Ever notice that expectations are inversely proportionate to age? Some people call that cynicism; I prefer to think of it as a right sizing of emotions to adjust to a growing recognition of reality. I am a subscriber of the ” keeping expectations low at all times so you will never be disappointed” approach. This mantra has liberated me from years of suffering when faced with situations I can’t control. So, in that spirit, on my 43rd birthday, I refuse to go big this year. I won’t wax poetic on the challenges of aging gracefully, the gratitude I feel for the life I have been handed, the tremors of mid-life realizations that invade my soul on a daily basis, or my hopes, dreams and bucket list for the rest of my life. Thoughts on these topics have been reverberating in my head for the last week. But what I really want to talk about on this day is… birthday cake.
I. Love. It. Everyone has their favorite and mine is chocolate cake with vanilla frosting – and the thicker the sugary frosting the better. In fact, I often find myself shamefully holding back at birthday parties until the right piece of cake is cut and plated at which point I swoop in a snatch it up, all the while trying to appear nonchalant, as if I couldn’t care less that I got the corner piece with the large purple and pink flower on top. (Yes, I stop short of actually asking for a “flower.” I have some dignity.) I suspect my family knows my game, but are loathe to point it out because I am of advancing age and they need to be kind to people like me.
Not only do I love the birthday cake taste, but I am fascinated by the nuances associated with the birthday cake ritual. Everyone has a different approach and way of “doing cake.” For instance, after age 16, there is always a discussion regarding whether you put the actual number of candles in the cake – or some lesser variation. (In my family, we typically do ten’s and one’s – an excellent solution.) Still someone always makes the joke that the fire company is going to show up, as if its the first time anyway has ever cracked that one. And sometimes, you actually set off the fire alarm. Inevitably, the person lighting the candles burns the match down to his or her fingertips, but keeps going for some strange reason, as if there was money riding on whether they could get all the candles lit in a single match.
Some families include a candle for good luck… other people smear their name. Some sing happy birthday first and then blow out the candles – others do the reverse. In the last few years, Noah has instituted a tradition in which we sing Happy Birthday with a quicker upbeat tempo (think double time) because, as he rightfully points out, singing it slowly (as it is meant to be sung) sounds more like a funeral march than a celebration. And who cuts the cake? The birthday person – or do you give that person the day off from working? Ice cream with the cake? Of course, but on the side or on top?
Do you still laugh when the magical candles that re-light themselves appear on your cake or do you secretly want to kill the person who bought them? And how about those gigantic number candles that you pay $5.00 for, only to burn for 12 seconds before they are blown out. Do you save those for the next decade? These are questions for the ages…. Literally.
And then there is always the person at the party who has to pipe up and let everyone know that “they don’t like birthday cake.” I don’t trust these people (even though I may or may not have given birth to one of them.) It’s just not something you should ever say out loud. Memo to cake haters: The world needs a whole lot fewer party poopers so take a freaking piece of cake, push it around on your plate a bit, and when you no one is looking, quietly hand it to me throw it away. Especially if there is alot of icing.
So apologies for thoughts less profound on my 43rd birthday. I do feel tremendously blessed if not a bit rushed into Thanksgiving this year. But again, its all about the right expectations and mine are just where they should be. Next week Ill go back to the meaning of life but for today, I just want it to be a piece of cake.
Happy Happy Happy Thanksgiving to All MoB Readers!