I remember when it started. It was my 10th birthday. A milestone birthday: I would get to add another digit to my age! I’d have to turn 100 years old for something so big to happen again.
So, on my 10th birthday I was appropriately excited. However, because my actual birthday fell on a weekday, my family and I decided to delay the party to the following weekend. I felt really grown up to agree to this decision beforehand.
It turned out I hadn’t taken into consideration that on my actual birthday, nobody would pay too much attention to me. In effect, everyone just ignored the fact that it was my special day. They all just went along as if it were a day like every other. Not even the weather was on my side that particular day in November. It was unusually cold even for a rainy fall day. There was no way I was going to play outside alone. I hung around the house, watching my family go about their business, and naturally I was bored. VERY bored.
My mom even had the audacity to clean the house. So I followed her while trying to explain to her, in tears, that we had made a major error by delaying my birthday. She just went on and swept the floor. We have a big old farm house with about 14 rooms. Around the 7th room I was on top of my lungs. I was furious. I screamed. I cried. I was out of my mind. I wanted a birthday party. NOW.
She just went on sweeping the floor. Until suddenly she could not bear the crying anymore and made me help her clean the house to shut me up.
That was the day that little ten-year-old girl made a promise to herself. A promise that this would never happen again.
So every year since, my ten-year-old self, lets call her Zehn, takes over and I lose control. Zehn is out for revenge. She finally wants her perfect birthday. She expects nothing less than a day to remember. My ten-year-old self even expects Saint Peter, who is said in Germany to control the weather from up in heaven, to work with her. Zehn feels he owes her big time for his failures on her tenth birthday.
People who get to know Zehn around my birthday are prone to mistake her for me, and think I am a maniac. Obviously, Zehn still behaves like a child. She wants to be treated like a queen, because she loves loves loves my birthday. And she stretches the celebrations as far as possible beyond the actual day. To this end, she has invented the concept of the Birthday Week. Zehn actually sees it as a service to my friends in case people call too early or a little late she does not have to punish them for their ignorance. Even though she does feel that in times of Facebook, there is no good excuse to forget about a birthday; least of all hers.
But she doesn’t stop there. She even interferes with my relationships! Ten-year-old me has the highest expectations of my boyfriend. He has to make sure that she will be treated extravagantly. He has to organize the perfect gifts (note the plural form), the perfect party, and the perfect breakfast, lunch and dinner (yes, every meal!). For some reason, my previous relationships always hit rock bottom around my birthday.
So I always wonder – how will Zehn ruin my birthday this year? Because she will be furious if you give her just a little less than what she wants. And she knows very well what she wants, since she has spent 364 days stuck inside my head with nothing else to do but to imagine how special her day will be. Shaken with anticipation, she counts down the days, then the hours and the minutes until it is finally November 8th again and her perfect day will play out just the way she has imagined it.
Naturally, people regularly fail to live up to her standards. I’ve actually lost friends over her extravagance. Most of my birthdays have been a disaster because the moment something is not quite perfect, she will have a fit. “I thought I had made it clear what I wanted. Why is it not that way?” People tend to take that personally.
What am I trying to tell you with this story, you ask? Take it as a warning. It is, after all, already April, and SHE is beginning to stir inside my head. You better contact Zehn about what she wants this year. And you better get it soon. I can’t control her, and I don’t want to lose another friend!