I Took My Birthday off Facebook
I remember the first year that I got a few dozen birthday wishes from people I barely knew on Facebook. I thought, well, this is kind of fun. The next year there were more, and the year after that… You know how it goes. I always made an effort to acknowledge other people’s birthdays on Facebook if I knew them even remotely. And it was handy if I forgot my brother’s birthday to have the Facebook reminder.
But this year I decided I didn’t want or need a few hundred birthday wishes from people I may or may not know that well. In the past I always felt obligated to acknowledge all those wishes with a like or a “thank you.” And sometimes it was nice to connect with someone I hadn’t seen in a year or a decade. But before Facebook, the only people who even knew I had a birthday were my close friends and family. By close, I mean two or three friends. That was perfectly satisfying. I’d get a couple of cards, maybe go out to a nice dinner or to a fancy dessert bar. It was more than enough. In fact, many of those birthdays have become cherished memories.
Like my 28th birthday, when a girlfriend and I went to our favorite bar, and she blew up rubbers as balloons. We drank ourselves silly, then persuaded a record store owner to open his store so I could get a copy of “She’s 28 Years Old Tonight” by Steppenwolf. Or my 30th birthday when my then boyfriend (and later husband) and I stayed at B&B in St. Augustine Florida and had a fabulously romantic dinner in a restaurant that was literally over the water. Or the birthday when we buried my mom’s ashes. Or my 60th birthday on the Isle of Capri with my beloved nephew and one of my former students with whom I was especially close. We splurged on the most delicious little white cakes, complete with cherry on top. (They looked oddly mammarian but tasted exquisite.)
Not all of my birthdays are memorable. In fact, I have no idea what we did for it last year. I’m sure I spent part of it on Facebook responding to all those wishes. I didn’t expect this one to be especially memorable either. For one thing, I was a little hungover from spending Thanksgiving the day before on the patio drinking wine with my husband and two of our best friends.
Secondly, we’re in the midst of a pandemic surge so going out for fine dining was out of the question. But it was a balmy North Florida day, and after a long afternoon nap, we got up and decided to take the dogs down to the beach for an hour. This particular beach is not on the pretty part of the Gulf. The water is sort of muddy, and crazy tree roots stick up all over the beach. Those roots are like a magnet for my bare toes. And yet I love this spit of land for its wild wind-blown look and the locals who fish there and don’t mind a couple of rowdy, unleashed dogs chasing balls. It was especially gorgeous this evening with the setting sun breaking through a curtain of clouds on one side and the moon glimmering on the other. I found myself mesmerized by a ballet corps of seagulls swooping and swirling and jostling each other for bait left on the beach.
After the beach we thought we’d get some seafood to go, but once we got to the little seafood dive and parked ourselves on a picnic bench with the tired dogs at our feet, we decided it was the perfect setting for a birthday dinner. And it was — with the pine trees surrounding us and the almost full moon crawling up the sky. I ordered my favorite: a blackened grouper sandwich and he got a shrimp platter. It’s no 5-star restaurant. We didn’t have wine or candles or fancy appetizers. We just had each other — my husband of six weeks and me and the two dogs. It was incredibly romantic.
And when we got home, I found that my stepson had left me a book and a baking sheet of “limequat”(a hybrid fruit of lime and kumquat) bars. I was in HEAVEN!
I did break down and post a picture of our moonlit skyscape on Facebook and the few people who saw it on their feeds, responded with a happy birthday. These are the people I tend to interact with anyway. It was more than enough.
I think our culture has gone a little overboard with the whole birthday thing. I mean, I revere Michelle Obama, but I ignore those emails asking me to sign her birthday card. She doesn’t need or probably even want my birthday wishes. She’s got that fine husband and those sweet girls to give her love on her birthday. As for me, give me a sweetheart or a even just a good friend, something tasty to eat, and a few calls from family members, and I’m a happy birthday girl.