If somebody is celebrating a birthday, they should wake up to various texts and missed calls. The first thing they should experience is other people acknowledging the importance of the day. They should then, most likely, eat a meal — the first meal of a new age can set the tone for the entire year. The meal should be something they could classify among their “favorites” and they shouldn’t eat alone — unless they want to, of course. Either way, somebody else should pay for the spectacle. If the person has work to do, they should have, ideally, finished it ahead of time. But it’s too late for that now. They’ll have to push it back, instead. Birthdays are not for doing work. They’re not even for going to class, but that can be admittedly harder to get around.
When somebody celebrates their birthday, they probably need a surprise party — or any type of party. And while many elect to plan their own birthday parties, they shouldn’t have to. (Really, there should be two parties, one the night before for when the clock strikes midnight, marking the beginning of the special day, and one the evening of the birthday so it can close out properly.) At the party, there must be gifts or at least cards. A birthday without opening anything is scarcely one worth having. Most importantly, the party must have people. Birthdays are about feeling popular and important. My birthday party policy is to invite liberally — new acquaintances shouldn’t be prevented from joining the festivities. My other policy is to never reject a birthday party invite — few things are more important than somebody else’s birthday party.
Oh, and before the party, there should have been a dinner. A nice dinner at one of those Hibachi places where they theatrically cook the meal for patrons’ viewing pleasure. If the birthday person likes opera or pottery making, that must also encompass at least a portion of their day.
Everybody has a different ideal birthday. For some, it might include reading pensively under the grey Seattle sky while others might want to ride bumper cars while mildly intoxicated. The spectrum is extensive and complex, but there’s one very important piece of common ground for all people. On their birthdays, people should be doing exactly what they want to be doing, and little else.
This sort of uncensored selfishness is inexcusable on any other occasion. After all, if I only tolerated things I wanted every day, I’d probably have a stagnant social life, few friends and little to live for.
But on birthdays, people ought to be as selfish as they damn well please. They ought to have cakes and cookies and fun just handed to them — and they shouldn’t have to work for it. Most importantly, they ought to have people in their lives that enable the birthday selfishness.
Everybody at UC Berkeley is unfathomably busy. We all just had to cancel lunch Thursday and are certainly going to be pulling two all-nighters this week. Nobody on earth can relate to our unique and personal feelings of being overwhelmed, and there’s certainly no time to hop off the conveyor belt for a midweek evening of fun — not with that paper due, the upcoming midterm and a fast-approaching club retreat.
But the concept of birthdays is too amazing to be wasted. Most holidays fall on well-known dates and surround important events or celebrate historical figures. Nov. 15, on the other hand, is an entire holiday set aside to celebrate my existence. And I, in typical selfish birthday fashion, expect my friends to treat the day with its due reverence and respect.
Anyway, the more birthdays you go all out for, the more people that are obligated to go all out for yours — think of it as an investment into birthdays yet to come. And when you go about planning, just remember the recently updated version of the golden rule: Treat others as they want to be treated.
So when your friends’ birthdays come around, show up, dammit. Talk to their other friends. Set up surprise parties. Split the cost of their dinner and just hand them a good time. Who cares if they deserve it and who cares if you’re busy. Shirk your responsibilities to your club and forgo the quirky, cool, funky, fresh party you were invited to. Plan in advance to purchase or make the perfect gifts, and craft energetic, personal social media posts — include iconic pictures. And don’t ever tell yourself that you aren’t good enough friends with somebody to go all out for their birthday. A birthday is an opportunity to show somebody that they’re important, an opportunity to be active about friendship and an opportunity that ought never to be missed.
“Off the Beat” columns are written by Daily Cal staff members until the Summer semester’s regular opinion writers have been selected.
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