Saturday, 15 November 2008

Cry if I want to

It's my birthday soon. I say soon; it's not, like, tomorrow or anything. But now is about when I start allowing myself to think about it. Any sooner and I get too overwrought and sick with excitement by the time the day rolls around, haven't slept for days and anything short of litters of bulldog puppies, Alexander McQueen dresses, vintage diamond earrings, long weekends in the Hôtel Crillon, all expenses paid trips to the Liberty Hall of Shoes, pyramids of Ladurée salted caramel and lemon macaroons and Matisse lithographs seems somehow unworthy of me and makes me sulk and have to spend most of the day in my room crying and banging things. I ration birthday thoughts around this time of year, allowing myself one or two a day, and gradually building up to a pleasurable sense of TOTAL FUCKING CRAZY EXCITEMENT the night before. Yes, indeed, I am six on the inside.

It is around this time that the hunted expression the CFO usually wears takes on an extra sheen of panic. Birthdays have caused more friction between the CFO and I than almost anything else. I am tremendously high maintenance when it comes to birthdays. I like A Fuss. Not only do I like A Fuss, but I equate presents with LOVE, with the predictably disastrous consequences you can imagine.

The CFOs mother believes that if you give the birthday boy/girl anything within 6 weeks of the date, you are doing marvellously. She regularly forgets his birthday, or she'll give him a jumper that turned out to be too small for his dad, or some towels. She doesn't make cakes, or do wrapping. The CFO is consequently happy with pretty much anything, especially things with buttons or twiddly bits. His best EVER present was a Barnitts voucher. He is easy. Not as easy as Prog Rock Step Dad who was so totally delighted with a pop sock filled with false nails and whisky miniatures bought from the Spar, but still easy. He is also DOOMED.

He is doomed because, in contrast, I like to be fêted with a massive, ridiculous amount of lavish gifts, and festivities. Ideally, I would like to start my day with a decent fistful of diamonds hiding in my cup of Smoky Earl Grey Kusmi tea, a couple of perfectly cooked crumpets with super salty butter, a pristine copy of Grazia. Next, perhaps the CFO could take me off to the airport for a short break in Les Sources de Caudalie in Bordeaux, where I would find my litter of puppies and possibly a nice horse waiting for me, draped in Net à Porter packages, decorative ribbons, fine art and large bowls. You get the picture. I blame Nancy Mitford. I thought it might get better when I had children, but if anything it's got worse. It's the one day in the year I feel I can be an outrageous diva - bring me homemade cake and dancing girls! It's MY DAY (cue trembling lip).


High expectations of course mean disappointment. I get lots of that. Even before the CFO came on the scene, the Bearded One was pretty good at providing it. He does not even know when my birthday is, or how old I am, and usually buys all his presents from the Science Museum in bulk at Christmas, drunk, then distributes them arbitrarily throughout the year. It's even worse when he strays away from the astronaut pens and freeze dried food - one particularly searing year he got me the Times Atlas of World History and another year some frightening pottery from the Cotswolds in a sort of lumpen brown sandy finish that I still haven't had the heart to take home from his house. He got me something lavish for my 21st (pearl and diamond earrings), but was a bit nonplussed about it, since he had asked his secretary (tremendously old money and cut glass vowels, wardrobe entirely composed of woollen day dresses from Country Casuals) to get what she thought was appropriate and she had been to Asprey and done precisely as requested. Hee!

The CFO's liste noire of bad presents includes:

The year of the Tamagotchi. I am such a ball of neuroses that the tamagotchi nearly drove me mad. I think I had PTD (post tamagotchi depression) - the loss of autonomy, the constant anxiety, the inability to bond with the tiny pixellated image. Ghastly. After about a week, the CFO took matters into his own hands and drowned the tamagotchi in our fish tank. Then we buried it under his grandma's yucca tree.

The year of the vanity case - black plastic massive chunky vanity case. "But, but, you have loads of produits! I thought it would be useful!"

