June 10, 2010


When is your birthday?

I frequently ask students this question. Why? Not because I’m going to give them a present. Not because I’ll make a big deal about it on the day. I ask this question to get them used to days, dates, months, etc. Okay, it may not be an integral part of learning a language, but it does help in sentence structure, answering questions, and getting used to the calendar.

My little ‘shiao mao’ in kindergarten, when I ask, EVERY DAY, what day it is, they are able to ramble off the day of the week, the month, number, and year without hesitation. Okay, sometimes they get mixed up if I have to do a class on an odd day, but otherwise they are pretty good, and accurate.

In our society, the Western culture that is, it is impolite to ask, especially a woman, when is her birthday. Even more so, how old she is! It just isn’t considered polite. However, some people don’t mind being asked or answering. I think that when you reach a certain age, whatever that age be for you, you may feel proud of the fact that you are the age you are. You don’t mind telling people how old (or young) you are.

People always want others to think they are younger than they really are. Why? I don’t know. We go through our early years trying to convince everyone around that we are OLDER than we are. Trying to get into a movie when you’re under 18. Learning to drive a car. Trying to get away with ordering a beer in a bar. I’m not saying that everyone tries these things, but most of us have tried at least ONE of these things.

Then we get into our 20s. We want to keep that youth alive. We know we are getting older, and there is nothing we can do about. All the plastic surgery in the world cannot hide the fact that we age. You can have all you wrinkles pulled and nipped and tucked until you look like a stretched out elastic band, but everyone around you will know that you are no longer 18!

And it seems to be the women of our society who we mostly point a finger at for this. Men, for some reason, don’t seem to mind as much. Why? Who knows. Frankly, I never really cared a whole lot about my age. For me, time has zipped by so fast now, it all seems a blur at times. There are a few ‘years’ that I remember quite well. The first being my 13th birthday. The reason this year sticks out so much for me, is that my birthday is on the 13th of the month. I’m sure I’m not the only person who feels this way either. When you turn the age of your day of birth, it kind of seems special in a way.

Another age that sticks out was 40. That was the year I came to Taiwan. Well what about all the years between 13 and 40 you ask. Good question. What happened to all those years! One morning I woke up, and it was my 13th birthday on the 13th. The next morning I woke up, I was 40 on my first intercontinental flight on my way to Taiwan!

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Since becoming more active on Facebook, there are a few things that I find interesting. One is the number of friends or acquaintances or family we have. It’s one thing to know the people in your life, it’s another to see on Facebook, for instance, that you have 174 friends! And then to see that you have 40 friends in common with someone else! Incredible. Whoda thunk it!

The other thing I find interesting, is birthdays. Not everyone, but many people do have their birthdays plugged into their profiles. I have some calendar app, as probably many others do, that notify when your friends birthdays are approaching. Okay, so this is another reason why I don’t need to ‘remember’ everyone’s birthday. If I have an app that will tell me when your birthday is, then why keep that information in my brain cells. Use the cells for more important things.

Nonetheless. I mentioned a while back about seeing someone’s birthday as being the same as mine. Stepfan-michaels lives in England. I have never met the guy. However, I noticed that his birthday was the same as mine. Just for fun, I sent a quick message about the fact that I had never met anyone born on the same day as me. I was reminded by Marie Nugent, that one of her sons was also born on March 13, but I don’t really know him.

Anyway, further chatting revealed that, in our respective countries, we were not only born in the same month (March), the same day (Tuesday), the same number of the month (13), the same year (1962), but that we were born about 10 minutes apart. Now, considering that we live in two different countries, if you want to get technical, you’d have to go to UTC time to find out EXACTLY the difference in birth times. However, for sake of simplicity, we were born 10 minutes apart – again, in our respective countries. Amazing. Okay, with over 6,000,000,000 on this planet, there is bound to be SOMEONE who is close to your birthday. Meeting or getting to know this person is incredible.

Back to women. Women in North America, and I’m not saying ALL women, but generally women, don’t like to reveal how old they really are. But at some point, age becomes a blessing. Especially when you feel and yes, look, younger than you really are. It is nice to say to someone what your real age is when they believe you are younger. Makes you feel good. Makes you feel young. Makes you glad you’ve got good genes!

An interesting thing in Taiwan, as I was trying to understand yesterday, is that sometimes, people’s birthdays are different than the day they celebrate. I could not get my head wrapped around this one. My, somewhat limited, understanding is it must have something to do with Chinese culture or the lunar calendar.

Take one of my friends. Yesterday, according to her Facebook profile, was her birthday. However, as I was informed, this is not her real birthday. Her real birthday was sometime earlier. I don’t know when, but I did send a birthday wish nevertheless.

If it has something to do with the lunar calendar, then I understand. Take yesterday – June 10. If you write this in numbers, it becomes 06/10, right? If you use the lunar calendar, then ’06/10′, for the year 2010, is actually July 21 this year. For those of us who are not accustomed to the lunar calendar, it may be confusing. And justly so. The only holiday to my knowledge in North America that is based on the lunar calendar, is Easter. All other holidays, are considered solar calendar holidays.

The only problem with this theory is that her birthday was actually BEFORE June 10. Okay, so now my brain is hemorrhaging. My personal theory about lunar vs. solar, doesn’t work, since her birthday was actually before yesterday. Time, isn’t it a wonderful thing?

Okay, so why would someone want to, or be told that, their day of birth is different than the celebrated birthday? If the year was played with, say, a more recent year than actually year of birth, then I would say it’s a vanity thing. But if only a month or a week, then this makes no sense to an ignorant North American.

My next theory is that it has something to do with the Chinese calendar. Consider this example. Before a couple gets married, they will consult the priest of their temple to decide on a good time to get married. Sometimes, getting married during a particular lunar month for that particular couple is considered more lucky or prosperous than getting married during another month. Okay, so I’m not too into Chinese religions to understand this, so I’ll let you figure it out for yourself. We choose months of marriage based more on, I suppose, weather! Who wants to get married outdoors during the winter? Wouldn’t it be nicer to have a lovely wedding when the weather is clear and sunny, yet not too hot, not too windy?

People choose these times for different reasons. Okay, so take this theory into consideration, then reporting to the government (or the world and the gods for that matter) that your child was born 3 weeks later than they were actually born, may be better, according to your beliefs, than the proper time. Whatever.

The older I get, the less concerned I am about age and birthdays. When I was younger, yeah, inviting my friends to my birthday, having a great big cake and a party was fun. Now, I really don’t want to be reminded how old I am getting. Well, actually, sometimes I don’t really mind, but not ON my birthday.

There are really only three more birthdays that I am truly looking forward to. The first being the first birthday I celebrate during my retirement. At the rate I’m going, that will be never! So, I’m not holding my breath. The second birthday is the day I turn 113 years old. Again, the ’13’ thing… 13 on the 13th, or in this case, 113 on the 13th! The final birthday that I will really celebrate, is when I get word from whatever agency watches this type of thing, that I am declared the oldest living human being on the planet! That will be a birthday to remember – saying I am still of sound mind and body!

No matter when your birthday is, whether you celebrate it privately, publicly, with friends or alone, remember that this is a special day that is devoted to YOU! Be proud of how old you really are. And hope that you’ll be able to celebrate it again, next year.

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1 Comment

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One response to “June 10, 2010

  1. Cliff

    when is my birthday?

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