Last week was my birthday. It fell on a Monday, and since September is always a stressful time, my husband and I decided to officially celebrate it on the Saturday after the day. Which means that on the actual day of my birthday, it felt like a very lonely Monday. I also started the day with a 7:00am abdominal ultrasound to check for gallstones, which, if you must know, is a lousy way to start the week.

I did manage to call my husband and feebly ask if we could go to lunch on my birthday, and he had made lunch plans with a friend, miscalculating in his head how long my ultrasound would last. He said, “I didn’t think we could go to lunch today—didn’t you have your doctor’s appointment?”

“Yeah. At seven in the morning.”

“Well, I thought it would last longer.”

“You thought it would last 5 hours?”


I asked if I could at least join him for lunch with him and his friend, and to his friend’s credit, when he found out that it was my birthday, he immediately bowed out and let us enjoy our lunch together.

Then my husband came home after work and said, “What’s for dinner?”

“Ummm, it’s my birthday. I’m not cooking.”

“Well, I don’t want to cook, either.”

“Looks like we’re ordering pizza then.”

“Great. Hey, you should get that lava cake from Domino’s, since it’s your birthday. That could be, like, your birthday cake!”

I’ve never ordered the lava cake from Domino’s, and I *am* a sucker for a good lava cake. And the pictures have always looked good, so I shrugged and figured, why not?

Let me assure you that those little lava cakes are, in fact, tiny little guys, and the reason you need three stacked up like a little tower is because alone, they are just a sad and pathetic chocolate treat, as chocolate treats go.

I looked down at my little sad lava cakes and said, “Do I get a candle?” My husband jumped up and said, “Yes! Let’s get a candle, and we can sing!” He rummaged around the kitchen for a few minutes, then came back to the table empty handed.

“I couldn’t find any candles. Here, let’s just use this.”

He lit a match, and stuck it in one of my sad little pathetic lava cake. I looked at it, curling into a twisted black wisp as it burned. It was like sticking a moth eaten sweater on a mangy dog.

It burned before the kids could even sing, “And maaany moorrrrre….”

The whole thing, for whatever reason, made me want to cry.

“Couldn’t I have a real cake?” I asked my husband, trying to keep my voice level, my tone light.

He saw it, though, the tremor in my lip, the shining in my eyes, and said soothingly, “Well, you know, we’re going out with friends on Saturday, I didn’t think….”

I nodded, and tried to control my silly emotions. I’m 38, who needs a dopey cake anyways? I reminded myself I was just feeling raw and tired from the early morning ultrasound and some of the health implications it may have.

We did go out and play with our friends that weekend, and we had a wonderful time. Towards the end of the night, my husband said, “I got cake! Who wants cake!” and he pulled out a chocolate cake that, unbeknownst to me, he’d picked up at the store sometime during the day. We sat down on some outdoor picnic tables by an ice-cream store and served it up. One of my friends laughed and said, “Your husband told my husband that he had to pick up a cake for you. We laughed and said, ‘What, is Heather 7?'” I laughed with them, but then thought, “Yes. Yes I am.”

So I learned something about myself this weekend, something I never really knew.

For my birthday, I wasn’t upset that my husband didn’t get me a present (I told him to save our money, and I meant it), I don’t need flowers, or a fancy dinner, or a even a romantic evening alone with my husband (although all those things would be nice).

But cake? Apparently, I need cake, dang it. And it better be chocolate, and it better have icing on it, and it better not come from a pizza store and it better have real candles and not some sad little match that burns before I can even blow it out.

Sheesh, who knew I was so fussy?

I’m sure there are some larger implications about this story, like America’s obsession with sweet things, or having a food ritual to celebrate something, or the pathological selfishness one expresses on one’s birthday that is ingrained in us at an early age.

I’m not sure I care, though. I really enjoyed my cake.

What are some things you need to make you feel special on your birthday?


  1. Jkfrome

    September 18, 2013

    Oh…birthdays…When I was a child, my mom made birthdays special! We always had the presents and the song at breakfast because that was one meal where we all sat down together. Then, you got cake at dinner. Always cake–fabulous awesome cake.

