Today is my birthday.
It’s not just any birthday, though.
Today is my “golden birthday.”
Ask the internet, and you will quickly learn that a golden birthday is that once-in-a-lifetime day when your age matches the day of your birth. For me, that’s the Big 26.
Imagine my delight when I learned that age 25 was not the last birthday of significance until 40, as I’d previously thought.
Age of significance
Sure, at 16, you can drive. Mom and Dad let you use the minivan anytime you want, so long as you pick up your siblings, run errands when necessary, and don’t stay out too late or use the car during the work day. With all the rules and the sex appeal of that lithe, driving machine, how can you resist?
At 18, you can vote, buy a variety of items that aren’t good for you to fit in with your friends, but you decide not to. “Why start being cool now?” you tell yourself.
Begrudging the fact that you now pay three times as much for an “adult” fishing license, you nonetheless celebrate with a fishing rod and a quiet mountain lake.
Everyone is more excited for 21 then you are. You don’t drink, and you’d never go to a strip club, even if a girl you once dated in high school works there now.
“This birthday is gonna be epic,” you learn. So epic, in fact, that most people don’t remember theirs.
You have a choice: at 21, you don’t have to be sad by yourself anymore. You can join other sad, lonely people at a place called “the bar” where you can pour poisonous liquid down your throat — for the first time, of course. Or, yet again, you can go fishing.
You choose Door No. 2.
Celebrating two bits
Twenty-five hits you, and you go to the first real party since college to find one room is actually a daycare with a dozen kids. Huh. One whole room. One parent is rotating through daycare duty.
As all of your friends pair up for minute-to-win-it games, you realize you’re the only unmarried person at the (relatively large) party, and thus, don’t have a partner.
You don’t like parties anyway, so you leave to go catfishing and question your life choices.
On the bright side, you can now rent a car without paying extra, and your insurance premiums have dropped a little bit, a testament to you surviving one-third of the way through your life.
After 25 it’s a long, uphill climb to 40.
‘It’s the new 30’
You will wait 15 years until your friends throw you a party with black balloons where they tell you “40 is the new 30,” to make you feel better about being “over the hill” — a euphemism for your life being half over, mind you.
That life would’ve been sad.
That is, unless your “golden birthday” comes at 26.
It is at this middling age that I find myself, for the first time in a decade, thinking about throwing a party.
So many great parties have happened in years’ past, I assume, but they’ve never been for me. Sure, I’ve had parties, but I’ve never loved them. I’ve always done my own thing and unapologetically loved it.
Today, I will cherish my last significant birthday, knowing I have years to lament the slow inflation of my prostate and deflation of my six pack abs as I trudge ever-closer toward dad jokes, shameless, mid-conversation flatulence and a LeBron 2013 hairline.
In 26 years, I’ve certainly made some mistakes, but birthdays are something I’ve mostly done right. So returning from a week of fishing at the coast, I’ll grab a coffee, cookie and a slice of quiche, read a book then head to the river to celebrate my birthday the way I always have: fishing.