A crowd of untrained voices sings at me as I sit, visibly uncomfortable, in front of a vanilla birthday cake. Bright frosting and sprinkles lay atop it; and the wax of the candles melts slowly, saturating the icing with its artificial color. The burning candles illuminate the faces of a horde of relatives and people from school, dramatizing their features, making them look cartoonishly eerie and casting harsh shadows across the room.
The dozens of eyes make me want to shrink into myself, to be anywhere but at my dining room table. The unwanted attention that comes with being analyzed by a crowd is similar to a dream where I’ve been asked to perform in a play with a script I’ve never seen before. It makes me feel vulnerable and embarrassed. In the photo, my expression seems annoyed, and my bored eyes look through the camera.
“The photo is meant to give off the discomfort I feel during birthdays.
To capture the moment, I took the photo with a tripod and used the self-timer feature. The self-timer setting starts a timer once the photographer presses the shutter button. He then has a limited amount of time to position himself into frame before the camera takes the photo. The photo is meant to give off the discomfort I feel during birthdays.
The ritual of singing “Happy Birthday” and the celebration in general make me uncomfortable because both are based on traditions that pressure people into participating. Knowing my birthday is something my friends and family feel forced to commit to, instead of something they want to commit to make January thirteenth a day I’ve come to dread. Because of this, I prefer genuine connection over forced tradition. For example, watching a movie or playing video games with a close group of friends or having dinner at a restaurant downtown.
I prefer small group hangouts over extravagant birthday parties where I am accompanied by people I actually want to be around. With a small group, where I know everyone is in attendance of their own accord rather than out of obligation, I feel far more comfortable.
How do you feel about your birthday? Let us know in the comments below.