Thursday, 29 November 2012

It's my party..

Well. I don't quite know what happened there, but my birthday made me completely unhinged. Usually, however shite things are, I will bloody-mindedly insist on birthday high jinks and jollity and treats. The year my mum died (end of October), I put on my best (maternity) dress and insisted my sister and best friend accompany me to Sketch tea rooms for my birthday and we ate silly cakes and had a good old laugh at the poor waitress in her ludicrous huge leg of mutton sleeves and her ludicrous outsize pencil (Sketch is the most sadistic employer this side of a Nigerian sawmill). The year we lived in Paris - my thirtieth - I demanded a HUGE fuss and we went to some fancy Michelin starred restaurant and I had to eat a sea urchin and all manner of ridiculousness. I like birthdays. I like a fuss. Bring on the dancing capybaras, and let them have stopped off at Frédéric Malle and Maje and Ladurée on the way. Let the saddlebags on their furry haunches be filled with miniature bottles of champagne and Patrick Roger caramels and Betty's fondant fancies. I think there should be room for a fuss even if the rest of the year has basically been one long vertical trench of horseshit that you've had to trudge up. Maybe especially if the rest of the year has been like that.

Because this year, everything is FINE, really, but my birthday sent me stark, staring mad.

First, on the day, there was the uncontrollable crying jag that started in the morning and lasted until early evening. Proper, groundless woe. Existential keening. Ugly, in the street wailing. This even though - and slightly because - I had very kindly been given a spa day. Which was lovely, truly, and such a kind, thoughtful present. But I felt ugly and vulnerable and ashamed of my new bizarrely stained front tooth and my foul toe claws and my various facial wounds that I have been picking at like a teenager (which is an excellent new nervous habit I have developed over my thirty eight year, so go me). I was definitely not feeling up to explaining the wig thing. I both felt, and felt I must look, like this:

(I've thrown it out now. The decomposition was sort of intriguing to watch, but when it started seeping I regretfully drew the line)

In the end, of course, it was basically lovely. The masseuse was Russian and stoic and quite kind and understated. She barely spoke. I only cried a few times. There was even a moment of massage comedy, when she selected the background music: rather than the usual unearthly new age whale wailing, pan pipes or plainsong, it was a frenetic techno backing track, over which a male voice would occasionally whisper "sex vibe". Perfect!

In the evening despite much more loveliness - cake, blinis, prosecco, a card of my face composed of thousands of pictures of animals courtesy of L, the first episode of the rubbish French version of the Great British Bake Off, featuring a delightfully incompetent Belgian grandmother - there was the return of some of my absolutely top quality anxiety. The triple A grade anxiety, where I lie in bed and my brain searches with the implacable efficiency of a Google algorithm for every shred of bad behaviour, outstanding accounting anomalies, health worries, work tracas, every argument, grievance and failure I've ever been party to. Then it parades them in front of me, like a never-ending slideshow of my own crapness until I am bathed in sweat and existing in a parallel state where I have bodies piled so high they are fracturing the tiles on my patio and a European arrest warrant out for me and not even the dog will deign to chew my corpse. Then I picked at my face until it bled in 73 places again.

The day after I was irrationally angry at nothing and no one (except possibly myself). I walked the dog in the forest extremely swiftly, round and round like a whirling dervish until he ran away and hid behind a tree and refused to come out. I spent two hours agonising about whether to drive somewhere and finally decided not to. I walked home from where I went in the heavy rain, in unsuitable shoes, because I couldn't galvanise myself to do anything more sensible and when I got in, I broke some blameless inanimate objects. I broke things! I don't normally do that kind of thing, because when you do, you just feel silly and have to clean up the bits afterwards. So I cleaned the bits up, feeling not silly, but completely psychotic. Finally, to top off the day in style, I started vomiting violently.

What the fuck.

