A modern social commentator once described birthdays as “an arbitrary and archaic institution that, because of the importance we place in it, prolongs the absurd system of judging a person’s character based upon the number of years they have been in existence.” Actually it wasn’t a social commentator, it was me. And it wasn’t once, it was today. Well, it was just the once, admittedly.
It’s true though, much as I love celebrating other people’s birthdays, I’ve never much liked my own. Or at least not for the past few years. Maybe it’s partly to do with the fact that August birthdays inevitably mean your closest friends are jetting off on summer holidays so are never around, but that’s not really it. Maybe it’s that people expect me to throw a party to celebrate something I’m not that keen on anyway, but that’s not really it either. Mostly it’s that I’ve forever been judged by my age, and birthdays are a constant reminder of that arbitrary limitation. The notion that I’m not old enough to be doing the things I’ve admittedly been doing for the past few years is utterly absurd to me. Especially placed alongside the various achievements that would have garnered similar disapproving sneers or at best those friendly sympathetic, “you won’t manage it, you’re too young” comments if I’d bothered to ask anyone and not just gone for it. So you’ll forgive me for not being 100% behind the archaic institution that actively promotes such ideas in people.
So today was my last day as a child. Tomorrow I’ll be an adult. And oh-so-much mature for it, I’m sure. Those 24 hours make all the difference, don’t they? So how did I spend them? In a muddy field, actually. It was an O2 family event that involved driving two-and-a-half hours up to somewhere near Rugby, I think. I imagine the evening would’ve been good with a few (watered-down indie) rock bands performing, but I was hardly complaining about leaving. It wasn’t bad as such; just insufferably mediocre all round. Not exactly worth five hours in a car. I tried to sleep most of that, having been woken up in the middle of the night (7:30am) to leave.
That said, I’m now here writing to you, enjoying my last underage drink (a large glass of Talisker – could I possibly ask for anything else!?), so not the worst end to a troubled 18-year gestation period as I finally become a real live citizen (which reminds me, I got a lovely birthday note from my MP three days ago…). And sure, I suppose surviving 18 years in this place is quite an achievement. And even I have to admit that 18th birthdays certainly are a sound financial investment.