Center of A Tension


“Your birthday is coming up!”

There didn’t seem to be much point in denying it. Somehow, to my chagrin, the word had gotten around the office. I suspected that it was posted on the office calendar: I certainly hadn’t brought it up. 

I always promised myself that I would never be one of those grown ups who spurned their birthdays as the inevitable reminder of their own aging. At the same time, the attention bothered me. I was a little bit surprised to discover that my reaction to the acknowledgement of my birthday annoyed me somehow- I couldn’t say why exactly: it’s not exactly a secret so feeling annoyed by its acknowledgment was clearly an overreaction. I duly felt annoyed with myself for feeling annoyed. 

I suppose I’m discovering how much I dislike being the center of attention. It’s a feeling that I’m familiar with: I recall having a similar sense of uneasiness during many of the events surrounding my wedding in which I was expected to play the guest of honor. Then again, in other cases I find myself equally annoyed when I am overlooked: typically when I’ve worked hard on something and the credit goes to someone else or unacknowledged altogether. I suppose the difference is that attention for an accomplishment reflects something that I’ve done whereas the celebration of birthdays and bridal showers is a reflection of circumstance. I was lucky enough to be born. I was lucky enough to find love. To take credit for this good fortune feels ingenuous, and to crow about receiving such good fortune feels uncouth. 

On the other hand, most birthdays and showers and other celebrations are really just excuses for everybody else to eat, drynke, and be merrye. It’s rather like the role of the body at an Irish wake. The birthday celebrant is just a convenient reason to have a party, and I really can’t argue with that. So what I really need to learn how to do is to play this role at least as well as a dead body, which I suspect involves not being a pill about being the center of attention. I think I can handle that. 

~ by Gwydhar Gebien on July 6, 2017.

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