I feel a bit better now. The sickness has subsided. I no longer want to rip things apart with my tiny dinosaur arms and stamp on them. There has been no crying today. It was like some kind of disturbing birthday exorcism type event but during, I honestly thought I was going mad and it was quite frightening. I mean, I know lots of people don't like birthdays, but I really, really do and what's left in miserable November if I don't enjoy my birthday? My friends talked me down from my ledge of dread. "You probably miss your mum" said F. "You should just embrace the end of year suckiness" said M. "If the worst thing you can say is you were sort of bitchy and then needed an injection of ketamine, well it sounds to me like one of my Saturday nights at university", a particularly wise man commented, comfortingly. Then sent me a picture of me with unicorns and rainbows superimposed rakishly on it. My friends always know the right things to say and do.

Resolutions for my thirty ninth year, both huge and tiny:

1. Be braver.

2. Stop picking my face until it bleeds.

3. Try not to define happiness/success/fulfillment so narrowly that I do not enjoy my really lovely life.

4. Earn enough (somehow - fraud? Blackmail? Jewel theft?) to cover 2012 tax bill.

5. Buy more nail clippers.

6. Do at least one of the following: join a choir, ride a horse more regularly, get unsightly stain removed from my front tooth.

How do you deal with birthdays?


cruella said...

Oh dear. It's probably a good thing I've never paid much attention to my birthdays. Which in itself could be prodded at, of course. My birthday is slap-bang in the Midsummer time which is a Big Thing in Sweden. Not only for birthday parties since everything concerning summer, white nights, warm weather, eating outside and DON'T YOU DARE NOT PROFITING OF THAT POSSIBILITY is heavily reinforced and leaves no room for any other celebration. (Good excuse, eh.)

Interestingly, I was told off yesterday when I commented on a similar matter on a blog. The woman in question had just celebrated her 35th birthday and was bitter because on the actual day she had no more than 7 text messages, a lovely and considerate pressie from her husband, a phone call including singing from her mother and some singing and dancing from her study group at uni. Oh, yes, she threw a birthday party two days previously which by the sight of it (photo evidence) contained pretty much everything you could possibly want (fake moustaches, plenty drinking.)

I basically told her to grow up and seek some advice. Not kindly received.

Your ambitions for next year sound great. And congrats, belatedly.

Isabel Rogers said...

You sound as if you've had a hell of a year, plus it was a something-NINE birthday. They are always tricky. Ignore the mirrors, finish any stray chocolates and hang in there til the days start to lengthen. If anyone got you cashmere bed socks, put them on immediately. They are amazing and will cheer through anything.

cruella said...

And I'm NOT telling you to grow up and snap out of it;-) What made me react to the other post was the bitterness and blame on other people, none of that chez toi.

tharsheblows said...

I spend the day reading in bed generally. I'm not a big birthday celebrator, too many awful ones when I was younger, so I'm inordinately pleased when they don't actively suck.

Sorry you had such an appalling few days, especially on your birthday. Going mad is my Big Fear, well, something happening to my kids is my unthinkable, reduce me to a quivering wreck, fear, so it's my Big Fear other than that. I'd say everyone feels like that sometimes but I don't know if it's true. I do, though, so huge empathy from here.

And here's a cheery pic:

Sara Padrusch said...

Poor waffle! I am sorry to say that this year I turned 40 and spent about 48 hours curled up in a fetal position alternatingly crying and having anxiety attacks. My best friend had flown 400 miles to see me and all I could manage was to lay in bed and watch 30 Rock.

It was not pretty. I think some birthdays hit us hard, especially if we are already busy trying to cope on a daily basis.

I am sorry that your birthday was so bad. It's over now, so you can return to a more regular style of gnashing and thrashing about.

Love your American friend,

Waffle said...

Isabel - It was actually an 8 birthday. This is my thirty ninth year, right? OR AM I WRONG. Probably. No cashmere bed socks, but I agree they are the best possible gift.

Julie said...

Oh, face picking. I am world champion. It somewhat helps to cut my nails very short and kots of slathering with biafine, miracle scar preventing cream. I am hoping someone has better advice.

Waffle said...

Oh god Julie, it is shameful. Biafine, you say. I have plenty in the cupboard, will slather on, under this paper bag I am wearing.