The kitchenaid - I LOVE the Kitchenaid, more than several members of my family, but I really didn't want silver. I wanted almond or green. Yes, I am a spoilt bitch, aren't I? I love it now, silver or not.

I'll have to add to this as they come back to me. I seem to have suppressed a lot of memories. I know there are lots more. Oh, yes, there was the year where I found a tiny box and convinced myself it was something involving diamonds and it was an address book.

I don't know what I think I have to complain about though. I know a girl who got an EXTRACTOR FAN for her birthday. More often, he gets it pretty much right (a great watch, a beautiful tiny Dufy drawing, a cup he had specially made for me with a duck with teeth on, a lovely bracelet) but I am still a colossal bitch because I feel he has merely managed to follow instructions rather than surprise and delight me. Who could blame him? I work myself into a frenzy that nothing could possibly satisfy, then bring out my pout of barely suppressed disappointment. Aren't you really, really glad you don't know me in real life? Am I not a total spoilt brat?

Best present, worst present everyone? Help me get over-excited and twitchy. Feed my fantasies. Get me worked up until I'm sick with excitment. I've got my party dress on and I'm about to stick my fingers in the cake, get hysterical and have to be put to bed early.


(oh, yeah the bit where I said today would be more glitteringly entertaining than the last few days was evidently a lie. I will try to stop lying now. Hey, I have already plugged my phone in and spat out toothpaste in the sink twice! I am a veritable self-improvement machine! Expectations should remain low. I thank you.)

27 comments:

parisgirl said...

Oh dear it all sounds too, too familiar. I'm like you, I want a fuss, but the Frenchman doesn't know how to do birthdays either. Maybe for the same reason as the CFO (this year neither his mother nor sister bought him a present). My very own Bearded One came to visit two years running just after my birthday and brought nada.
One year, the year of a BIG birthday, the Frenchman arrived home from work and said he had to go out to buy some cigarettes. I thought: "Aha, he's going to get my present". He came back with cigarettes. I thought: "Never mind he's arranged something fabulous for dinner". He said: "OK. What are we doing this evening?" We had the mother of all rows. We ended up in a crummy local bistro where the waiter spilled red wine down the back of my dress. Not much has changed since except he says: "What do you want for your birthday?"

(Very) Lost in France said...

I wonder if that's a French thing. Having left the UK where kiddies birthdays often involved princess parties, stretch limousines and lots and lots of money, here in La France Profonde, it's a few kids round for a playdate, a bowl of sweets on the table and that's your lot. Not a party bag in sight. Our first year here I had a painting party for DD. The other mothers looked at me as if I'd stolen one of their kidneys.

My birthday is just after Christmas so if anyone even remembers I'm in luck. Best present - someone's unwanted Christmas present. Worst present - someone's unwanted Christmas present. VLiF

pochyemu said...

No. Please, all of you, just shut up. You never had a worse gift giver than my husband.

My birthday is the week before Christmas, so it's my favourite time of year and I expect loads of presents like my parents used to give us when we were kids.

Cut to: being with my husband. I said, 'Darling, please can I have my first Christmas tree?!? PLEASE!' He said, 'What do you want a tree for? Christmas is stupid' (!! ACK!)

I'll give just one example or this post will be longer than yours. Last year.

I begged for a specific Tiffany's heart necklace for my birthday for THREE YEARS. Begged. THEN MY SISTER IN LAW GOT IT FIRST. So I said, 'If you don't get me that fucking necklace this year I will divorce you. Also, Sister-in-Law got the small version, so now I want the BIG VERSION.' I got it. Unwrapped. He TOSSED the box to me.

Then. Christmas. I said. 'I would like a SatNav, that's ALL I WANT'. He woke me up at midnight 3 DAYS before Christmas when he got home from work. He was too excited to give it to me so he didn't wrap it, he just put a kitchen towel round it and gave it to me. Midnight. Just woke up. Three days early. Towel wrapping. WHERE'S THE JOY IN THAT?!

