The euphoria (and sugar high) surrounding my turning 50 years old a couple of weeks ago has now long subsided. But whatever the day, I can still relate to stories about turning another year older — even if it’s not my own birthday. As an introductory, let me share with you video from Rachel Brosnahan’s recent appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. In leading off this appearance, Rachel talks about a bit of a birthday inaccuracy.
I’ve never told anyone that my birthday is on any day other than August 3. But I can certainly relate to how Rachel’s birthday went from July to April to December, and it’s not out of anyone’s chicanery or anything. I’ve mentioned it in passing on here before, but I will happily elaborate further in this entry…
This story centers around one of my supervisors at my previous place of employment… who also happened to be my last supervisor there (no, I don’t want to dwell on that unhappy fact). On her Microsoft Outlook calendar, she had a list of when employees under her watch celebrated their birthday. A team member disclosing their date of birth wasn’t mandatory, but we were encouraged to divulge. Whenever that person’s birthday occurred, our boss would send an e-mail to the rest of the team that morning (or the day before if she was out of the office). The e-mail would go something like…
We have a birthday in the house!
It’s Janet’s birthday today!
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, JANET!!!!!!!!!!!
Well, something like that, only much bigger (font sizes on WordPress only go so high). But at least you get the idea. Any time our supervisor sent out those birthday greetings with the 48-point font, the rest of the team (if they wanted to) would hit that “Reply” button (or even “Reply All”) and wish their own birthday greetings.
By the time I went under this supervisor’s watch, I had already disclosed in passing my birthday to a few colleagues. And I revealed my birthday to that supervisor and her co-lead in an equally passive tone, not expecting any sort of celebration or momentous marker on their parts.
But the first time my birthday fell under her supervision, a marker did come, one that precisely mirrored the big-font text shown above.
And that birthday e-mail came on… wait for it… June 1.
Yep, for some strange reason, my supervisor’s Outlook had my birthday listed as June 1 and not August 3. And with it came the 48-point font e-mail and the subsequent greetings from my teammates. Which felt strange for the first time it happened (more on that momentarily). I mean, when I was a little kid and our class gave birthday wishes at the end of the school year to anyone anyone whose birthday fell during summer vacation, it had a matter-of-fact feeling (“Yep, thank you in advance”). This, however, was a case of someone relying on incorrect information.
So, truthful ol’ Male Mode Me had to break it to everyone via e-mail (the rest of the team was based in another town) that… well, thank you for the birthday wishes, but you’re way to early. Try again a couple of months from now.
Needless to say, our supervisor was a little bit embarrassed… not to mention somewhat defensive (“Well, my list does show your birthday as the first of June!”). But she did make the correction and update my birthday to August 3 on her list… though not until the error happened a second time, exactly one year later. Which necessitated another set of corrections from yours truly (“Uh, we went through this same do-se-do a year ago”). When my supervisor finally made that correction two months later, one or two people feigned a bit of jealousy over my having two birthdays in the same year (all in good jest, of course).
I do take errors about my birthday good-naturedly, of course. This includes last year, when I visited my sister and her family in their new home on Labor Day weekend. In the middle of helping out with moving a box here and straightening out some furniture there, we had a brief lunch when Sis gave me some Reese’s candy (she knows I love chocolate) and a birthday card. Sis was of the belief somehow that September 3 was my birthday. Whoops.
In my sister’s defense, the error can easily be blamed on not only her family’s move but her own busy schedule. And unlike a supervisor who knows me for only 40 hours a week, Sis has known me her entire life. In other words, it was a valid, one-time-only error that she admitted to and I forgave. Sis remembered the correct date this year, texting me “Happy Birthday” wishes on the morning I turned 50. Thanks, Sis.
These two situations remind me of an episode of The Golden Girls where Blanche didn’t want to celebrate her birthday, as she was one who dreaded the fact of growing older. But it was housemate Rose who advised her that birthdays aren’t meant to celebrate being another year older… but rather another year being alive.
Rose’s point in that moment was quite valid: It shouldn’t matter what day you celebrate your birthday or how many candles are added to your cake. Your birthday will be a happy one so long as others are there to give you well wishes… or barring that, so long as you realize, hey, you’re still the wonderful, vibrant, and beautiful person you’ve always been.
That “I’m still here and still living” attitude is one I try to think about every time my birthday is celebrated. It now may feel like another day to me, but it’s another day I get to spend on this planet. I imagine many of you out there have that same viewpoint. So, too, perhaps, does Rachel Brosnahan, whose Wikipedia entry now shows her correct birth date of July 12, 1990… which also happened to be the date of my grandfather’s funeral (no, I don’t want to dwell on that unhappy fact either).