Ellie said...

I know the feeling of having your mind parade your many faults in front of you at night-- it happens to me on a near-daily basis sometimes and it's so hard to talk myself out of it that usually I just give up and sob until the horror seems to have all leaked out of my eyes.

I never did birthdays until I was staring down the barrel of 30 and not liking the view at all, and suddenly it occurred to me that the thing to do was to pick the least probable place I could think of to turn 30, and go there. (We went to Halifax, NS, which is not really that improbable it turns out, but IS absolutely lovely, and I totally forgot I was 30 until it was all over). For non-0 and 5 birthdays we go to small, cheap, improbable places (Utopia, TX was a particular winner for 31-- we killed part of the day reading the DUI citations posted publicly on the court house door). My last birthday we didn't have the money, so I told my husband I wanted to literally drink all day, and we did so at a marvelous stately pace and for once in my life we kept a pleasant buzz all day without getting trashed, and we had a wonderful time. So these are my only coping mechanisms: drink and travel-based avoidance. I wish I had better advice.

I hope that in your 39th year you accomplish ALL THREE of your stated goals.

Nimble said...

Obviously you owed a day that is one delight after another. It could happen to you at any time, don't be surprised.

As a good American, if I'd had the two days you describe, I think I would turn to prescription mood brighteners.

Nimble said...

*are* owed.

Patience_Crabstick said...

You're right. The 38th birthday means you are beginning your 39th year.
You describe that mental mental state so beautifully!

Anonymous said...

Oh dear. That sounds like a proper full-on panic attack. I'm glad the unicorn helped.
Maybe it was -because- you like birthdays so much. I don't usually go for big fuss birthdays, which is a waste really since mine's on bonfire night so I could pretend all the fireworks were for ME. But at least turning 30 and 40 sort of washed over me. I was 42 this month and the main thing I felt was excited because (a) it was actually, miraculously, sunny and (b) husband had day off too, so we could go and have a child-free lunch (soup and a sandwich at one of the very few cafes still open at this time of year in rural north west scotland. Rock and roll). Admittedly, I find it disturbing to say 'I am 42' because it sounds like I should be really grown up.
I second the cashmere socks thing. I'm wearing some right now. You become dependent on them, though.

tristan said...

2340 OldNavsounds as if you have taken the first step on the long and winding dirt path to recovery xx

Pat (in Belgium) said...

I love the "idea" of birthdays...and then they get here. I agree with others; there's something about the decades (the birthdays ending in "0"). Turning 21 was no biggie; approaching 50, I had a big blow out with every friend I could find -- at 49 (entering my 50th year, same reasoning!). The following year, I hid from everyone & then realized I had not bothered to create any stories for life after 50.
Now my approach is I'm getting older, dammit, BUT, consider the alternative...And I shamelessly use my age to get me in anywhere I can get a reduction -- museums, movies, public transport (did you know that Eurostar has a "senior rate"?).
The one thing still guaranteed to "get" me is when my daughter, heading toward 25, or her partner, three years older, start moaning about how "old" they're getting.

Isabel Rogers said...

Yes - I can't count! I am too old to bother with such trifles ... I'll send you cashmere socks for the Big One. Which I've passed. There is light on the other side.

Sarah L. said...

Join a choir. Do it for you and for me. I had joined one at a non-denominational church and was thoroughly enjoying all of the singing because no one cared very much if you were good (I'm okay) but now that I am 7 months pregnant, I've given it up. I haven't the lung capacity nor the energy for rehearsals that end at 9:30 pm when I'm usually long passed out. So, go sing somewhere. Sing in your shower,c sing to the dog (it will freak him out), sing with the kids....just sing somewhere. It will make everything better. Happy 39th year, Waffle!

Z said...

You try being fifty sodding nine. I couldn't face it at all and cancelled my birthday. I'm cancelling next year's too.

Salome said...

I think you were ill. The vomiting is the clue. You had a weird virus and often when people are ill they get all anxious or distressed. It was just a physical symptom and you are not mad AT ALL.