Christmas morning he got out of bed at 7am and went downstairs. I heard the sound of wrapping paper and the screams of gaffer tape. When I came down he had wrapped all these odd shaped bundles with said wrapping products.

I got:

One 'Hello' magazine
A smashed Lindt reindeer
2 tops from GAP that didn't fit and were hideously. HIDEOUSLY. ugly.

And I cried while he opened his mountain of beautifully wrapped gifts from me.

SO THERE!

Jaywalker said...

Pochyemu, come to mine for your birthday and I will shower you with presents as it should be done, because you have made me laugh til I am slightly sick again.

PG - yes, the worst of it is the IMAGINING the clever double bluffs that aren't. Oh yes.

VLiF - so sad. So so sad. There should be compulsory contraception for the months where the offspring will end up with a Christmas birthday. Too cruel!

justme said...

Oh dear.......I think you have been trumped by pochyemu!
Have you TOD the CFO you want diamonds and bulldog puppies? Maybe you could send him an e mail specifying the details???
I wont go into my worse presents cos I actually have had some pretty good ones too. One thing my ex actually DID do right.....sometimes!
Word verification.....tozzon.....I like!

justme said...

Ummmm I meant TOLD......

Persephone said...

I hear you about birthdays. I know it would be so easy if I just didn't care, but dammit, it's the one day of the year that belongs to me. Therefore, I am well set up for disappointment. Worst birthday ever? My mother was in town for her first (most disastrous) visit since we abandoned her in our hometown to pursue the Resident Fan Boy's dreams of civil servant glory, and on the morning of my birthday, she got ill. I had to cancel everything and stay home to care for her. Then the Resident Fan Boy gave me the present in which he'd invested such thought (yes, really): The Holocaust Chronicle, a year-by-year, atrocity-by-atrocity recounting of the genocide in Europe from 1933 to 1946. It's not that I'm not interested in the Holocaust and that it is not a carefully-researched tome. It's just...well, it was my birthday....

katyboo1 said...

My best and worsts were always around christmas presents. The worse was the year I asked my then boyfriend for a pair of silver earrings (we were young and broke). On christmas morning I got a five foot high inflatable banana, a second hand disgusting brown coffee pot with no lid, and four packets of white chocolate buttons. I know they say it's the thought that counts but that made me cry even harder.

Our first christmas together ex husband gave me a guide book to Vienna (somewhere I had always wanted to go). Inside were plane tickets and hotel accomodation for a long weekend over new year. That was v. nice indeed.

Jason bought me a trampoline as a wedding present. That was v. cool. I got him a weekend learning to be a spy, shooting people out of a moving car and doing Sweeneyesque forward rolls whilst swearing.

Jaywalker said...

The bar has been set high here. But WHO can beat The Holocaust Chronicles, hmm?

Several of your lame offerings have merited reading out to the CFO, including Katyboo, Persephone, Pochyemu. He is drunk and not really listening, but still. I am gleeful.

Alyson said...

I'm the exact same way. No matter what it is, it's not up to the level of birthday fabulousness in my brain. This year he took me to Hawaii...which was fabulous...but I kept thinking how expensive it was, although I would not give it back. And for my actual birthday we went for drinks with friends, except it was a blizzard so only like 3 or 4 showed up.

I think it's because I was born on Mardi Gras day (hasn't fallen then since and I don't think it fell often before) - how does one compete with Mardi Gras?

pinklea said...

My birthday is right before Christmas too, so I make one wish-list a year, just to make it easy for everyone. IF they check said wish-list. Porsche Guy did not check one year. I did not get a gift - unless you count a Starbucks card that one of his clients had given him, which was stuffed into a generic birthday card. Which I didn't count. He is lucky we are still together. I think he just doesn't want to have to deal with the long-lasting fallout from such a serious transgression ever again.

karenmc said...

