A whole lot can change between birthdays. You’ve grown up by a whole year, after all. But the day itself… well. No matter how you’re spending it, there are a few stages your average birthday pretty much always includes. Don’t try and tell us you don’t recognise these bad boys…
1. The build-up
Tomorrow, yes that’s TOMORROW… in fact, in less than 15 hours… you’re going to be 16. A year older and a year closer to your eventual life as a world-famous international superwoman. And it’s going to be the best birthday yet. Especially since you’ve been giving everybody in your life a daily countdown for the last three weeks. Classmates, bus drivers, Martin the window cleaner. They’re all primed and ready to celebrate.
Your parents didn’t seem to want a daily countdown but just so they wouldn’t feel left out, you gave them a daily reminder instead: that you asked reeeealllly nicely for those Topshop boots. REALLY nicely.
2. The hourly countdown
Now that dinner’s over and there are only a mere FOUR HOURS until your birthday begins, it makes sense to start informing people on the hour, every hour. Just to be organised. Sixteen-year olds have their sh*t together, you see.
3. The midnight transformation
OK, your phone says 00.01 on the day of your birthday. And that means you are officially 16. And yes it’s weird, but you do suddenly feel… different. Obvs you’ve Googled all the stuff you can do at 16, and there’s something in you that now feels totally, immediately ready to drive a moped, ‘drink wine/beer with a meal if accompanied by an adult’, and join a trade union. (Note to self: must warn boss at the local gift shop that I may strike if they don’t turn up the central heating).
Obvs there’s the sex thing, too, which still seems a way away to be honest. And the marriage thing, which just seems ridiculous. But the moped thing… I mean, your mum’s bound to agree the moment she sees the new 16-year-old you that you’re totes ready for that. Right?
4. The breakfast entrance
This is no ordinary entrance. This is a birthday entrance. Which means you get to strut into the kitchen, head held high, hair toss on fleek, feeling like the super-special lady you are today. No matter that your little sister is too busy revising for her SATs to even look up. Or that your parents don’t immediately shower you with gifts. They are, after all, probably building you an obscenely tall tower of pancakes. You just get on with finishing your strut, perch your birthday bottom down and wait patiently for the adoration. (And pancakes).
5. The present-opening whirlwind (otherwise known as ‘reverting to type’)
Every year until now you’ve tried to drag out the present opening – gently peeling back wrapping paper like a mature, gracious adult. Savouring each gift. But somehow, WHO KNOWS HOW, you always become the Tasmanian devil of present opening – ripping through gift after gift, paper flying, teeth prising open plastic (no time for scissors when you’re a human pressie tornado) and the whole thing’s over in about 3.5 seconds.
Well not this year! This year you are a soon-to-be-moped-driving 16 year-old for chrissake, the epitome of responsibi- *grab, shake, tear, rip, prise, grab, tear, grab, rip, prise, shake, riiiiipppp* Agh, damnit.
6. The school entrance
See: step 4 (Plus squad. Minus pancakes. Plus new boots, which the teachers will just have to get the hell on board with.)
7. The ‘but it’s my birthday’ excuses
Which should – I mean really should – let you get away with most things. And to be fair to them, most of your friends humour you. Yes, you can pick where you guys eat lunch. And yes, you can have more than your fair share of the big bar of Dairy Milk you’re splitting. Yes, you can even make them take at least 52 shots of you in your new boots before you pick the right one for your Instagram.
8. More ‘but it’s my birthday’ excuses
But the teachers… well, their response comes as a bit of a shock tbh. I mean, if they’d let you know in advance that birthdays don’t get you an extension on your French homework, you might not have wasted all that time last night on the hourly countdown now would you?
8. The lull
It’s mid-afternoon, and for some reason that you haven’t possibly got time to think about when you’re so busy being the birthday girl, a few people seem to have forgotten what day it is. Weird. Better dispatch your besties to remind them. And they’ll probs be so grateful for the heads up. I mean why would anyone want to miss a single moment basking in your reflected birthday glow?
10. The cringey family bit
Where, back home, mum and dad cry about how fast their baby’s growing up, and make you blow out the candles on a totally embarrassingly juvenile cake in front of the besties you’ve been allowed to invite round for a takeaway. And you roll your eyes and apologise to your friends that they’re having to endure all of this. (And secretly love every bloody minute of it. Because, even if you are almost an adult, what’s not to love about blowing out candles, and parental bear hugs?)
11. The Oscar-worthy thank you calls
So your parents, god bless them, may have totally come up trumps on the present front with THE silver platform Topshop sock boots. But the rest of your family… how to put this? The rest of your family BOMBED. Which means the phone calls to your aunt/gran/second cousin to thank them for your half-dead plant / set of Encyclopedias / jazz CD (seriously, what?) will need you to dig deep.
I mean, it’s probs safest if you just go all out and channel J-Law. At the Oscars. Which means you’re also going to need to dress up. Ooh and do a comedy trip up the stairs. Sounds much more fun than your mum’s suggestion to just ‘ring them now while you remember’. And it is your birthday so you should be able to ring them on your own goddamn terms… Now where did you leave that ballgown?
12. The peak (also known as ‘the warm and fuzzies’)
Which goes a little something like this: ‘Ahhh but seriously, how lucky am I? I’m surrounded by friends and family. I’ve got amazing boots. I’ve made it to 16 without dying/humiliating myself so much I’ve had to leave the country. I’m healthy. I’m probably going to be admitted to some awesome biker gang when I get my moped. Which will be soon. And I’m being fed cake. Again. Seriously. #blessed. #waitnowhyhaveyoustoppedfeedingmecakeIjustsaidthatwasmyfavouritebit.’
13. The crash
Hey, you were bound to come down from all that fondant icing and adrenalin at some point. And now you’re sad and tired and torturing yourself with another countdown. The rubbish one. “Only 12 hours left of birthday fun and spoiling! GAH! How did I cope back in that sad wasteland called ‘yesterday’ when I wasn’t plied with presents every few hours? When I didn’t get to pick what takeaway we had and didn’t get to add ice cream to the order, even though they charge you double than what it costs in the shops. How can this halcyon day have slipped by so quickly?”
14. The transformation (part. II)
Midnight! Noooooooo! Stooopppp! I can feel it! The special birthday-ey birthdayness is slipping awaaaayyyy like Cinderella’s pumpkin carriage! Noooooo! Now it’s just a random Wednesday. Harrumpf.
15. The extension
Wednesday, you say? And your real party’s not til Saturday? So then what’s the point in dialling down the excitement / taking down the bunting when you’re only going to have to ramp it back up / rehang it in three days’ time? That’s just an inefficient use of energy. And bunting. Birthday week you say? Now, your fifteen-year-old self might have thought that idea stupid. But the immeasurably wiser sixteen-year-old you thinks that seems very sensible indeed.
16. See part one. And repeat.