On Sept. 13, 2013, I declared birthday bankruptcy.
I sat in my apartment completely overwhelmed by the night’s schedule of birthday parties that lay ahead, including at least two in honor of very dear friends, of the can’t-really-make-an-excuse-to-miss-this variety, and two more held by peripheral friends, of the kind that you try to hang out with in because you’re always in the market to meet strange people in new scenarios when there is booze involved. But sometime around 9pm, looking at my looming Facebook events notifications and text invites, I pulled the ripchord on this birthday night freefall and decided to abandon the ride and go for none, spending the night instead making dinner with my roommates who, mercifully, have birthdays in the spring.
That night was merely the low point in my birthday bankruptcy considerations. The next day, I also missed a birthday with a friend who I don’t see enough outside of her birthdays, and the week before I hit one birthday party but couldn’t muster up the strength to drag myself across the borough for another. On Sept. 11, I watched Aimee Mann sing “Happy Birthday” to the tune of “Save Me” at the Bell House in Brooklyn (hey, I took a short vid of that too!) on Teddy’s actual birthday. Just a few days before, it was Aimee’s birthday too, as Ted informed us during the show. On Sept. 27, it was my mom’s birthday, which I always almost forget about, because my birthday is three days later. And two best friends have birthdays within the same week, making carving out a day for a party without offending someone nearly impossible. Two friends I knew in South Carolina have birthdays on the same day as me.
It’s this year that I’ve decided to declare birthday bankruptcy in September due to sheer suffocating, system-wide resource draining that comes along with the glut of birthdays in the first month of the school year. I’m part of the problem too, I recognize: My birthday falls on Sept. 30, the last day of the month, coincidentally the last day of school registration in New Jersey, the few hours before midnight I was born the only thing standing between me being the youngest first grader and the oldest second grader. But even if I try to plan a party for my birthday, something I don’t have to do but feel some weird societal pressure to do every year, I run the risk of abutting with the birthdays of at least three very good friends, the kind of which I would clear my weekend calendar to celebrate were it any other time of the year.
We are the September birthdays. And we are not special.
As I look at my Facebook calendar right now, there are a stunning 64 birthdays this month, far more than any other. That’s not counting the people not on Facebook. Compare that to 44 in April, or 46 in what is surely the most desirable month for births, July.
This is far from a Facebook anecdote: September is statistically the most packed month for birthdays, a virtual March Madness bracket of your friends to decide which ones you care about more to attend ridiculous cocktail parties in Manhattan or late-night bowling fests in Sunset Park.
This is, truth be told, the worst example of birthday gloat, a trend that is dragging down the economy of all us millennials (shudder) with our stretched-too-thin budgets and limited disposable income. But it’s something that we don’t really have control over. DNA.info. just published a story showing that Sept. 20 was the most common birthday for New York City. And if you look at this Daily Mail visualization of birthday dates, you’ll see a distribution throughout the year, but a thick red crowded line of overpopulation on September. Baby booooom for real.
Now that’s just the September issue we’re talking about, but to get at the real trouble at stake, you have to multiply that by the birthday gloat factor that has asserted itself in recent years. That’s the trend where someone takes a simple birthday, perhaps the least specialized portion of human existence that repeats every year, for everyone, so long as you keep pumping blood, and turns it into an often week-long extravaganza involving multiple nights out, bar parties, dinner events and, of course, a significant financial outlay by your attending friends. Portlandia brilliantly skewered this phenomenon last season in a rare episode-long skit satiring an absurdly intricate birthday celebration, complete with sunrise yoga, an elaborate Evite and other activities so time and resource intense friends are forced to seek out a birthday loan from a bank.
I’m all for celebrating your being and setting the night on fire with your own personal brand of vitality. Yet the point where your celebration of that turns into a multiple-day consuming affair, particularly for traditionally insignificant birthdays like 28, 31 or 42, is where I start to chafe. It becomes a particularly selfish request in the September range, where your anniversary of being shoved or pulled from your mother’s womb is almost certainly in conflict with any number of your close friends, coworkers, family or a seemingly endless tide of strangers seeking to occupy the same bar space as you.
But even considering birthday bloat, that’s not the biggest issue at work here. The bigger problem I see in this trend of September birthdays is the lack of creativity of all our parents when it came to having unprotected sex, roughly around the range or 1979-1986 (as per my friend circle). Dial that calendar back nine months and what do you get? New Years, or sometime around the holidays, which means our parents were only in the mood to conceive — whatever that is, let your filthy, subconsciously scarred mind fill in — during the holidays. Is that possibly a little depressing?
Oh, how I longed to be a summer baby growing up. I had a great summer fling eight years ago, which eventually turned into my only long-term relationship, with a girl who was born on the first day of summer. Her personality, and our relationship, full of sunny smiles and a beachy relaxed vibe, I’m convinced were 100 percent guided by that coincidence. When I got to know her mom, it turned out she got to choose that day: she was going into labor but the doctors had to make a C section to get her out, so they let the mom pick the birth day. June 21, she decided, most often the first day of summer.
To be a summer baby to me would have meant beach birthday parties and backyard pool jams, an endless sea of possibilities that would have surely involved sun worship and the harnessing of the carefree energy of summer vacations and using it to punch through to another year. We would have been throwing water balloons from noon to dusk, we would have been playing Manhunt around the neighborhood until our moms called us back; we would have roamed the boardwalks in long teenage nights, agreeing to get corrupted by anyone with a sympathetic beer to share for a teenage kid looking for birthday excitement. (side note: This year I tried to go for slightly summery bday outing, gathering a few friends and a few bottles in Fort Greene park late on a Monday night, setting off a chain of events that led four of us to eventually get kicked out of Hank’s. Getting booted from a shitty dive bar on my first day as a 32 year old is fodder for a much different post re: reevaluating life decisions).
Instead, I always faced the late September birthday, which even before I was aware of the birthday gloat, always made for awkward school friends. It’s not even a month into the school year and you’re still getting to know your new classmates, so sending out the birthday invites or passing out the Jersey-standard classroom birthday allotment of Munchkins is an awkward proposition of Ralph Wiggum proportions.
To have a summer birthday circa June would have meant my parents had their sex in September, instead of birthing in September, and that would have been an acceptable proposition, because, honestly, isn’t the fall the better time to get it on? The fever of the world has just broke and suddenly everything feels comfortable and meaningful, like how novels suddenly toss out trashy paperbacks from your summer reading list.
So I say to you parents out there, you hip young tattooed adults who consider buying DJ classes for your toddler and don’t mind taking them to the bar: think about their future when you’re thinking about plowing each other with unprotected crotches, and try to be creative in your conception. September’s dead. Long live any other month.