    Well, my freshman year at college (first time being away from little homesick…)my birthday came the day after a federal holiday. So, in order to ensure that my cards and gifts were on time, my mom had sent it all down to school with a person, who had secretly given it to my roommates. I confidently went to my mailbox at noon that day—KNOWING that FINALLY I’d have mail. Nothing. Not one thing. And my roommates were waiting until evening to give me everything so that they could all be together to join in the celebration. They didn’t know that my tradition was a morning birthday…So, the empty mailbox was a crushing blow. By the time they all gathered with the loot, a cake, and enthusiastic singing, I was bitter and depressed and not a good recipient. They felt so bad…But after that disaster, I realized: it’s MY birthday. I can do what I want. From that day forward, I resolved that I would celebrate it and make my own plans and have a GREAT DAY!! And if anyone else joined me, then that would just be extra gravy. So, I always have a Happy Birthday now—and I love angel food cake, too.

  2. Sharon

    September 18, 2013

    For me it’s acknowledging that its a different day for me than the rest of the week? And the only acknowledgment I want? Give me the day to myself without any of the usual responsibilities – no work (I work in a business with my husband – someone else volunteer to soothe and serve our clients on that day); no cooking; no laundry; no church obligations – just gift the day to me. Selfishness to the max, I guess

  3. Sharon

    September 18, 2013

    Ps – yes, I can gift the day to me. But where’s the acknowledgment in that? The gift of the day for me is so much more than a hastily grabbed gift or cake – it’s recognizing and knowing me well enough to know what I both need and want. Rare in gift giving, no matter the wrappings. I just want mine wrapped in a sunrise and a sunset.

  4. Emily M.

    September 18, 2013

    A couple of years ago all I really, truly wanted for my birthday was for my house to be clean. And we all worked and by the end of the day it looked better.

    I also love that unexpected present that reads my mind, something I didn’t know I always wanted. But I need to not expect that sort of thing and just be pleasantly surprised if it happens.

  5. Jessie

    September 18, 2013

    I am also torn between my desire to have a special day and my self-consciousness that such a desire is somehow unbecoming in a person of my age. It’s even harder now as a single parent of children who aren’t quite big enough to bake me cakes or things like that. Last year I planned a trip for my birthday and it was a perfect idea–I think I might do that again next year. Birthdays only come once a year and I think they should be celebrated well. And yes, I love cake too. It can’t be a birthday without a good cake.

  6. nikki

    September 18, 2013

    I totally related to your story. I don’t even care much for cake but somehow when my husband forgot it this year, I had to hold back tears. I didn’t care for presents but I wanted that tradition. I felt so childish but apparently it was a big enough deal. Sure enough my husband got a small cake from the grocery store and some candles later that night, “because everyone deserves a wish on their birthday.”

  7. anita

    September 18, 2013

    Mine was this Monday (turned 39) and this hit close to home 🙂 It’s different celebrating as the mom, who usually creates the magic but wants someone else to do it for them (who may not know exactly the right elements like the cake or the mail to do so). For me, the day didn’t start out exactly right but when I opened my front door there was a giant double rainbow, and I felt like it was a birthday present from heaven. After that, anything else was good.

  8. Naismith

    September 18, 2013

    One of my daughters preferred pie to cake. So she had a pie every year.

    It was not a surprise when I found myself baking a wedding pie for that occasion. Fortunately it was about the time of year that blueberries were abundant for local picking.

  9. KJ

    September 18, 2013

    I’m a cake girl too. Like Jessie above, I’m also a single mom, so if I want a cake or hoopla or dinner out, it’s up to me. Divorce made me re-evaluate my approach and expectations for almost every holiday, including birthdays. Last year I found a mega-drool worthy cake on Pinterest and decided to make this major calorie splurge for my birthday. It was divine! Having some great people to share it with was a bonus. 🙂

  10. Bridget

    September 18, 2013

    My 33rd birthday was last Friday. I have 3 small children, my husband is deployed, and I live very far from any family. My expectations for any kind of celebration were very very low because of the circumstances, and I had mentally prepared myself for a lonely birthday. We normally keep birthdays pretty low key around here anyway. Boy was I surprised this year! Five separate packages showed up during the week before my birthday (what is this, Christmas?!) and flowers on the actual day. My husband had stalked my pinterest account and gotten me exactly what I wanted; I think someone misses me! On top of that I had 3 different friends offer to watch my children and pick up my 1st grader from the bus so that I could have the day to do whatever I pleased. I choose the temple and Costco 🙂 And THEN on the evening after my birthday 6 friends treated me to dinner, followed by a stroll through the mall in the nearest big city, an hour away. My next door neighbor, who just moved in 2 months ago, even baked me a cake! I have never been so overwhelmed with such kindness and generosity on my birthday. And I haven’t known any of these friends for longer than a year (military life = frequent moves). I always thought that I didn’t want a lot of attention on my birthday and that I hate surprises, but I seriously LOVED it this year. Really, it was super awesome. I think I may have a hard time keeping my expectations in check next year when my husband is home and no one is paying any extra special attention to me. Lol.

