Birthday blues

It goes without saying that men and women view birthdays differently.

Everything from the gift to the celebration makes for haphazard perceptions on the importance of one’s birthday.

After 20 years with the Carpenter, it baffles me that birthdays still never quite live up to expectation. No matter how well we know each other, somehow we screw up this one calendar event every time.

Did I say “we”? I meant him. Take this past Monday, perhaps the most important date on the annual calendar (ahem). As a person born in the astrological sign of Cancer, it goes without saying that my birthday is the marking of another significant milestone in my life. It is a time for reflection; to create a mental inventory of the lessons learned and goals yet to achieve. Most importantly, it is time for presents.

I wasn’t asking for much this year, really. My wish list consisted of books, 1980s music and a lounge chair for the backyard, where I could read the books and listen to the classics of my generation under the summer sun. The 1967 Mustang fastback (a request carried from year to year) was simply to make running errands way sexier. Oh, and I also asked for a romantic weekend getaway (What? I’d let him come along).

Look, if you don’t ask for what you want, you can’t expect to get it. How many times has your spouse said, “I am not a mind reader, you know?” An itemized wish list is simply being helpful.

You would think that the Carpenter, whose birthday follows mine, would plan an intimate gift(s) to surprise me. However, as a Leo, the Carpenter’s false sense of superiority refuses to accept the obvious need for extravagance.

I have two theories on why the Carpenter is like this. First, he convinces himself every year that birthdays are lame, thus dismissing the need to make a fuss over mine. It is a calculated move. He knows at my age a temper tantrum for birthday recognition would make me look ridiculous. I wouldn’t give him the satisfaction of that.

Secondly, and far more astutely, he knows that his wife, true to her nurturing Cancer nature could never be cold and insensitive, so regardless of his birthday ineptitude, I would ensure his birthday is everything I wanted mine to be. I am so transparent.

The day before my birthday, the Carpenter and I purchased a much-needed new sofa. Here lies another miscommunication. In his eyes, the Carpenter had bought my birthday gift, but in mine, we’d bought furniture for the entire family to sit on. You see where this is going, right?

I pointed out the obvious fact that we would now need to repaint the living room. Silence.

On my birthday, the Carpenter presented me with a white plastic shopping bag. Inside were a paint roller, paint brush and green painter’s tape. My gift was a home reno project, to be completed by yours truly.

Silly fool.

Next month, guess what he is getting? A brand new toilet and a card that reads, “Happy birthday. Finish the bathroom.”



Kelly Waterhouse