The husband tries. He really does. But he doesn't like surprises, so he always asks what I want. After 10 years he should *know*. Which is possibly unreasonable, but he just should! And because I'm a grown-up, and have children, I feel obligated to say 'Oh nothing really. I don't need anything. Just something small.' And all the while there is a voice in my head saying 'Jewellery is small. Tickets to something or somewhere are small. Beautiful little expensive arty things are small!'. And then I get a mug that says I am a bitch, and it's not even just text or a cute/ironic drawing - it has an awful photo of some woman who is blonde & younger than me and thin. And it's a horrible big chunky mug. And I felt it was too soon to donate it to yesterday's school fete, so now it's going to sit there unused for another year.

And I smiled and said thank you.

And a friend got a clothes brush from her husband.

Red Shoes said...

I have more to comment but haven't the time right this moment... just wanted to tell you that for my 16th birthday, my mother got me this. That's all. Just that. Happy sweet sixteen. I will never forgive her.

Mr Farty said...

Worst - One year I bought Mrs F a nice blue dressing gown at Ingleston Sunday Market. It was in a polythene wrapper, therefore it was obviously new, or so I thought.
She seemed impressed, until she tried it on and slipped her hand into the pocket...and produced a comb and a rather shrivelled-looking date. To this day I don't know whence they came.

Best - for our combined birthday & 20th wedding anniversary, we toured South Africa and I had a diamond ring made for her.

Me? I'm not fussy as long as I never again get nine pairs of fucking socks.

Vanessa said...

Worst present: Richard Simmons' "Sweatin' to the Oldies" VHS from a boyfriend's mother.

Completely Alienne said...

My daughters can't understand why am not really interested in my birthday - when they get to my age they will understand. I favour self-help. I always told my eldest daughter exactly what I wanted (and where to get it) and then she told him. He didn't always take the 'hint'. It took me three years to get one particular thing I wanted.

My worst birthday (day rather than present) had a zero at the end of it. we went to Groombridge Place for the day, paid and parked and eldest daughter threw up over the back wheel as she got out of the car. She insisted on carrying on and threw up in the next field during the birds of prey demonstration. we drove home and I spent the day cleaning up sick, and later it got worse when it turned into diarrhea (not sure that is right spelling). She was 4; I mention this every birthday.

Kate said...

My Frenchman buys me things that he wants, like CDs for bands he likes (and therefore thinks I must too), DVDs of movies (when I could really care less about owning most movies and that's something he is into). It's pretty much always a book (often a lousy one that I return), a movie or a DVD because there is only one store he will ever go shopping in and that's the stuff they have. He gets me stuff that is just decent enough for me to not be able to bitch about it and just thoughtless enough for me to be pissed anyway. This year it was a popcorn popper and 2 CDs. I got the popcorn popper only because I emailed my whole family saying that I wanted one and looking at the US tag on it, I know that my mom went and bought it for him to give to me... which doesn't really bother me that much I guess because he probably would have picked a crappy one and paid three times as much. I'm just always hopeful for some reason that he will actually come up with a wonderful, thoughtful gift that I didn't specifically ask for or that didn't come from Renaud-Bray and then I'm disappointed. Only a month and 10 days until I get a book, a CD and a DVD for Christmas. Can you hear the excitement in my voice?

ptooie said...

Back in school, I knew twin boys whose birthday was Christmas. I always felt bad for them, having to share that double whammy.
My birthday, however, is Cinco de Mayo. Lucky me, it is also my stepdad's birthday. Anyway, best was 21 because the bouncer at the bar wished me Happy Birthday on the way in, then later (much later) when they were cleaning up the decorations he came and found me to give me the balloons. I thought that was very sweet.
With few exceptions (yes, nice attempt Mr. F, polythene should have meant new), I think clueless is just the husband/significant other's natural state around birthdays. I learned to flat out tell my husband about 3 things I wished to have, and he usually can get 1. It only took me 4 years to figure out this method, but now works well at both birthday and Christmas.

Jaywalker said...

Everyone MUST check out Red Shoes sixteenth birthday present. I command you.

Oh, this is so good it is making up for being woken at 6am to watch Pokemon. I do love you all.

