This whole cakey commemoration has me pretty sentimental. Maybe it’s the ‘mones talking, but I think that this year my birthday has a little more oomph behind it than it has in the past. I mean, it’s a quote-unquote milestone, one that I don’t want to happen.
Like, really, I’d give a toe to put it off another year. And not just a pinkie.
When my mom was sick she’d get really frothing mad about the fact that she couldn’t see certain things happen: my ex and I breaking up, this birthday, grandkids, me becoming a lawyer. While the last two are as likely as a Phil Collins/Judas Priest comeback tour, I know that this year would have meant a lot to her, at least as an opportunity to guilt me about all the stuff that I should have been doing. Namely litigation and making babies.
The only thing that has ever made me feel okay about my birthday, other than vodka, is the fact that my parents were proud that the haphazard human they created made it this far. It makes the awkwardness of blowing out candles and the face-eating embarrassment I feel when receiving gifts just that much easier to endure.
But I mean, I haven’t even done anything yet. Wait until I accomplish my goals before we really toss some confetti, okay? No need to buy me shit simply ‘cause I haven’t died.
Granted, anybody who’s seen me ride a bicycle knows some celebration of life is in order. And it is kind of a miracle that I’ve stayed alive this long, I guess. I’ve played with a lot of knives, walked brazenly on wet linoleum marked Cuidado! Piso Mojado!, and I don’t think before doing, as a general rule. Why I’m alive and my mom is not really makes no sense to me at all.
Nostalgia makes me decide that dumb things are brilliant ideas, like body modification, listening to Marilyn Manson, and pulling out old photo albums in order to put select cuts on the Internet, where they can be eyesores trapped in time like dinosaur mosquitoes in amber.
When I was a teenager, all I wanted to do was move the hell off of Long Island and get tattoos. I also wanted to be a writer. I was straightedge and had dreams of growing up to be an adult who didn’t drink, didn’t smoke, and didn’t do drugs. I thought I’d play bass in a band.
I don’t play bass anymore, and I didn’t stay straightedge, obviously. But all of the goals of my young self have been achieved. I have slept with men who had body piercings and album release parties. I have swapped fluids with ladies whose nicknames were also a type of weapon. I’ve talked to Ogre from Skinny Puppy on the phone. And until Splenda is legally recognized as an amphetamine, I don’t drink, smoke, or do drugs.
Birthdays aren’t so bad when you do the dougie down memory lane and think about what your teenage self would have thought of you currently. I might have worse hair and no longer wear padded bras (or fishnets on my arms, for that matter) but I know that the young Ainsley would think that I’m pretty cool. And sometimes that’s enough to suffer through another round of that candle-choreographed song.
As for my mom, I don’t know if she ever would have agreed with her stylistically-shocking spawn. But I’m pretty stoked that she gave me life. She and my dad might have hated each other, but I’m glad they suspended their animosity long enough in that Chicago hotel room to have made me.
I often talk about how badass my dad is. My father is the type of guy who became an adult version of his teenage self, too. He’s a good role model for me as I hobble into horizon, away from my twenties.
My dad grew up raising hell with a group of guys from the Island, surfing and drinking and talking about girls. He liked rock music, sports, the beach, and tits. He’d been told by members of his family that he wasn’t smart enough to become exactly what he went out and became. He’s successful at his hard-won career. He’s still happily working and he surfs more than he ever did as a kid…with those very same guys. He still listens to rock music (including the Melvins, how awesome is that?!) and argues with me about the merits of basketball versus baseball, and although it would just be weird to talk about it directly, I assume he still likes boobs. I mean, I don’t look at my stepmother like that, but she does have a nice body.
My father and I had a rocky start to our relationship when I was young. He didn’t know how to be a dad, and I didn’t have the opportunity to really be his kid, for circumstances that had as much to do with the demands of his job as his failing marriage. But when he left my mom when I was twelve, we hit it off. Our shared love of Cheez Whiz, horror movies, aggressive music, and, yes, breasts, was enough for us to forge a deep, if clumsy, friendship. All I wanted to do when I was a teenager was hang out with my pops and listen to Helmet, Sick of it All, and the Cure.
He did better than that. Over the years when we hung out, he took me to see all of those bands. Even if I had to keep it a secret from my mother.
As an adult, my father and I are close. We’re not really friends anymore, it’s more like we’ve slipped into a really quirky, yet comfortable, father-daughter relationship. There are typical trademarks of dads and kids. He gives me advice, often I don’t take it. He says things like, “You’re not getting any younger” when I try to talk to him about my nonexistent love life. I still think he’s wrong to believe basketball isn’t the greatest sport ever played. But I finally have that magical fantasy of a life that I wanted as a kid: I live a few blocks from him and we hang out pretty often. I’m lucky in more ways than I can count on my black-nailpolished finger tips.
So this birthday – an annoying, tough one that I’m looking forward to pretending didn’t happen – I’m going to take the opportunity to look at it as a celebration of my family, both my mom’s memory and my salt-water-soaked old man. Two people who weren’t meant to be together created a baby. Really, according to recent statistics, one could say, “Big whoop.” (See how old I am?!)
But my parents made me, and although they broke up, I’m so happy to be here on the planet, enjoying things like frozen yogurt, Blake Griffin’s body, and the Internet.
Happy birthday to me, sure, but more importantly, to my parents, thank you. I’ll try to stick around and do something worthy of your unfailing pride. And I’ll also try to be careful on any future bicycles.
Thanks, mom and dad.