Happy (Facebook) Birthday!

I didn’t get any birthday presents this year;  not even a single card.  Even my kids phoned it in – – hastily re-branding their Father’s Day presents at the last minute.  My wife and I long ago stopped exchanging birthday presents; too stressful.  After all, how many bottles of perfume and Jerry Garcia ties can a person really enjoy?     But, really, if not for Facebook, I would never have known that last Friday was the big day.  The Big 4-3.   To be fair, the world was scheduled to end the next day, so people were probably preoccupied.

But, all is not lost.   I got about 200 “Happy Birthday” wishes on Facebook from friends, clients, old girlfriends, two guys I hated in High School, and at least four people I swear I never heard of.   I cannot decide if this phenomenon constitutes social progress.   In grammar school, birthdays meant no homework, cupcakes for the whole grade, a free period during which the class sang Happy Birthday, and some home-made cards.   High School birthdays were even better because they always ended with some kind of house party.   In college, I went out with my girlfriend for dinner, or with friends for drinks. 

Today, we go to work and spend the day refreshing our Facebook page to see who cared enough to write “Happy Birthday!!!!!!!”   A few thoughtful friends add a personal touch, (“Have a great day, Ar”) which generally causes an absurdly euphoric reaction (“thanks SO much. Let’s get together soon.”)    It’s all very cute, but  I want my parents to show up at work with cupcakes and lead my co-workers in a rousing rendition of the Happy Birthday song, while my boss embarrasses himself by trying to harmonize.  I want home-made birthday cards from my paralegals.  I want to take the day off and hang out at Six Flags with my 4 best friends, and 5 girls from the cool clique.   But, most of all, I want a day off from being a grown up.  I want to remember what it felt like to not worry about money. Or my children. Or my clients.  Or my cases. Or my health. Or my marriage. Or the politics in my local Jewish institutions. Or thinking of clever tweets.  I want to remember the birthdays where my biggest responsibility was blowing out the candles and coming up with a wish that really mattered.  It’s funny.  In those days, I only wished that I was a grown up.  With a job. And money. And a family. And lots of clients.  And that no one could boss me around or treat me like a child.

I have a client who is an extremely well-known, well-paid professional athlete.  It was recently his birthday and he invited me to a small party in a restaurant in the city.  He took me aside at one point, walked me passed the models, celebrities, and the catering that easily surpassed 6 large figures, and confided in me: “I hate birthdays.”  It elicited a poorly timed chuckle on my part.  After all, if anyone should be celebrating his own life, this is the guy.  He explained further: “people look at guys like me and compare their lives to mine.  But I only see my life through the eyes of my childhood self.  And, no reality can ever compare to the fantasy and dreams of a child.” It was profound.  And eye-opening.  But, it was not depressing.  It spoke to a truth about human nature.  We always want more for ourselves and our loved ones. We constantly strive for better.  Birthdays often remind us that we are coming up short.  The entire year will pass and I will spend every day grateful for what I have and extremely contented with who I am and what I have become.  Except on my birthday – –  when I realize that I will likely never become President of the United States or fly in space.  That’s why we exchange presents in the first place!  You didn’t become an Olympic athlete, but here is a new set of tools!!  

I can live without the gifts, or the cards.  And I can enjoy the mild discomfort of the Facebook Birthday.  Because, the day will eventually end, and I can go back to the life that has carefully been constructed, refined, and improved each year since it all began.

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About aweisbrot

Ari is a partner in the Litigation Department of an historic and renowned law firm located in New York. He has been featured on CBS Radio’s Wall Street Journal Report, quoted in legal and non-legal periodicals, and has been recognized as a “SuperLawyer” in New Jersey and a "Top Ten Lawyer to Watch" in New York. Mr. Weisbrot is a true “client’s lawyer,” representing a diverse range of clients from among the largest retailers in the United States to smaller local businesses to religious and charitable organizations. Ari was appointed by Supreme Court of the State of New Jersey to a three-year term of service on the Committee on Character. The Committee determines the fitness to practice law of each candidate for admission to the Bar of the State. Mr. Weisbrot also continues to serve on the District Ethics Committee (IIB - Bergen County), which operates under the auspices of the New Jersey State Office of Attorney Ethics. Mr. Weisbrot has been awarded an 'AV' rating for his professionalism and the quality of his legal work from Martindale-Hubbell, the premier directory of legal professionals, and has been selected by his peers as a Super Lawyer. In addition, Mr. Weisbrot has written several articles on commercial litigation, which have been published in the New Jersey Law Journal and the Metropolitan Corporate Counsel. A Former New York City prosecutor, Mr. Weisbrot is a graduate of Fordham University School of Law, where he was a member of the Urban Law Journal and a featured columnist in the Law School newspaper
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One Response to Happy (Facebook) Birthday!

  1. Bill Bowman says:

    Happy Belated Birthday! If we were FB friends, I’d have been on time …

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