Monday 5 September 2016

How to do Birthdays After 30

Over the last few days I've been seeing a lot of tweets on my timeline from people terrified of their impending 30th birthdays. I too was those people. It's my own birthday this week and my Facebook memories feed is currently riddled with 4-year-old updates from my own defiant advance towards the big 3-0 - I'll let you calculate my current age for yourselves from that, because I can't bring myself to type it outright - so I thought I'd scribble down a few words of wisdom for the next batch of wide-eyed 29-year-olds, nervously contemplating the next decade with uncertainty. 

1. Confront The Dread

The feeling of dread is legit. I felt it. It's fine. It's to be expected.
It's also largely unnecessary. I actually loved being 30, and if I could remain the same age for the rest of my life I would choose 30 every time. I approached my 30th birthday determined to prove to myself that I was still my young, trendy twenty-something self. So I defied age in the best way I could think of at the time - I dyed my hair bright pink (no, there are no pictures). 

It lasted about a fortnight before I got fed up of the colour transferring onto everything I owned and reached for the ColourB4, but it served an amazing purpose. It displaced the fear. I'd done something spontaneous and daring and scary and it completely refocused me, albeit for a little while. By the time my 30th birthday rolled around I was relieved to be a regular brunette grown-up again. 

2. It's okay to just have a quiet one

In my twenties, the birthday default involved large groups of people, pitchers of various cocktails and 4am bedtimes. I also went through a phase of going on holiday around my birthday every year and getting steaming drunk on sangria and 1 euro Jagerbombs in the sunshine.

Now that I've crossed the threshold into my thirties, however, a night in front of the telly with a gin or two and a massive plate of chips is just as appealing. I've also found that, in your thirties, you and your friends become less and less available with the arrival of children and the fact that a week at work gets gradually more and more knackering by the year and you just can't be bothered.

Of course, given the right set of circumstances, we thirty-somethings are still young enough to enjoy an epic night out (and also still young enough to get away with it). Last year my birthday fell on a Saturday night and boy did I take advantage of it. I also had the wisdom and life experience to know to to pace myself, not mix my drinks, and woke up the next morning hangover-free and able to enjoy the biggest vegan brunch I've ever had in my life.  

3. Never let people assume you're too old for birthday cake

WRONG! Fatal error! You're never too old for cake. In fact, I put it to you that cake becomes increasingly important the further you travel through life. Of course, it's slightly awkward for me, being vegan, in that there are few people I know with the cakey know-how to make me a surprise birthday cake so I inevitably end up making my own (and eating it on my own), and I am entirely 100% at peace with that. This year I will be whipping up a chocolate/banana loaf and demolishing it while slumped in front of Season 5 of Suits. Cake is the lifeblood of birthdays and must be respected. 

4. Relax - It's no big deal

While it's totally okay to want to be made a fuss of on one's birthday, and surprise cards and gifts (especially if those gifts are wine) are guaranteed to make anyone feel special, it's far from essential to me these days. I find I become less and less bothered about birthdays every year. As mentioned above, making exciting plans is challenging, and stuff still needs to get done. You're just as likely to find me cleaning the loo or booking a smear test on my birthday as any other day. 

Being self-employed, I'm lucky in that I can stealthily schedule myself a day off on my birthday if I want it, but 9 times out of 10 I'll just spend it doing laundry, eating cake, ticking various things off my to-do list, and watching Netflix in my pants. 

5. The more practical the present, the better

I'm actually pretty much done with birthday presents at this stage, nor do I ever expect them. I have no need for them at all. Except if they are things I actually need (or gin). Gifts that will enhance my life and make my existence less annoying. Post-thirty, I find that family members are more likely to just slip me 20 quid, which they assume will be spent on said gin, but that I usually donate towards a greater cause - such as my fledgeling Vitamix fund (at this rate I'll have enough by the time I hit 40).

That said, my mum once presented me with an electric blanket on my birthday and I almost cried. It was the most amazing present I'd ever received in my entire life. But, in all seriousness, it's the actual connection with family and friends and the Facebook birthday wishes from people I haven't caught up with in a while that make it for me. Not the presents. 

So, if you want to make this thirty-something happy on her birthday, buy me a drink, don't ask how old I am (unless you're prepared to tell me I look 10 years younger as part of the next sentence), don't fret if we can't schedule a night out immediately and, for the love of Pete, BRING CAKE!! 


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