Dorothy Rosby
Contributing columnist
Dear Greeting Card Person,
I’m about to have a milestone birthday. I won’t say which one, but I’ll give you a hint: It’s not 10.
I’m writing to suggest you make some changes to your birthday card line before my big day on August 9. But before I get into that, let me share a little background.
I remember my 40th birthday as clearly as if it were yesterday. It wasn’t, and by a long shot, but I still remember waking up feeling like I was 21 and ending the day feeling like I was 77.
It actually started the night before my birthday when I told my then 4-year-old son I would be 40 years old the next day. He asked innocently, “Are you going to be like Grandma?” Grandma was 84 at the time.
The next day, a now former friend asked which birthday I was celebrating. When I told her she said, “I thought you were getting up there.” Huh?
Then there were the cards. That’s where you come in, Greeting Card Person. When I was very young, my birthday cards contained money and good wishes. Later they contained only wishes and not all of them good.
But starting on my 40th birthday, things really went downhill, and not just my cards. But let’s stick with those. Since I turned 40, the majority of my birthday cards have contained insults and ridicule. You know, like “So many candles, so little breath.” “You’re not getting older. You’re getting fatter.” Very funny.
Even the well-wishes are thinly disguised insults. “Here’s wishing you success in all you do. But you better get started. You’re running out of time.” Those kind of well wishes would make a fifth-grader feel old.
This, Greeting Card Person, is why people don’t discuss their age. Best to keep it to ourselves. Otherwise if we don’t feel old before our birthday, we will after it’s over.
As I face another milestone, I’m appealing to your decency. Mature people deserve respect. So do I. And I know you can do better. Even I can do insults, and I’m not even a professional greeting card person—or elected official or late night talk show host. How about these:
Don’t let anyone tell you you’re old. How can you be? Older people are wise and mature. And you’re neither of those.
Welcome to middle age, that magical time in life when you see better in bright light but look better in dim.
Don’t let the fact that you were born in another century make you feel old. By the way, which century was that?
See. Easy. Also a lot more fun than it should be. But anyone can do that. You’re experts. Why not put your skills to work creating cards that are respectful without being gooey. May I suggest something along these lines?
You deserve to be treated like a queen on your birthday. That’s why I’m going to clean your house and make dinner for you.
Happy birthday to one of the wisest people I know. You were right all along.
I’m so sorry for all the insulting birthday cards I’ve sent you over the years. They were the only ones on the rack.
The first two might be a stretch, but the last one is almost true. So dear Greeting Card Person, I suggest you create some birthday cards that honor the wisdom and knowledge those celebrating birthdays have gained. And if we haven’t gained any, I don’t think our special day is the best time to say so.
(Dorothy Rosby is the author of three books of humorous essays including Alexa’s a Spy and Other Things to Be Ticked off About, Humorous Essays on the Hassles of Our Time. Contact [email protected])