I’ve been thinking a lot about birthdays recently, because I have my thirtieth coming up. Yep, the Big 3-0. And guess what? I am not feeling very yoga/Buddhist/Meryl Streep about it. I’m more like Sylvia Plath crossed with Bridget Jones crossed with a mad terrorist who’s got really bad PMS. I’m constantly staring in the mirror like it’s an evil lake, scouring my face frantically for wrinkles, wringing my hands anxiously while some old Haggis McBaggis style crone swims to the surface like a hungry bloody Ichthysaurus. I don’t want to get old. Life is shit enough as it is, as far as I’m concerned.
What I don’t understand is why we bother celebrating the fact that we’re a year older. When you’re a kid, it all makes sense, of course. When you’re a kid, you’re so happy to be a year older. You’re desperate for it. Rico said to me, the other day, in the bathroom: “Mum, now I know I am a big boy, because I am five, and five is the end of one hand.’ For kids, a birthday celebration is a real celebration. It’s an achievement. But for us adults? We’re just deadening the pain, man. We’re just drowning that Loch Ness Monster. That’s why we need to get so much alcohol in. Best of all would be if you could get it hooked up to you, like a drip.
So I’ve been thinking over the most memorable birthday parties I went to as a kid. Well, the thing is, when I was a kid, my mum was into healthy eating. Actually, that’s not quite accurate. My mum was Into Healthy Eating. She actually raised me to believe I was allergic to sugar (she was mad). She would always me that if I were to actually eat sugar I would actually die. And what she used to do, before I went to a birthday party, was make me eat a really filling dinner so I wouldn’t want any crisps and sausage rolls and stuff. Really filling, she’d force-feed me lentil pie and shit like that. God, she was bonkers. One time, when I was seven or so, I got invited to these two Jewish twins’ birthday party. Only they were a bit posh, mind, so instead of finger-food, we got a proper sit-down dinner. I think fish fingers were involved. And I knew I had to be polite. I ended up puking all over the parcel in PassThe Parcel. They let me win the prize, even though the game wasn’t
officially over yet. Brilliant. Then there was this other party I
went to, a bit later on, perhaps – Junior School already. The mum got us all into the kitchen, and she was all like: ‘Who likes
ketchup? Who likes tomato ketchup?’ She was really Billy Graham about it: we were screaming and yelling for joy at the prospect of all the ketchup we were about to devour. “Yeah, yeah, yeah,” we screamed. “Me, me, me!” Then, she gave this really sterile, efficient smile and whipped out a load of chopped up tomatoes in a metal salad bowl. ‘If you like tomato ketchup,’ she said, neutrally, ‘then you’ll like tomatoes – because tomato ketchup comes from tomatoes.’ Actually, it kind of killed the
atmosphere for a few moments, that did, to be honest.
My own parties were a bit of a nightmare, as well. A mum who’s Into Healthy Eating does make for fun birthday parties. It was always Ribena instead of Coke, and brown bread with lettuce sandwiches, and raisins and carrots instead of crisps. Fucking raisins. Raisins are, basically, fundamentally shite.
And I made the same mistake every year. Every year, I’d lie to my friends, claiming that my mum had changed her Healthy Eating ways. Every year, without fail, all day long, I’d be going: ‘There’s going to be Coke this year, and Skips, and Monster Munchies.’ Then we’d get back to mine, and my mum would get the Ribena out, and mix it with sparkling water: ‘Healthy Eating Coke!’ Nobody was fooled, not even for a second.
And guess what happened this weekend? This weekend I actually got thrown out of a birthday party! I was with my English mates and a Nice German Boy, who I didn’t know. We didn’t do anything wrong, well, nothing that would stand up in a court of law, anyways. Okay, one English mate did eat a teeny-tiny incy-wincy bit of celery out of the fridge, but that was all. After we’d been thrown out of the part, we huddled together in a doorway for warmth. It was pouring with rain. The Nice German Boy was genuinely shocked and bewildered. “This is a first for me,” he said, in a genuinely shocked and bewildered way. “I have never been thrown out of a party before, never in my whole life, and I am 37. Never. This
has never happened.” My English mate sniffed. “It’s a first
for me, too,” he said thoughtfully. I looked at him, somewhat skeptical. “It’s the first time you got thrown out of a party?” I asked. My English mate grinned. “Nah!” He said. “It’s the first time I’ve been thrown out of a party for eating a bit of celery!”
“I know,” I said, mournfully. “We didn’t even puke on anything.”
“That’s a first for you, huh, Jacinta?” My mate said, and handed me some substitute Bailey’s. Sometimes I can understand why the Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t even bother.