Tomorrow’s my birthday, and today at work I was thinking about what a birthday really means, what it is you’re actually celebrating. Basically, I concluded that my birthday is a celebration of the fact that, for whatever reason, I managed to not die for yet another year. This is such a momentous achievement on my part, apparently, that I deserve to be rewarded with presents in commemoration of it. Celebrating birthdays has to be an American idea. Where else could the mere fact that you didn’t die qualify you for gifts and accolades?
It’s not like staying alive for another year is a completely free ride, though. No, our family and friends realize the deal we’ve got going on, and so every year they conspire to cook up the most unhealthy, most heart-clogging food possible, and then watch us to make sure we eat it. I’m talking, of course, about the birthday cake, which is basically sugar and artificial food coloring piled together in different mixtures, one on top of the other, and then topped off with an additional layer of sugar, the frosting. The time when they make sure we eat the cake, of course, is called the birthday party. You always thought they came over to your house because they wanted to celebrate your life with you, but no, it’s actually so they can make sure that if you actually do survive and make it through another year, you’ve earned those presents they’re giving you. They would still give them to you just because they feel obligated to, but this way, they can know that you not dying for another year really is an achievement.
But for some people, of course, just clogging your arteries with cake isn’t enough of a challenge. What these people do–I’m sure you know the kind I’m talking about–is that they sneak into your house when you’re not there, hide behind the furniture or maybe in the closet, and they wait for you to come back. And when you do come back home, these people jump out of their hiding places and scream at you. You thought they did that because they wanted make your birthday extra special by giving you a surprise party, but that’s not what’s really going on. Actually, they’re giving your heart a final stress test before they have to hand over their presents. The thing is, though, people who do surprise parties aren’t all that smart, because if they really wanted to make you earn your reward for staying alive another year, they would figure out a way to surprise you after the party, because that’s when you’re all full of sugar and cholesterol. And they’d still have time to take back their presents if you don’t make it.