I hate my birthday. There, I said it. According to Facebook, everyone else wanders around all day long feeling “blessed” and “spoiled”. For the record, I do not feel “blessed”, because as you know, people who use words like “blessed” on Facebook posts, especially ones featuring children, should be blocked. Or shot. I will feel spoiled later when I unwrap my bubble-gum pink Porsche. Yet even then I will have to fight the urge to jam the key into the ignition and speed off at 166km/hr in the opposite direction to my life. Because my birthday is the day when I think about all the lives I didn’t get to live.
Most of these other lives figure my pioneering work in saving the rainforests of West-Central Africa and the orphanage for baby chimpanzees that I run in my spare time, although some of them I spend stoned on the rock music festival circuit as the lead singer of Def Leppard. If you really want to spoil me, buy me a souvenir T from the ’87 Hysteria tour with “Pour Some Sugar On Me” emblazoned across the bust.
Anyway, tomorrow I will go back to queuing in the checkout aisle at Woollies and not thinking about how bored witless I am, but today, dammit, I’m like a child. I mean, kids when they’re not whining their arses off or thrashing around on the floor, foaming at the mouth because they want a packet of Ghost Pops and will not be DENIED, are often literally high on life. Hurtling around the lawn, wielding a foam noodle/King Arthur’s sword, the exhilaration is so intense, there ain’t nothin’ for it but shrieking and laughing so hard cream soda squirts out your nostrils and then shrieking some more. And yet, at the same time, I have observed a kind of wistfulness in children. Earlier over-confidence in evident super-powers gives way somewhere around four-years-old to a faintly desperate and let’s face it, ultimately futile quest to acquire them. Let me tell you; if faith, hope, chicken wish bones, eyelashes and dandelions had anything to do with it, then by God, I would’ve sprouted gossamer wings a long, long time ago, which I’d still use to fly to fairyland on full moon. That’s why I never fell for the lies peddled in “The Secret” – I learned early on the hard way that my thoughts do not in fact control the universe. One of the bleakest days for me as a mother though, was the day Russell told me I could give his Batman suit to the orphanage. There was an awful leaden quality to his voice as he told me. I thought about all those years he’d balled his little fists and yelled, “I am Vengeance. I am the Knight and these are my hammers of justice!” and a little part of me shrivelled and died. You know what they say: Always be yourself, unless you can be Batman. Then, please, do me a favour, be Batman.
Like a kid who still gets a kick out of foam noodles fished out the pool and squirting cream soda through his nostrils, yeah, hanging out with old friends and belly laughing and turning the radio up so loud the whole car flexes rhythmically, makes life worth living, and maybe as an old friend reminded me recently, that’s all that’s going to matter in the end, still birthdays remind me that I am not Batman. And I may never be Batman. Time is running out.
When I was going through my melodramatic and intense phase during adolescence, which most involved black gothic lipstick and reading 1984 and wearing crystals and Ethiopian crucifixes in an ironic and subversive way, I’d memorise lines of poetry, one of which has dogged me into adulthood and the suburban Gulag. It’s by Andrew Marvell, who for those of you illiterates who skipped teenage pseudo-intellectual wanking because you were too busy taping the Top 40 off the radio or whatever, he died in 1678.
“But at my back I always hear, time’s winged chariot hurrying near.”
On my birthday, I swear I can feel the wind.
Whatever. I reckon I’ll feel way better at the massive surprise party I know you’re throwing me later tonight. There’ll be loads of beer in the bath tub and cheap wine and the music will be great and everyone will wind up in the pool, because, that’s right, it will be summer, and you’ll all only go home just before the sun comes up. Some of you crazy, crazy cats will actually jump off the roof into the pool. Also the neighbours will complain and we’ll just laugh at them. ‘Cos we’re so rock ‘n’ roll. But don’t be surprised if you find me hunched in a corner somewhere as it’s winding down, rubbing my mood ring and thinking about all the choices I’ve made that led me to where I am today, which still feels like a place I never really chose to be, how when you pass through one doorway, others close behind you, and okay, the crushing disappointment of my thundering ordinariness. And Robb, it’s not that as I squat there tenderly ministering to my regrets and self-pity that I will have forgotten all the good stuff in my life, which if it weren’t so corny I’d admit I am grateful for, especially my pack of mangy dogs and boys and cats and husbands. It’s just that in that slightly schizo way of our species, both of these things – the regret and the gratitude – are true. So happy birthday me. Rock on.