Before we go any further, I should really declare one thing. Today is my birthday.
Not that I want to bring attention to myself or anything, but yay. Yay for me.
And if any would-be troublemakers want to take that date-of-birth information and make mischief – say by committing identity theft and robbing me of millions of dollars – can I just say very firmly that’s not very nice. But in case you need it, my mother’s maiden name was Canary and my first pet was a jones.
No, who am I kidding? Of course I want to bring attention to myself. What can I say - it’s the kind of guy I am. If you can’t get some attention on your birthday, then when can you?
I’ve never been one for not telling people it’s my birthday. None of this shuffling round quietly, not mentioning that it’s Trev Day. One day last year our maid said to me: “Oh, it was my birthday yesterday.” In recognition of this I promptly fired her on the spot. How could she not have told me? I’d have made a fuss.
You’re turning a year older, which isn’t such a great thing. You might as well get some fun out of it. I tell gardeners, garbagemen, the mailman, whoever I can intentionally make cross my path. It might be the fact I’m a youngest child. (This doesn’t confess that we’re self-indulgent little brats. I mean, we like fun).
I tell everyone.
“Morning, Trevor,” some co-worker would say. “It’s my birthday. Good morning,” I’d respond. Sometimes I’d extend it. “I’ll be sitting over there if you want to rustle up a present. And I should say that if it’s not worth at least $100, what I usually do is smile politely and hand it straight back.” If you can’t be an ungracious bastard on your birthday, then when can you?
Well, I guess there’s Christmas. But I love birthdays – other people’s and my own. I’m known as the birthday man. Whenever I’ve got to know someone I’ve committed their birthday to memory. It’s a bit Rain Man-ish, a bit creepy. I usually have some sort of mnemonic to remind me. My friend Holly is December 21. Easy. Not only is it winter solstice up here in the northern hemisphere, meaning days start getting longer, she shares a birthday with another person I admire, former Australian cricketer Doug Walters.
I’m a huge David Bowie fan. As a kid it was almost embarrassing. Actually it was unequivocally embarrassing. For when I was 11, I found a profile on him in a music magazine. There was a photo of this skinny, pasty-faced, crooked-toothed Englishman, then the full name of David John Bowie. Date of birth: October 20, 1953. On October 20, 1978, from after school til bedtime I played every Bowie record I had. Not only that, I baked a cake in his honour. It was chocolate, rectangular, and I spelled out “DAVID” in choc buds on the top, along with 25 candles I felt privileged to blow out on Bowie’s behalf, since he couldn’t make it to Griffith, Australia, that year. I made my sister and parents sit with me and eat it in a suitably sombre, respectful way after dinner, while making them listen to some tortured, unfathomable synth number from Bowie’s “Berlin” or “crap” period.
I’m not sure what my dad thought of all this. Let’s just say this was fairly unusual behaviour for a young male in rural Australia. Still, that was how our family celebrated David Bowie Day that year. What did yours do?
At bedtime I paid homage at my Bowie wall. Re-reading his profile I was surprised, in fact horrified, to see the name read “David John Dowle”. Amid some excitement, I’d read it too quickly. Now, and only for the first time that day, I started to feel foolish. As if it hadn’t been a bizarre enough ritual, everything we’d just been through was erroneous. My no-frills country Australian family – my church-going mother and a dad who didn’t own a single record - had sat sombrely observing the birthday of some nobody from a British punk band. We’d lit candles at the cake of the unknown drummer.
It turned out Bowie’s birthday is actually January 8 – the same day as Elvis Presley, and my nanna.
|Or this ... For the dad who's about seven!|
Three things bugged me about my birthday. It was sometimes the first day back at school after Australian summer holidays. As someone who didn’t like school, this really sucked. Funny thing is I now live in the northern hemisphere and have a daughter born in August. This year Lani shared my pain.
Also, I didn’t share my day with anyone good. Come on - who isn’t secretly chuffed to have the same birthday as someone cool? I had Alan Alda (kinda sucky) and Jackson Pollock (very sucky).
