It only comes once a year. The one day that is - by design anyway - all about you: the day of your birth. It’s a time for celebration. At time to acknowledge that you made it another 365 straight days of being alive.
What a streak huh?

There are several reasons to look forward to a birthday. When you’re younger it’s the thought of being older. We feel more validation in our surroundings when we get older because with age comes wisdom and up until about the time we get out of school, our age is inversely proportional to our parents’ perceived wisdom. This obviously changes (for normal people) when we get out of school and real life drop kicks you in the face without warning.

It’s not only wisdom that we seek. Birthdays include milestones and rites of passages. Your first day of being a teenager. Then old enough to drive. Then old enough to buy cigars, register for the draft and be tried as an adult. My next milestone: 25 years old. Old enough for my non-existent car insurance (yay CTA) to go down.  Even though we may not admit it, what’s our favorite part of birthdays?

The presents.

You may not want any big or elaborate gifts. Just the little tangible reminders that loved ones remembered you on your birthday.

And cake.

Many times, this cake and presents thing go simultaneously together. It’s the perfect storm of awesomeness. However there is a catch: the birthday song.

It only lasts about 20 seconds or so but to me it’s a painfully awkward 20 seconds. It’s the price you have to pay to indulge in cake and gifts. What is it that your are supposed to do during these twenty seconds? For that small amount of time, all focus is on you by every person in the room. All watching your every move and facial expression.

Do you make eye contact? That in itself is awkward. Are you supposed to dance to the song? What if your facial expression isn’t excited enough? Will you let them down by not being enthusiastic enough by the fact they are singing? What do you look at during the song? Do you look at the cake, the people singing (again…the risk of awkward eye contact) or the presents? If you stare at the presents and not the people, does that make you look greedy?

You can’t look put-out during this escapade because after all, they are doing this because they care about you. They are musically wishing you a happy birthday. A public group serenade in your honor. It shouldn’t be awkward…but it is.

One of the best birthday presents I received from my fiancee and family this year was the absence of the birthday song. No awkward cake candle song ritual, no group of random waiters making me stand up in a chair and wear a headdress. Just a quiet, simple, birthday. No gimmicks, no song, no catch. Just cake and presents.

No awkward birthday song.