What is it about hearing your birth date being called out that makes you beam inside like an idiot? Perhaps it’s in a meeting or calendar invite, and for some reason when you hear it, you silently wish yourself a ‘happy birthday’ like a seven-year-old. It doesn’t matter what age you are, or if you like your birthday to begin with, you have a little rush inside and think, ‘I’ll be a year older on that day.’
What’s even stranger is when you hear someone has the same birthday as you, or you share a birthday within the same week, or within a day, that somehow predetermines a sort of astrological kinship. It’s not only you, for some reason people you know feel compelled to group you together, forcing a friendship or connection in some way simply because the date you were born happens to relate. It’s the same thing every year, it’s the same bloody date, and for some reason they end up surprised that at least one person in seven billion might have the same birthday as you and it just blows their fucking mind.
Much like the stupid nuances of human behavior, nothing says stupidity like repeating the same thing and expecting a different result. That’s the thing about birthdays, you get the opportunity to do something different every year, and yet, you expect you won’t wake up to looking at yourself in the mirror with a hangover glazed on top of your shame as a result.
One year, I was in my hometown for my birthday and an old friend of mine thought it fitting to set up a birthday for me and her cousin. Midway through the celebration, Becky arrived at our table with a tray of shots. Unfamiliar to me, the taste fell somewhere between fruit juice and energy drink with the bitterness of an alcoholic candy cane. As Becky returned to the table carrying her purse tightly between her teeth, I couldn’t help but smell her arrive before seeing her because her perfume was so abrasive the paint started to lift off the walls.
Once Becky decided to place the shots down on the table ahead of me, she elbowed me as she leant in with a slur to say, ‘this girl’s night is going to get crazy,’ and I felt my throat open up with nausea. Every part of me wanted to avoid the thought of having to hold her God damn hair back in a bathroom stall later. Just like any girl you’d see outside a bar after 9pm, she’d likely be crying. Her makeup would be pouring down her cheeks because her ex-boyfriend happened to sleep with her cousin. The person at fault for both her tears, and the tragedy of me having known her.
But that’s the magic about forcing down shots, it’s the same as forcing people together. The unlikely pairs and groups of acquaintances that have somehow found their way beside me through the years, despite knowing we no longer had anything in common anymore, forced me to ask myself, if we had anything in common to begin with.
And as I sat and listened to Becky, feeling the curdle of purple in my gut, I felt stupidity spike. The purple sickly sweetness wasn’t even good enough to be served in a glass shot, rather, it was poured into a plastic one instead. It dawned on me, that the most heart-breaking thing of all was seeing that Becky had brought her own shot glass which she wore on a cheap black cord around her neck in front of her ‘Becky’ necklace.
After her Birthday last year, received the shot glass as a gift for safety because her drink was spiked that night. That was the same night she showed her tits to the bouncer and ended up taking a piss on a train. You all knew Becky hadn’t had her drink spiked that night. Becky had too much to drink, and was heavy handed with her wine spritzers, which she released with vigour as she threw up on the street. And if anything made my stomach turn more than the purple shots I forced down, or stopping Becky taking liberty with strangers, or the time she took a piss on train.
The most telling curdle of all that I felt, was hearing Becky calling my name. Was hearing Becky remind me of the date. And as I stood there in my bathroom the next day, looking at myself in the mirror, I silently wished myself a ‘Stupid Happy Birthday,’ because I realised, that at the end taking those shots, at the end of all my complaints, the stupidest thing I did, was taking her home that night to fuck her.
How to celebrate
- Mix old friends with new intentions
- Stir in cheap shots and sugar
- Dip the rim in regret
- Add shame as a garnish
- Toast to a Happy Birthday
Amy-Jean Muller is an artist, writer and poet from South Africa who lives and works in London. She explores topics such as culture, memory, identity, and sexuality. She aims to create a snapshot of experience and narrative with a non-traditional approach. She also likes whiskey, afternoon naps and nihilistic musings.