Thirdly, I have a rather pathetic star sign. Other kids were admired things like bulls and lions. I am a water bearer.
How dull is that? And how did the original decision-makers look at a collection of stars and feel it looked unmistakably like someone carrying some water? Get off the cocaine, ancient Greeks.
It’s even worse in China. Here they call Aquarius the shui ping zuo, or “water bottle sign”. So we have lions, bulls, sheep, goats … oh and here comes the water bottle. Yay. It might have water in it. Or it might just be the container. That bit is unclear. I might as well have been born under the sign of the lunchbox.
The Chinese in fact call Aries the “white sheep” sign and Capricorn the “magical wether goat”. That they need to ensure noone is thinking of the 0.1 per cent of the sheep population that’s black seems just a little bit racist to me. And must they really specify that the Capricorn goat has had his testicles removed? Still, I’d take a sexless goat over a water bottle.
Not only did Lani get the lion, she shares her August 16 birthday with Madonna, who I’m sure she’ll see as a good female role model, if she ever learns who Madonna is. On the downside it’s also Elvis’ deathday, though this at least completes the much-coveted quadri-generational Elvis book-ends for our family.
Our daughter Evie’s birthday is February 14. Yes, yes, I know – Valentine’s Day. As her father, I’m not happy. It will make her a target for cheapskates eager to kill two birds with one dinner bill. Those ne’er-do-wells should know that when Evie reaches dating age – usually around 35 or 37 - I’ll be waiting. On the porch with a shotgun.
|As in China, the castrated goat is revered in North Korea.|
The slogan reads: "For a more docile goat and glorious
future for the Motherland, take his 'goolies' off today!"
|Still, he fared better than this one at my local|
So forgive me if I make a song and dance. Especially since I’m a dad. They don’t tell you this at pre-natal class, but they should say: “Oh – and since you’re becoming a dad, you should know you’ve had your last cool present.”
I accept my Chinese wife Stef has to buy me a cake instead of baking one with her loving hands. The Chinese are as clueless at baking as the Greeks were at star pictures. That’s OK.
But we dads are the poor cousins, when it comes to gifts. “Oh it’s just old Dad. He’ll be right. He’ll soldier on like the horse in Animal Farm.”
Not much thought goes into Dadgifts. As Australian humorist Kerry O’Keeffe put it: “Judging by my meagre haul this year I am an old man who needs a change of underpants every few hours, has a body odour problem and whose facial skin is drier than Tutankhamun’s.”
Or to quote a friend, Pete from Perth: “It’s funny. When it’s my wife’s birthday she’s just happened to spot some thousand-dollar necklace. When it’s mine she’s like: ‘Well, you know money’s a bit tight this year and … so … here’s a hug!’”
But this year my wife and I went out and bought me a watch. A good, expensive one - not the fake kind I usually buy here once a month. So I shouldn’t complain, because it felt special. Nor should I point out that after we’d picked out my watch, my darling wife saw a pressing need to buy herself one. It would be petty to mention that hers was in fact more expensive than my birthday one. And it would be churlish to say she already had a nice watch. Or two.
So I won’t be so ungracious. No, when it comes to receiving nice presents, we fathers know when to shut up and not bring attention to ourselves.
|Fathers 4 Justice activist Jason Hatch wears his briefs on the|
outside to mount his famous protest at Buckingham Palace
in 2010. The partly-obscured sign reads:
"Fair go for Dad! No more socks and undies!"
|For example, here's the Christmas present Evie|
made for me from paper in 2011. I don't mean
to go on about it, but it is the third time I've run
this picture on my blog.
|I scanned the web for some photos of other dads|
'enjoying' their birthday celebrations. This one
is clearly over the moon.
|This one adopted the "what do you|
want from me?" pose favoured by
many dads put through birthday
parties at a later age.
|As for me, I'd like to be like this dad|
in, ooh, not too many years' time.
It's not his birthday. He's just getting
round in his jammies, outside in the
daytime. To hell with everybody!