Mr F! I can't stop imagining the moment she put her hand in the pocket. I bet the diamond ring/south africa (which OMFG is way too amazing, I am crying slightly) hasn't quite erased the memory, has it?

Karen - lord, the clothes brush vs the extractor fan vs the bitch mug. Tough. Try "I want something ENORMOUS" next year. You'll probably get an inflatable banana like Katyboo.

CA - nice, a bodily fluids birthday! What a treat.

Kate - I do, I really hear the excitement. The CFO feels he has shot his bolt with my birthday and feels entitled not to really bother at all with Christmas. Usually my indignation is totally spent by this point and I don't cry too much.

Ptooie - yes, I see the sense in this but I want him to KNOW. Without being told.

Vanessa - mm! That sounds so loathsome I might try and look it up on amazon.

mountainear said...

Aged 17 for heaven's sake I received from my loving parents a grey school jumper and a black and yellow school scarf. I would never have done that to my kids.

s. cadette said...

haha. this is funny. do u remember our dear aunty of musical doorbell fame gettin her youngest daughter a tube of toothpaste for her 21st. too bad she's like you and me in terms of birthdays/presents but more so. Im so glad we werent in the vicinity. can you imagine. im cringin.

my best present is everything you have ever got me :o) possibly the only things to keep me from being taken in by the sally army and scrubbed. alltho that wil probably soon happen. xxx

Jaywalker said...

Space Cadette - hello ducks. Oh, and do you remember how Prog Rock Step Dad used to do ALL his Christmas shopping in one fell swoop in the shop full of weird crap at the end of Gillygate? And how devastated he was when it closed down?

Mountainear - No. This must not be allowed unpunished. I hope you were/are horrible to them for the rest of their lives.

Kitschen Pink said...

for our first christmas living together hubby bought me an iron and I bought him a box of washing powder! HA! t.x (20 years on he still uses neither!)

ptooie said...

I wanted my guy to KNOW as well, but after about 3 years I realized it just was not going to happen. I figure the minor disappointment of having to tell him ahead of time is better than the larger sadness of him ignoring the event. (my husband is very much a quiet, keep to himself person and not much for social events.)
At least this way, if I provide 3 or so options, I can be surprised by which one he gets for me.

Laura Jane said...

Oh yes, you've touched a nerve here.

My hubby is also pretty clueless about birthdays, and present-giving. Not mean necessarily, but unimaginative and undemonstrative.

He demands a list. with concrete suggestions. If it includes jewellery the catalogue must be circled. Or pre-selected with a range of acceptable options and an upper limit set. Then the choice is his. This works. With not too much disappointment. He is learning.

My worst (most memorable) birthday was when i turned 35 (middle-aged). I had chest pain and drove myself to the doctors, who gave me aspirin, and an ECG and referred me to a cardiologist that same day. While waiting for the appointment I learned that not one, but TWO of my great-aunts had died in the night. The appointment went well. However the episode was repeated 9 years later, where I spent the first 10 hours of my 44th birthday in emergency waiting for heart clearance again.

I'm still alive - but wary of my future birthdays!

Luckily I'm not precious or trembly-lipped about them.

I hope your birthday is less crap than it might be.

Jaywalker said...

KP - Um, at least you were in synch with each other perhaps? Gah.

Ptooie - yes, I'm more or less reconciled to this approach, but it doesn't stop me secretly fulminating and wanting surprise...

Laura Jane - admittedly, that is a pretty crappy birthday. I have an MRI scheduled on mine this year (only knee, no cause for alarm). Yes! The festive humming magnetic tube of death! What larks.

emily said...

see now i feel terribly spoilt, but put it down to the fact that the boy and i jhave very similar tastes, so he finds things he likes and therefore 90% of the time i will like them too :)
Best present for birthday was a trip to Paris in March this year, but that was a joint present for each others birthdays - it was blissful. Although it rained a lot!
Best christmas present was last year - i have a favourite artist but he is very expensive. So John found pictures in art magazines and things, made them slightly bigger - A5 and framed them for me. I was so happy - and they each had a message on the back :)