Monday, February 28, 2011

Your Birthday's When, Now?

I am a victim of the Gregorian calendar. It's because of this calendar that today is my birthday. Except it's not really. You see, I am a Leapling. I was born on Leap Day and thus, I don't have a "real" birthday this year.

Now, I guarantee you that I am growing older. I have the crow's feet and body aches to prove it. But if you count my birthdays in "real birthdays,"--that is birthdays that fall on Leap Days, then I am only 10 (and 3/4, because those fractions are important, according to my 9 and 6 year old children.). My children delight in telling me that they are older than me and therefore do not really have to heed what I say, at which point I give them the stink eye and they hush up.

Having a birthday that falls on Leap Day has pros and cons to it. For instance:

Pro: I don't really have to lie about my age. Of course, that only goes so far. Most children are completely astounded and this often leads to a mathematical discussion of how it all works out. Adults just kind of look at me like my elevator doesn't go all the way to the top.

Con: I have had to argue with people about my birthday. On several occasions. Once, I had to persuade a young cashier that there was, indeed, a 29th of February and that it was, in fact, my birthday. It took several minutes of discussion and the intervention of a couple of folks behind me in line to convince her that I had not perpetuated a fraud on the DMV and that my driver's license had the correct date.

Pro: Because of having a Leap Year birthday, people who don't know me well are not sure when I celebrate it, and so I'm often given birthday greetings well into March. My mother used to say that I was the only person she knew without a real birthday who could celebrate it for a full week.

Con: Because of having a Leap Year birthday, people who don't know me well are not sure when I celebrate it. This often leads to discussions (and even on a couple of occasions a borderline argument) about why I celebrate it on the 28th. [Answer: 1) Because that's when my parents celebrated it for me--really what choice does one have as a toddler about when to celebrate one's birthday?--and it stuck, and 2) Because the 28th is still February and obviously, the 29th, when it occurs, falls in the month of February. I know there are factions that think a Leap Day birthday should be celebrated on March 1st because it is the day following the 28th, but those people are, um, WRONG. Not that I really care. If you are a fellow Leapling and celebrate on March 1st, well, more power to you. That is your decision to make (even though it's wrong) and I say "Happy Birthday!" But if you are not a Leapling, well, I say butt out. I don't tell you when to celebrate your birthday, do I? (That answer is "no," unless you are my child and your birthday falls on an inconvenient date and we need to celebrate it on a different day. To which I say, "Sorry." And also, "Tuck another dollar into your therapy jar for later.") I cannot tell you how rabid some people are in their opinions on this issue. It's a little frightening.

Pro: You feel a little bit special because you share your birthday with a handful of others. In my life I have known 3 other people who have a Leap Day birthday: a fellow classmate, a minister's wife that used to serve at my parents' church, and a school psychologist that I worked with in Minneapolis. (Hi Randy, Barb, and Anne!) But there are others out there that include:
Rossini, composer
Jimmy Dorsey
Dee Alexander Brown II (author of "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee.")
Dennis Farina, actor
An extraordinarily high number of ice hockey players, and my favorite,
Adolph B.-Z. Wolfeschlegelsteinhausenberdorft, Sr, a man who had a name starting with Adolph that used every letter of the alphabet, giving him the longest name officially used by a person. I love that he's listed as "Sr." Does this mean that he passed on the name to a son?

Con: You feel a little weird because your birthday is unusual. Need I say more? I used to hate having a Leap Day birthday, because it set me apart in a way that I didn't like. People would tease me and say things like, "Well, you don't really get to celebrate because you don't really have a birthday this year." That's traumatic when you are a child and just tired when you are an adult and have heard it for 40-some-odd-years. But now, I see it for the gift that it is. It's part of what makes me who I am.

And it's a great conversation starter when you are forced to mingle with strangers: "Hi, John. I'm Sara. I'm a mom with four kids. No, no! Don't walk away! I was born on Leap Day!"

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