February 11, 2009

Growing Up Six Months at a Time

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This weekend marks a very important milestone for me. This Friday, February 13, 2009, I shall turn 21 and a half.
My half birthday became an official American holiday in the year 1993, when I entered kindergarten. The previous year, every other kid in Mrs. Callahan’s morning kindergarten class got to bring lip-smackingly delicious cupcakes that came out of a box and also hog everyone’s attention all day on their birthdays. I got bupkis. And on my actual birthday? Man alive, what a letdown. I mean really, Polly Pockets are so passé, Mom — if that even is your real name — and don’t get me started about the backyard clown. If I didn’t get to go kick the giant rat at Chuck-E-Cheese the next year, boy howdy there would be hell to pay. My dad’s name is Chuck. Christ, does that hold no currency in the birthday party world? Come on: this is why the terrorists hate us.
Then, as if the heavens parted and it rained down delicious nuggets of greed and ingenuity, it came to me. Fractions. First grade teacher Sue Wong taught me the beauty of pizza slices, and I put it all together. Those little sluts on the monkey bars were always lording it over me that they were six and a HALF. Well, I’d show them. February 13, henceforth, would be my day. I’d stand atop the slide and proclaim that from the Ball Hut to the tetherball courts, these lands would be mine one day shy of February’s first fortnight: Hereafter, for but one day per school year whomever does not revere my glory is to suffer death by tanbark splinter, delivered by Principal Johnson himself — he always had a soft spot for me when I cried, even when I was the one who hit the other kid.
My half birthday increased in importance by order of magnitude in the year 1997.5. My maternal grandfather had suddenly anointed me the most special of his half-dozen grand children. He decided, just in time for my 10th real birthday, that he had miscalculated his birthday for the past 85 years. You see, he was the only of my four grandparents not born in the United States, and the country he came from used a slightly different calendar. This calendar has a very simple conversion into ours, with the provision that over 65 years after you immigrate to the United States, you are allowed to move your birthday two weeks in either direction. I have a cousin whose birthday is August 17, so I always wonder why he chose me, but I just chalk it up to the fact that my aura just exudes “Take my birthday, I don’t want it anyway!” with a cerulean glow.
The main reason my grandfather wanted to change his birthday to mine was so that he could forever tell strangers, especially waitresses (double points if they barely understand English to begin with), “You see this girl over here? She was my present on my 75th birthday! She was born on my birthday. I take my coffee black.” The after effects happened to be that precisely no one gives a shit when you turn 15 if your grandfather, with whom you allegedly share a birthday, is turning 90. My mother attempted to mitigate this problem by choosing to throw celebrations for his milestones in July, but he doesn’t entirely get the point. I know this because every time my birthday rolls around and we have related festivities, a cake comes out, people sing “Happy Birthday”, and he’s singing “Happy Birthday RebeccaandHarold … Happy Birthday to YouandMe! I’m so old! Look at me!”
Which brings me back to February 13. This is an immoveable feast, in both that its date never changes and that no one is allowed to celebrate anything else on February 13 but the very existence-and-a-half of me. I think it is nothing less than destiny that this should be my thirteenth column this school year, since Friday the 13th was the day of my birth and clearly this Friday the 13th will be the 21st and a half anniversary of my existence. To observe the festival feast, ideally you will eat a half moon cookie, marking both the end of one half of my life-year (black) and the possibility and hope anew (white). Dean and DeLuca makes a delicious interpretation of the Half Birthday cookie, and if you are more of a locavore, there are campus establishments, Collegetown Bagels and Wegman’s. Festoon yourself in a half-hearted way, while you drink half-caf coffee and get half-baked. Mark your calendars, half-wits. The time is almost upon us for me to become half a woman.