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I don't know about you, but ever since I hit my teenage years I've hated my birthday. I was never cool at school, in fact I was quite the bookish, sensitive type. When I lived in Hong Kong for a few years right at the start of puberty, I was distinctly behind everyone else. HK has a way of making kids grow up fast, and I was lucky that my parents sheltered me just enough that I didn't feel the urge to go out drinking and smoking before I'd even hit double figures. I don't remember having birthday parties back then. I probably didn't have any.
I thought it was a great idea to go to boarding school back in Australia just before I turned 13. Bad idea. I went to an all-girls Catholic boarding school. It felt like a prison. But I think I was the only one who felt it that badly - most of the girls loved it really. 13 is that age right when girls are at their nastiest. It's just a phase. But being surrounded by that 24/7, only seeing your family four times a year, it gets to you. And nothing makes you feel it quite so bad as your birthday.
Birthdays were a big deal amongst the girls. You got a special birthday tray down at breakfast in the dining hall (they forgot mine one year). Usually the girls would decorate your room while you were down at breakfast and surprise you with a joint present when you got back. Parents would send box parcels full of presents and lollies or even make the trip down to the school with a birthday cake.
I think you can guess that most of this didn't happen to me very often. Since then I've always had a bad track record with my birthday. Every year I can feel the anticipation building as the date gets closer, that maybe this year it will be different. But invariably it's not. I don't know why I care so much. It's just a day. Most people don't get so worked up about it.
For the past 8 years it's always been a nice, quiet day for me. There was one person who always made me feel special. He did birthdays and Christmas and Valentine's so well. Not big, expensive gifts. But really well thought out gifts - ones that really showed he knew me. It was usually the littlest thing that really touched me.
One year it was a new acoustic guitar with a teach-yourself book and electronic tuner. He knows I've always wanted to learn. But there was also a pack of chocolate-oranges. My favorites. That I never buy for myself. That's what got me. Even while we were parting ways a few weeks ago he gave me a long stem rose for our 8 year anniversary.
So it's my birthday tomorrow. They've never been good for me, but I always had that one person who made me feel like the center of the world on that day. And now I am on my own. I'm not sure how I am going to cope - I'm not coping too well today even. One of the hardest parts is that after 8 years, you don't have as strong a network of friends to fall back on. Don't get me wrong, I have some really wonderful friends. But there is no precedent established, they've had plans for some time. It's a lot to ask of people to suddenly be there for you twice as much as they're used to.
So I'll be looking after myself tomorrow. A nice lie in, curled up in bed with my kitty. Then I'll head to my favorite chocolate shop cafe for a hug-mug of Italian hot chocolate. Then I think I'll spend the rest of the day in my studio poking around. If I had any money I'd go and treat myself to a massage and a new pair of shoes. Think I'll make do with giving myself a spray-tan and pedicure at home...