I can remember sitting at the foot of my bed, in a bathrobe, brushing my damp kinky hair. It was my thirteenth birthday and my head was full of knots and expectations from the night before. I hated the consternation that seemed to linger insidiously around this time of the year. Since my mom and her side of the family were Jehovah’s Witnesses, that meant every holiday was depressing.
As Witnesses, we were not suppose to celebrate any holiday but since my dad didn’t practice this faith, there was always some sort of dispute during the holidays. Every Christmas, my mom and dad would load up for a world war; he insisted on putting a tree up and decorating it while she insisted on ripping it down into shreds of tinsel and pine needles all over the floor. Christmas morning, my mother would taint us with her vulgar attempts to ensure us that God was watching us sin, as my little brother and I would slowly open up our guilt-wrapped gifts from my father.
As tragic as Christmas was, having a birthday has become far more of an unavoidable debacle. The year I turned thirteen is my first memory of ever feeling like my birth has had any worth. Since I had never had any birthday parties, not too many friends even knew about it. The evening before, I was anxiously trying hard to fantasize of all the praise and gifts I longed for but I just ended up dreading the disappointment I predicted for a day not-so devoted to me at all. I wake up to my alarm the next morning because it’s a school day and on the way to the bathroom, I pass my mom who disregards me as she would any other day. My heart sinks deep into my chest as I close the bathroom door to take a shower but I catch my reflection in the mirror and begin to break into tears.
In the shower, a flashback crosses my mind of my sixth birthday and how I woke up in the middle of the night unable to breathe because my asthma was acting up. My mom stormed into my room to open the window, but I couldn’t catch my breath. I concentrated on the darkness outside the window trying harder to breathe slower but instead I hyperventilate and aggravate my breathing even more. Suddenly, I slip back to reality and realize the shower is beyond sauna-hot and my breathing is just as heavy as that night I was taken to the hospital to spend my birthday. I feel dizzy as I walk back to my room and end up losing my balance. As I fall forward, the corner of my eye introduces itself to the corner of my dresser and the pinewood leaves a lasting impression. I notice the blood and my head starts to hurt just as much as my heart does.
I’m sitting at the bottom of my bed, staring at myself in the mirror when my dad and brother unexpectedly knock and enter. My brother hands me a self-titled Britney Spears CD and says, “Happy Birthday.” Then the next thing I know, my dad is leaning closer, he places his left hand at the nape of my neck, kisses me on my forehead –which is bombarded with pimples –and says softly, “Happy Birthday, I love you.”
I quickly glance into the mirror, praying it’s without notice and think: he kissed my forehead regardless of my pimples! Maybe he really does love me. But if that were true, he wouldn’t have conveniently forgotten my next five birthdays.
This year for my birthday, I cried the whole week leading up to it unaware of the true reason. I presume it’s the frail expectation I build of having everyone I know care enough to bombard my face with kisses that allows me to become so sad. Even when I do receive a couple kisses from people who really mean a lot to me, it’s not enough. Is anyone ever satisfied on their birthday? What does it take to feel and be shown your complete worth? Time, money, 1000 kisses?
Perhaps the pain that stems from the birthday blues is confused by one’s worth to others when in actuality it should be properly blamed on the lack of celebration of one’s worth to self. Take a moment to celebrate yourself, kiss your hand and smile at your own reflection.
You, are everything worth loving.