She calls me the Birthday Nazi because I always expect too much of birthdays. I remember when I was seven I thought it so unfair that a girl called Courtney got made to write lines on her birthday. We should be immune from getting into trouble on our birthdays. Our spouses should have unlimited patience. Our bosses should show inexhaustible generosity. The cars on the road should slow down and let us through.
I have a tradition of seeing films on my birthday. I haven’t done it every year and nor can I remember each one. But I can remember most of them. In 1999, it was Shakespeare in Love. In 2000, American Beauty for the second time. (How appropriate, then, that this year I’m going to see Sam Mendes’ latest film.) In 2002, Iris. In 2003, perhaps it was at the Adelaide Nova Cinema, the one about the nurse who believes the comatose patient loves him and he rapes her. Two birthdays in Adelaide – 2008, I was at the Adelaide Writers’ Festival for my birthday and saw (in the absence of much choice) Valley of Elah. 2006, Capote. 2007, anomalously on video at home, Kiss or Kill.
For years now I’ve felt so old. I guess I am pessimistic about the chances of my thirties being nearly as fun as my twenties. So much responsibility. How can I embrace responsibility? What are its rewards? I thought responsibility would make me feel authentic. It does not. (And I fear responsibility is a code word for compromise with the world. Perhaps the real problem is I still have the values of a 22 year old dissident while living the life of an old married man.)
Death used to be so far away, such a remote possibility. But the last few years it’s come to live in my soul, something near, whispering its certainty all day. I cultivate it, I was checking the recent deaths page on Wikipedia every day for a while. I’ve stopped doing that. I only check it a couple of times a month now.
Children change everything. Take it from me. You aren’t responsible until you have a life to hold in your hands that depends on you entirely.
27 was a big one for me, as I realised it was the age Kurt Cobain and Jimi Hendrix were when they died. I’m older than them already! But I’ve got 4 1/2 more months of being 27 yet…
Guy — apparently they call it the “27 Club”. (Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison too.) It’s probably because where substances are involved, people aren’t going to make it much further than that. They either get straight (around 30-ish) or they don’t. There are rare anomalies — old junkies who survive — but they usually do so by being cautious and disciplined (sticking to their drug of choice).
Nathan — happy birthday (is it today?). A suitably morbid poem to mark it (mild for one who reads “recent deaths”!) would be WS Merwin’s “For the Anniversary of My Death”. I won’t post the whole poem, for copyright reasons, but here’s the beginning:
For the Anniversary of My Death
by WS Merwin
Every year without knowing it I have passed the day
When the last fires will wave to me
And the silence will set out
Like the beam of a lightless star…
Nathan Hobby said:
Tracy and Guy – thanks for your comments. 🙂
Guy, I’m sure you’re right about children. I don’t know anything yet.
Tracy, yes today (yesterday now). The wonder is that Nick Cave didn’t join the 27 club. (Maybe I should be thankful for getting past 27?) I need to look up the rest of the Merwin poem – I have often thought of the anamoly of not knowing and not marking the anniversary each year of one’s own death. Dear me, it is a terrible thought, in one sense.
Some 82 year old people act live life like a 28 year old.
Some 28 year old people act like a they’re 82.
Time is not constant, rather, fluctuating throughout our days, months and years. How often does the afternoon drag on, or good times seem to fly past, or you catch someone claiming how quickly Christmas has come around again.
Now, where are my slippers?