As of today (March 1, 2019), I am 43 years old. Yesterday I was 42. I did not have a birthday per se but I was hurled into another year.
I know that February 29 happens next year because I’ll be turning 44 and 44 is divisible by 4. I’ll have had 11 birthdays. Here’s my little primer on us Leap Year weirdos. I say “us”, but I want to emphasize that my experiences and feelings are specific to me and that they might not match someone else’s. I don’t want to appoint myself as representative of a group of people who share a rare birth date.
Furthermore, I don’t believe it actually makes me a “weirdo” — I’m playing with words. “Weird” is a judgment.
When I was growing up, my birthday was another way for my peers to taunt me. I was regularly taunted with, “You’re only 2 years old!” (or whatever single digit number they came up with which may or may not have been the number of birth dates that had occurred in my short lifetime). I don’t know how young children even grasped the concept. Their parents maybe? One of my most popular posts on Medium is one I wrote about being bullied as a child and questions why kids can be such assholes.
Maybe the taunting that I experienced explains why having a Leap Year birthday doesn’t excite me. Maybe it still triggers me a little.
YOU only have a birthday every four years!
Yeah, thanks for the reminder, fuck face.
Perhaps I’m being too sensitive about it, perhaps not. Regardless, here’s a little list of Dos and Don’t for my experience with some tangents thrown in there because that’s how I sometimes blog. I hope that this article both educates and entertains you. Let me know below how it made you feel.
Regarding the list below: If you don’t know if someone will be bothered by what you’re about to say, proceed with caution. If you’re speaking with a person you’ve just met, proceed with caution. Friends can often get away with much more. This is all common sense, although I’m aware that common sense isn’t always that common.
MY “hard don’ts”:
- Don’t ask, “How old are you, really?”
Some people asking this question might be trying to be funny. Others might genuinely be curious about how many times that February 29 has occurred in my life. For the latter, phrasing the question that way is a dumb-ass thing to do.
You do know how the passage of time works, right? I realize that everyone possesses different knowledge and I generally avoid referring to people in terms that suggest how much knowledge they may or may not have (everyone is “smart” or “stupid” in different ways). However, you can’t be a human being on this earth and not know that time passes.
Think about it for a moment:
When I turned 40, I was 40-years-old, not 10.
Next year I will be 44, not 11.
Just because my birth date happens every four years does not mean that I don’t age — though it’s my smooth skin that suggests otherwise. 😄
I was born in 1976. I have lived for 43 years. Got it? Good.
I’ve had this two-part gif for a few years:
I’m on Mitchell’s side. STFU, Cameron.
I cringe when I watch that scene. Again, to each their own. I know that some leap year folks get a kick out of stating their number of birth dates as their “age” (I see you, fictional Cam). Remember above when I said that I don’t represent everyone born on this date? (It includes characters written by scriptwriters.)
Still, I feel like it’s better to avoid asking about age because you don’t know if they’re on Team Cam or Team Mitchell. Some people are sensitive about their age regardless of when they were born.
One more note about age: When I turned 40 I declared, “I’d like the knowledge of a 40-year-old with the responsibilities of a 10-year-old.” I joked that the older I get, the more I’ll want to go with the lower number. In actuality, I feel that age is just a number.
What do DO instead:
If you’re genuinely curious, try putting it this way or similarly,
“Wow! I’ve never met someone who was born on a leap year! How many times has February 29 occurred in your lifetime?”
This is an accurate way to communicate your interest.
Sometimes if people press me for my “real” age when what they’re asking for is the frequency of Feb. 29 in my lifetime I matter-of-factly state my age followed by, “Now, divide that by four. You do the math.”
2. Don’t ask, “How old is that in dog years?”
‘Nuff said. You’re not being funny.
I’d prefer that you didn’t ask this:
3. “So, when do you celebrate your birthday?” [Often accompanied by a quizzical look.]
I recognize that this is a legitimate question, I just get tired of hearing it all the time. This, essentially, is the answer I give. The wording sometimes changes:
“For the first few years that I was old enough to drink, I celebrated for two days because hey, birthdays are a great excuse to be drunk. Now I celebrate whenever it’s most convenient, such as the closest weekend.”
A lot of people celebrate their birthday on the closest weekend day. If your birthday is on April 4th and it falls on a Thursday (as it does this year), you might be likely to celebrate on Friday, April 5. If your birthday is on Monday, April 1, you might celebrate on the last weekend of March.
Get it? That’s how I roll. Others who share my birthday might approach it differently.
As I type this, I’m a little bit (okay, moderately) hungover. I passed the “I don’t feel drunk yet, but I’m acting drunk” stage right into the “Shit, I’m drunk” stage last night, a Thursday. I wasn’t nearly as drunk as I was on my birthday two or three years ago when we went for a big dinner with drinks, then a cocktail bar and I slept with a vomit receptacle beside the bed. I remember that night, wobbling down the hallway to the bathroom. This birthday’s intoxication was a mild drunk that allowed me to walk straight and see clearly, and that resulted in a little bit-to-moderate hangover. No puke.
I’m not 22 anymore.
I’m sorry, I’ve gotten off track. Where was I? (ADHD + age. Oh boy.).
5. Don’t treat me any differently or treat me like a freak of nature
Don’t treat me differently than you’d treat another friend of the same level of kinship on their birthday. Sure, on February 29 you can make a grander gesture. Other than that, I’m no more or less special than anyone else.
If only my birthday came with super powers!
- Recognize that I came into this world the same way you likely did. (4 weeks early. C-section. Anyone?)
- Recognize that February 29 is another date on the calendar, even though it only occurs every four years.
- Know that as clever as you might be, you’re likely not the first person to share that leap year joke.
- Know that I appreciate your birthday wishes. As ranty as this piece of writing is, I’m grateful for every year of life and for every genuine gesture. I merely have a low tolerance for bullshit, disrespect and offensive attempts at cleverness.
(Of course, I could choose not to give a f*ck, and now that I’ve had that thought, I shall make that choice.)
I’ve compiled screenshots of some birthday Facebook status updates from over the years. I didn’t look at my memories yesterday, so I don’t have ones from February 28:
If you’ve recently celebrated your birthday or have one coming up happy birthday!!