Birthdays after 21 suck…

man with party hat celebrating birthday alone

Today my baby cousin—who I call my son because I dreamt about him before he was born—is turning one, and though he more than likely won’t remember this birthday, I have one piece of advice for the little guy: Enjoy these while you’re young, because once you get to be my age, birthdays pretty much suck.

When you’re a kid, you get to look forward to cake and musical chairs. When you’re 18, you get to vote. When you’re 21, you get to drink. After that, just pick yourself up a box of laxatives, get your dentures at the door, and stop trippin’.

Max on Living Single, S3Ep4, “Grumpy Old Man”
man with party hat celebrating birthday alone
Photo by Polina Tankilevitch on

The whole concept of the birthday party is dead. At least, after 21 it is. And the person who described it the best is none other than Maxine “Ride the Maverick” Shaw from the hit 90s TV series Living Single.

A few years ago BC (Before COVID), I tried to plan a birthday party. I had just moved out of my mom’s house and into my first apartment. I’d just started a new job in a new city. I was so excited, and I wanted to share the good news with everyone. So, I posted in the family Facebook group, which has 44 members, “Come to my housewarming/birthday party!” I provided my address. I gave the time. I said, “Don’t worry about food. I’ve got that covered!” I received plenty of congratulations, but when my birthday came around, apart from the people I expected to be there—mom, brother, who skedaddled right after we cut the cake—not a soul showed up. Not even a card in the mail.

The year after, I was so disheartened by what happened, I didn’t try to plan a big get-together. I said, “F*ck everybody! I’m leaving the country!” I called up my two closest girlfriends, and we went to Mexico.

The following year, March 2020, everyone was on lockdown. I skipped 2021 because ME, MYSELF, AND EYE was still on lockdown, even if everyone else had stopped. And last year, for the big milestone, the number that starts with 3, when I felt comfortable enough to travel internationally again, I packed my bags and went to the Maldives by myself!

Well, not completely by myself, but that’s another story…

Similarly, after a traumatizing Christmas squabble with a family member in 2019, Mom and I decided we were not staying home for Christmas anymore. Every Christmas since, we have traveled (to Biltmore Estates in Asheville, NC, in 2020, to Charlotte, NC, to see the Carolina Panthers vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2021).

Christmas at Biltmore

Apologies for the grainy cellphone photos. I’m obviously not a professional. 🙂 Also, I didn’t actually take any outside pictures of the castle on this trip for some strange reason, so the last four pictures are from another visit. The snow feels befitting of Christmas though, right?

By the way, here’s what the castle looks like on a better-quality camera.

grand view of castle from courtyard of bright green grass
Photo by Francisco Cornellana Castells on

Christmas with the Carolina Panthers

The best pictures I could get of Tom Brady (left; #12) and Cam Newton (right; #1, on the sidelines)

Birthday in Tulum, Mexico

Mayan ruins, ocean views, cruise ship docked at port, lizard sunbathing, sunsets over the sea, selfie from the balcony, tiny birthday cake.

Birthday in Maldives

Tiny birthday cake, “Happy B’Day” flower arrangement on dinner table, watching the sunset on the pier, lounging on the beach, tiki bar, resort villas, sharks, and sipping on a papaya milkshake.

Funny that these Christmas and birthday experiences have a common denominator: family members disappointing you to the point that you just run away. Like Max said, when you’re a kid, you get cake and fun and games. Everyone wants to love on you and celebrate the little one growing up. When you’re a teenager, you’re looking forward to gaining more independence—you can get a car at 16, you’re legal at 18, and when you’re 21, you can drink!

But what happens after 21? It’s as if everyone who’s been in your life all these years suddenly stop caring until you die. And it’s ironic, because I have family members will totally guilt trip me if I don’t buy them a present for their birthday every year, and yet I spent my birthday in 2018 completely alone.

It’s hard to be sincere when you’re around people like that. And so I leave.

gif of kid doing the peace sign with his index and middle fingers and then disappearing

Anyway, getting back to my “son,” I’m sure the little man will enjoy his birthday no matter how old he is. As for me, I haven’t decided what I’ll do for my birthday next year. Maybe escape to some place foreign or tropical. Or if the money isn’t there, maybe I’ll book a Getaway cabin in the mountains, where it’ll be just me, myself, my notebook, Mother Nature, and maybe a hot beverage.

My mental health deserves it.

logo: cartoon of girl with glass and her hair tied in a bun reading a book


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