then came the wine. And then, of course, the tears.

Oh no. I’m not ready, I can’t do this on my own. I need my back-up. I was entering the birthday battlefield completely unarmed and alone. Alone alone alone. What was I thinking? But it was too late. I was under fire and my army was scattered, out of reach, battling their own holiday demons.

The attacks came steadily. “Still single, third year in a row.” “Look at your life, you’re no further ahead.” “You’re an idiot to think that relationship could ever work.” “You may as well get used to being alone. Nothing’s ever going to change.” I fired back as best I could: “No, next year can be different.” “I’ve changed my career, at least that’s something.” “I won’t be single forever.” But I’m getting worn down.

As I cross the midnight threshold, all I can do is hope that the worst is behind me, and count down the hours until the battle is finally over. Twenty four long hours. Happy birthday to me.

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