And Ye of Years 31 Bells Will Chime!

Here's a birthday card I drew for my fiancee. I drew it at work, so I technically got paid for it.

Here’s a birthday card I drew for my fiancee. I drew it at work, so I technically got paid for it.

I offer a service where I tell people if their birthday is pointless. Here’s how it works: someone contacts me, tells me what age they are going to be and I tell them if their birthday is pointless. There are some mitigating factors—too miniscule and boring to go into here—but my accuracy is remarkably high. I’m not asking to be celebrated for this; I consider it part of my duty as a citizen of the world. We all need to give back what we can.

Last year, my mother threw me a 30th birthday party. It was mutually beneficial in that she wanted to throw me a party (I banned them after 18) and I needed an iPhone. So just like she talked me into going to my high school graduation with the promise of a card filled with twenties, I let the market dictate my morals and had a party. I’m fine with that.

Last week, I turned 31 which—for those playing the home game—is pointless. Because of this, I had no party nor cake. I went to see Godzilla, but I would’ve seen Godzilla no matter whose birthday it was.

Despite the overall joy of watching monsters fight for my amusement, the pointlessness of 31 weighed heavily on me. Turning 30 had little effect on me, nor had turning any other age since 18, so this was unexpected.

At first, I thought it was because it’s been 31 years and I still can’t get my shit together. Seriously, it’s all over the place. But I’ve made a lot of small steps towards big things and my general fuck-upery has never bothered me before. That couldn’t be it.

It wasn’t until a few days later, thinking about Godzilla, that it hit me. I feel like I have a lot in common with Godzilla: we both like to swim, we wake up cranky and sometimes we have radioactive breath. But more than that, we’re both tired. Sure, he fucked up both those MUTOs and found the strength to let out a mighty roar while holding a severed head as a trophy, but he needed a nap after (and during…and who knows how long he’d been sleeping before).

For me, having a birthday is similar to the feeling of having to fight a monster on the streets of San Francisco. Not the actual process of fighting the monster—that’s different. I mean the idea that the monster is out there and I have to get off my ass and fight him.

And then after I kicked one ass, a second one shows up.

I used up all my energy getting to the finish line and then I find out it was only a check point. It’s not that I won’t keep going or even that I don’t want to keep going, just that I didn’t expect to, so now I have to come up with a whole new plan of attack. That’s the feeling of turning 31: this shit never ends.

You know, that’s kind of a downer. I don’t want to make it sound like I wrote this while crying and listening to the Cure, so let me try that again.

Life is short, but only in retrospect.

That sounds about right.

But enough about me. As a special bonus, please enjoy this chart covering your first 40 birthdays and their significance.


Birthday Significance Reason


Significant for family, not you You don’t remember it, but with any luck, there will be a hilarious video of you eating cake.


Significant The first birthday where you have a personality and can contribute.


Pointless It’s just a sequel to your 2nd birthday.


Pointless Grow up already.


Significant It’s when you get old enough to start spending most of your day in a building that’s not your house.


Pointless Seriously, what have you accomplished since last year?


Semi-Significant Only because it’s the only single digit number with two syllables.


Pointless No.


Pointless Giving significance to 9 would diminish 10.


Significant Only because it’s the first one with two digits.


Pointless You need to be taken down a notch from last year.


Pointless What are you, 12? Get over yourself.


Significant Begins a decade long run where you are insufferable.


Pointless Looking back you’ll wish you could forget every awkward thing about being 14.


Pointless No one throws a sweet 15 birthday party.


Significant Everyone ruined it before you got here, so the party doesn’t matter, but marks the age when you parents can legitimately tell you to get a job.


Pointless Being 17 is just a year of not being 18.


Rapidly Declining Significance Used to be the age when you were considered an adult, but that’s been moved to mid-40s now. Still, you can take up smoking and scratch-off tickets.


Pointless You’re not 21.


Pointless You’re still not 21.


Surprisingly Pointless You’d think turning 21 would be significant, but look at all the people celebrating their 21st birthdays and tell me it’s not pointless.


Pointless Like 11, but worse.


Pointless You should be starting to realize how pointless this all is.


Pointless One year away from a discount on your car insurance.


Significant For the first time in your life, Hertz views you as a customer instead of a liability.


Pointless You should have better things to do than celebrate a birthday.


Significant Divisible by 9.


Pointless Just two years left to define your 20s.


Pointless This is crunch time.


Significant Being 30 makes it really easy to do the math on how old other things are.


Pointless Throws your math off by a whole year.


Pointless Unless it’s your first birthday as a grandparent.


Pointless Same age as Jesus.


Significant Outlived Jesus.


Pointless Advertisers don’t care if you’re 35 and neither should you.


Pointless Putting 36 candles on a cake would look ridiculous…


Pointless …but not as ridiculous as 37 candles.


Pointless Only because at some time someone has said “Feelin’ great at 38” and they need to be taken down a notch.


Pointless See 38, but with “Feelin’ fine at 39” instead.


Significant An entire industry is predicated on your need for things that say “Over the Hill.”


4 thoughts on “And Ye of Years 31 Bells Will Chime!

  1. Anne

    That’s funny, we share a birthdate. I don’t particularly care if you turned 13 or 31, but I am damned happy that you’re here. You’re smart, funny, and you had the nerve to eat (part of) that steak, which was, frankly, uncomfortable to watch but made me laugh when I was having a kind of rotten time. I’ve been reading your blog ever since, and I don’t think your birthday was pointless: 1) You’re probably reading this on your new iPhone (nice move, btw), and 2) every person is perpetually trying to get their sh*t together. Even the people who seem like they have it entirely together are screaming, somewhere on the inside, that they don’t have it together at all. Maybe the truth is that it’s never really together, and owning that, having the courage to laugh at it like you have, is beautiful, and that’s enough. If you’re strong enough to do that, your birthday will never be pointless because it marks another year that something beautiful was in the world. Happy Birthday.

  2. jaygironimi

    Happy belated birthday! I appreciate your take on this, even if your comment did remind me of my failure to finish that steak. I’ve been thinking about getting another one, but no one in the house will let me cook it again…the house smelled like dog food for a solid week.
    And you’re right about the constant process of getting one’s shit together. I just hope I can continue to sneak up on little bits of it and trap it in a box.

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