  11. Laurieann

    September 18, 2013

    I decided a long time ago that after you turn 13, your birthday happiness is your own responsibility. You want a party? Plan one. Want a particular gift? Get it or tell someone to get it. Want to spend it with someone special? Plan something.

    But when I turned 39 last year and my husband and 10-year-old son totally and completely forgot, that was a blow. I kept thinking they would remember any minute and they kept not remembering – until I told them – the next day. They did their best to overcompensate but I am hoping for a little better remembering for the 40th birthday or heads will roll.

  12. Shantell

    September 18, 2013

    My birthday falls during the week my husband’s family goes to the beach. Sometimes we join them, other times, no, I’m just not interested in finding sand where sand ought not to be. But when we do join them, I am kicked out of the apartment/ house / whatever for at least an hour and am always *surprised* at the confetti and decorations that have appeared in my absence. I know my kids (12, 10) still get a kick out of it, and my nephews (8,6) do too, so for as long as we go to the beach that week, that is how my birthday will be celebrated.
    And yes, every single time I have to act surprised! I think this has happened at least 8 times.

  13. LLH

    September 18, 2013

    I turned 40 this year and it was really kind of a bummer. I don’t think it makes you “7” to want someone to get you cake or whatever makes the day special for you. My mom never really did anything to make our birthdays special. We had dinner and gifts, but it always seemed like she was so hassled by having to do it. I try to make my kid’s birthday’s special, and my husband’s too. This year, my older 3 kids were at their dad’s house and none of them even remembered to call me. My husband threw a party for me, but the only people who came were his friends that are now my friends by marriage, none of “my” actual friends could come, and I had to do all of the cooking and I even had to make my own birthday cupcakes. It wasn’t great. All I actually wanted was for someone to figure out a way to make it a special day for me, without me having to either do all the work, or tell them how to do it. It seems like I am whining, but I think it really does hurt a little when your birthday is largely overlooked.

  14. Olea

    September 18, 2013

    I agree that birthdays are the time when people who care about you should show it – by doing something to make you feel loved, in a way that shows they know you, without being asked.

    It was my birthday last Sunday, and I invited some friends around for dinner. I’m a YSA, in London right now, far from family – except one sister. I’ve only been here for about 3 months, so I wasn’t sure anyone would come, but I had half a dozen guests and my three housemates, and when my sister couldn’t make it at the last minute (which meant no cake), a bunch of them went to buy ice cream instead – and came back with ice cream, cakes and 26 candles. I almost got them all in one breath, too. I would have been okay without it, but the fact that they would not let me go without something that they considered to be important for celebrating birthdays – that touched me.

    Cake is important.

  15. Sara

    September 19, 2013

    Awww. I don’t think your post is about birthdays. It’s about needing support and love–especially when things are stressful. We all need that! And if it comes in the form of a cake, well, all the better! Happy birthday!

  16. Eliana

    September 19, 2013

    Sara is wise. We moms don’t need a lot, but we do need to not be forgotten. And not feel ridiculous for wanting some love and attention.

  17. BTH

    September 21, 2013

    Oh, gosh! I hope my kids can’t tell I think birthdays are a hassle. I need to do better about not outwardly worrying about how much celebrating a birthday costs!

  18. Jean R.

    September 24, 2013

    I’m having a birthday and turning 66 tomorrow. I spent most of my married life over 1,000 miles from my parents and siblings. I learned a long time ago that if I wanted my birthday to be special, I need to plan it. I learned this when my 4 kids were little and my husband is not a planner. However, they fully participate in anything I plan. This year I am getting a pedicure, some makeup and a new outfit. My daughter is making a cake and we are having a Sunday dinner with the whole family and it will have my favorite foods. You have to be good to yourself and I think birthdays are worth celebrating no matter what your age.

Comments are closed.