Chapter 18: Birthdays
I have been thinking a lot about birthdays recently. I think they are a very special occasion that is at one time both beautiful and impossibly strange. On one side you are celebrating the day you came into this world, and on the other you are marking the time till you check out. Birthdays are strange things. So I am not too hurt that I am hardly ever invited to birthday parties. I think I am too “real” for all those other people at the parties to deal with. When I think back to all the birthday parties I have had, I think at every one I have ever thrown, someone has ended up crying. I swear. Whether it was me, another guest, or the clown, someone was always crying their eyes out at my birthday parties. I think it was all the hoopla that come associated with birthdays. Everyone is running on sugar and icing, and cake, and party food, there is excitement and disappointment, and all this build up leads people to break down. That or all my birthdays are really depressing. I mean that would explain why I cry, but why the clown? He is at least being paid!
Now as I said before I am not invited to a lot of birthdays. Mostly because I am not ten and the people I hang out with don’t really do a lot to mark the occasion. I am friends with a lot of twenty-something’s who just go out to the bar and drink themselves into a stupor. With all the tears cried at my parties, I don’t need any depressants to make the night any more memorable. My birthdays these days are spent at my house with a few friends. Oh and we eat cake, not anything special. I eat cake everyday. I really love cake.
Recently I was invited to a birthday of a friend of mine. Now I call them my friend because I think they will read this book, but in reality I think we are just acquaintances. (They won’t read that last part because they will read the friends part and go: “Aww.. we’re friends” and skip over this.) The point is I don’t know them too well, so I was a bit nervous to be going to a birthday party, where I would only know them. I don’t like to go places alone. I am not, nor ever will be a lone wolf. But I decided, in my attitude of trying new things, that I would go and enjoy myself. That I would be fun loving, and exciting, and the life of the party. I would over come years of social phobias in one night. Suffice to say I got drunk before hand and took a taxi to the party.
Now my ‘friend’ is a very nice guy who I had a class with at one time, and we had always remained friendly. We e-mailed each other every once in a blue moon (which are rare I am told) and always were saying that we had to hang out with each other. We never did though. So when I was invited to his birthday party, I was shocked, and flattered. It was a real act of friendship. Now I guess I should give this guy a name. Lets call him Ryan. Now Ryan was a few years older than me, but in the stories that he told me about himself, I new he wouldn’t have a problem with me showing up to his rockin’ birthday with a few drinks in me. I am not a drinker usually. But I was nervous, and a little devil juice helped to put the butterflies in my stomach to rest. But because of the quantity I consumed, I think they most likely passed out.
Now in the spirit of being the life of the party, I had purchased an adult board game that involved dirty clues to everyday items that had to be guessed. It is really hard if you have a dirty mind. So I thought it would be fun, and would give me the reputation around the birthday cake as being a ‘real firecracker’. Also to top off the gag gift I wrapped it in wrapping paper that had little trucks on it, and gave him a card that was intended for a six year old. I thought it was going to be hilarious. Now as the taxi pulled up to the nice house, and I saw I few people walking up the steps, I sensed that there was something wrong. The people walking up the path to the house had children with them. They were also carrying packages wrapped in colorful, child friendly paper. There were also balloons in the entry way, and past the front door I could hear sounds of many children laughing. This gave me pause. Was my incredibly cute idea to wrap gifts in childish paper not original? Should I too have brought prop children? Or, as is likely to happen, have I misread a social situation. Something tells me, and it is not just the faith I put in my originality, that directed me towards the latter.
The best part about this was, I never saw any of these clues till the taxi had driven away, and I was left standing (or stumbling) with my wildly inappropriate gift, on the green lawn. This was not my friend’s birthday. This was a child’s birthday.
My first thought was to run. Book it down the street before anyone saw me. Ditch the present in a dumpster, call a cab home and ice my head. No such luck. Acquaintance Ryan saw me from the door to the house, called my name, and waved me into his home. I couldn’t run now.
I was greeted by Ryan in the doorway. He was thrilled that I was so thoughtful to come to his son’s birthday party. It really meant a lot to him. He thought it was great there would be another adult there to help out. Now, I know a lot of these situations happen in television sitcoms, where inappropriate gifts are handed off to 85 year old grandmothers, and people at home scream for the characters to have common sense, pull the host aside and explain themselves before damage is done. Yeah, I do it to. The hard thing to do is act on it when you are socially retarded, drunk, and hardly an acquaintance to the host. My present was handed off and placed in a large pile of similarly wrapped gifts in the corner.
Now in all actuality the party was very nice. Ryan was a hilarious guy, and his wife was equally so. We hung out in the kitchen while a dozen or so screaming four year olds ran amuck in and out of the house. We had cocktails. Something that makes every four year old birthdays better, and chatted it up. I was less nervous than I thought I would be. But I still couldn’t bring myself to bring up the fact that I had bought a adult board game for their son, under the idea that this was in fact Ryan’s birthday. (I later deduced that when I ran into him on the street and he invited me to a party he had said “We are having a birthday party on Saturday, drop on by” I had heard “I am having…party..blah blah” and lost interest. So it really was my entire fault)
Now maybe it was the cocktails and the nervousness of being in a strangers home, but what I did while Ryan and his wife rounded up the children to get ready for opening presents, was more than a little insane. I ran into the living room where the gifts were stored, grabbed my truck-wrapped sex-game, and in an act of pure desperation, I snuck to the corner that the gifts were piled in picked mine out and took it with me to the bathroom. What I was planning on doing with it in there was beyond me. The bathroom was on the lower level of the house, so I contemplated opening the mall window and crawling out to the backyard and shoving the damn thing in the dumpster. But the window was high up on the wall, and I didn’t want to be stuck like pooh in the rabbit hole. Now a bathroom is a very poor place in which to devise a plan. The objects around you have very specific purposes and there are hardly any tools to work with. Unless I wanted to dig my way out with a toilet brush I would have to walk out the door. Secondly if you stay to long in a bathroom people assume you are under some sort of distress and therefore avoid you afterwards. Since I hardly knew Ryan, his wife, or his little tot, I wasn’t about to lose face. The solution: I was going to have to act fast. I tore off all the wrapping paper as carefully as I possibly could, being careful to preserve as much of he tape as possible, and do so with minimal tearing. Next I would have to open the board game and take out all the contents, hide them in the bathroom, peel the plastic label off the game box (because the title was very inappropriate) and put inside as much cash as I had with me and re wrap the gift. It was a wholly unbelievable experience. I acted as fast as I possibly could with as little noise as I could, while desperate and embarrassed.
It was the only thing I could do. I had to steal back the present. I couldn’t let it be opened by a four year old. I couldn’t face the damage to my reputation, so like all good cowards I ran. I ran three blocks around corners and alleys, praying to god that I wasn’t seen with the present.
That party was strange and it had nothing to do with tradition. Also the only tears were my tears of laugher as I walked the 17 blocks home.
And it makes for a really good story.