I am very upset about cashmere socks. I got some beautiful ones and they caused a massive outbreak of horrible bleeding cracking foot psoriasis. WTF? Cashmere all soft and lovely and it was just a cashmere trojan horse for the greek psoriasis army.

I like your ambitions for next year. I suggest you also include: 'don't be so hard on myself'.

Margaret said...

Girl, that just sucks. But it's just a one-off; it doesn't meant you've lost your birthday mojo, I promise!

Michelloui | The American Resident said...

Woah. I hope you have more days like that if you write more like that. No, that's probably cruel of me. And selfish. That was kick ass though. I'm going to share your post as soon as I finish here. I love your style.

But back to you. Hey. I just turned 43 a few weeks ago. I had a moment on the morning of 'oh no!' as if I didn't realise I had been standing on the edge of the cliff and it suddenly began to slip away from underneath me. Too late. Am now 43. Not sure why I felt a surge of panic, never had that before. I spent the rest of the day focusing very hard on Everything Else.

I like big To Do's as well. Stopped aiming for them a while ago though. Depressingly. It just doesn't seem to work in my house full of teens and young adults--as well meaning as they are. I would love to go to Sketch! But now reading your post I would feel bad, like I'm wearing trainers made by sweatshop workers.

Anonymous said...

@Salome - good point. Spent much of last few years teaching kids in P3 and often when when they are unusually cranky or tearful they are sick the next day. As for cashmere socks - that's tragic. Hope your poor feet are better.

Waffle said...

Awww, Isabel and Brainanlithe - update, my sister DID buy me cashmere socks! Most excellent sibling.

Ellie - Yours made me laugh. Are you my cephalopod correspondent Ellie? You sound like her.

Helen said...

Belatedly happy birthday, and many happy returns - next year will be a good one, I hope!

I'm sorry you were sick; I agree with Salome that you were ill.

My birthday is a week before Christmas, like John the Baptist. I admit to hating presents wrapped in Christmas paper, although I know it makes me sound ungrateful for the present. Still. Grumble.

Helen said...

*ill, virus-ill, not in-the-head ill.

Dee said...

I had my birthday this last week too, and while I was expecting it to be a bit inglorious (I have a strict appointment every year to go into a deep, teeth gnashing depression a week before the candles are lit, and then sob into the remains of the cake for a minimum of 3 days afterwards), it turned into a hell of epic proportions. There were pompous, smarmy real estate agents, temperatures of more than 37 degrees Celsius, and me stubbing my toe so badly I think I broke it. The highlight of the week was me totally losing my shit and ranting and sobbing and slamming the door in someones face.
Ah, birthdays.
Just can't wait until next year.:-/

Sarah said...

I think you should book an unofficial birthday in for next year (once the weather starts to brighten) to make up for the nastiness of this one. It sounds like a bad bug and a reaction to a whole basket load of anxiety provoking things. Oof, you poor petal!

Val said...

Unfortunately I am all too familiar w/the High Anxiety, lying awake compiling my shortcomings as mom/wife/daughter and all-around Shite Human Being...
Hope things are better now - if you ever make it to TX I can handle the horseback riding concession! (but why would anybody want to come to Dallas since JR Ewing died ;-) ??

family Affairs said...

39th year is really not at all good. For lots of reasons. I spent the year in bed I recall and now I am WAY older than that and pretending that I am not. Obviously. 40 would have been great if I hadn't just found out my husband was having an affair so I had the biggest party ever and was completely demented in a "i'm happily married and everything is great sort of way" which of course it wasn't.

You didn't mention all your presents.....reading between the lines you did not get the BIG THING you felt should be bought for you? Or maybe I'm wrong. I am now so much happier now that I have learnt the thing to do is to buy things for myself. No more disappointment. Although maybe a little bit sad. Lx

Waffle said...

Family Affairs - Oh god, yours sounds dreadful. No, there was no big-and-not-received present. Except a horse, for the 39th year running. Sigh.

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