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How (Not) to Do Birthdays

The candles aren't the only things going up in flames.

I hate birthdays. In general, any day in which ‘happiness’ is forced upon me because it’s some arbitrary date on a piece of paper, always leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. As bitter as the half chocolate, half fruit cake my mother insists on buying me every single year.

She’s probably thinking: This is genius! Timmy loves chocolate, he loves fruits, if I combine the two into one cake it will be the best birthday ever! Tralalalala!

La Poire were probably thinking: This product is genius! For the people who like chocolate but ALSO like fruit what we’ll do is put half of the cake chocolata we nos fak’ha and then za beobles of Egypt no longer have to make a choice!

Well, what I’m thinking is: I fucking hate chocolate. I like fruit but when it is glazed with a gallon of what looks like a transparent, slime-like substance from Ghostbusters, and the fruit itself comes from a can that’s been rotting in their cupboards for the past 6 years, glued together, possibly using actual glue, frankly, I would rather just be a diabetic. Also, it’s never been okay to put kiwi on a cake. Why is the day in which God put my marvelous self on this earth constantly punctuated with this half-baked, half-hearted, half-caste monster of a delicatessen? Is it a metaphor? Is it fate? Does the chocolate half represent my broody, depressive dark side and the fruit a simile for my surreal, vibrant, innocent side? Would I be the same person if I was all chocolate or all fruit? Why must I be forced to go through such intense cognitive mazes on this day of all days? Damn you La Poire; just give my mother a calm, sweet konafa and be done with it! There is no need to be a paranoia-inducing philosopher, you are simply a bakery!

Illustration by Bouklao Illustrations

Anyways, if my mother knows how to do two things well, they’re tradition and not listening. She specifically excels at the latter. She knows I don’t like any sort of desert but I guess she reckons even if my family are constantly at each other’s throats, in different continents, leading all together different lives, a horrible death-cake will do well at bringing us together.

No one in my family particularly gives a shit if it’s one of our birthdays; the last gift I got from someone other than my mother was from my brother Adam when I was 12. He convinced my parents to get me an X-Box, only to take it the next day and lock it in his room. But my mother, in order to make sure we feel special on our ‘special day’, makes a mad dash to On The Run to grab a novelty kangaroo speaker/USB/pen/M&M fan/sweet holder or a “Fery, fery exspensife,” brass ornament of a naked African woman/ashtray (because she knows I love African woman and she loves it when I smoke). I am usually with her at the time of purchase and, despite the fact that I am a 23-year-old man, she will always insist she’s buying it for someone else, and that has nothing to do with me, nor do the random, left-over number candles she’s buying. Although I usually fall for that one because very rarely in my life have I turned 53 or 35.

Then it comes to the birthday night, when I’m usually forced to stay at home, regardless of me wanting to go out and drink with the few friends I have, in order to forget that I am turning a year older. Instead, I must wait approximately 4-5 hours/days, sat at the end of a dining room table, waiting for the family to convene in one place for the traditional happy birthday song. Everyone is on their Blackberries, my dad is sleeping sitting down and I’m on Panadol Cold and Flu, waiting for the night to end as I stare forward into my future, as well as a half chocolate, half fruit cake, while my mum excitedly brings in a wrapped kangaroo-shaped gift. As far as my mother is concerned, you have not grown up at all, in fact you are dead to her unless you have been sung happy birthday to once a year. And the traditional birthday song in my family goes a bit like this:

“Happppy birthhhdayyy too youuuuu! Happpy birthhhday tooo… Waleed! Waleed! Did you e-mail the client! Waleed! Fuck off! I have to go… Woof, woof woof! Badr! Badr! Khud el kelab! Happy Bir…*zzzzzz* *zzzz*, Adam! Stop eating the kiwi with your hands!!! Too youuu!”

Catchy innit?

I’ve made the same wish all my life, when I blow out my birthday cake. This year was different. This year I wished that next year there was no cake.