One of my good friends, Siobhan, and I traditionally kick off our October birthdays by running UCF’s U Can Finish 2-mile fun run. It’s a nonthreatening distance that doesn’t induce stress, something neither of us want for our birthdays.
Last year I jogged while wearing a birthday cake hat. One person said, “Happy Birthday,” as he passed by. I yelled, “You are the first person to tell me that.” He looked back over his shoulder and said, “I guess everybody’s in their zone.” I thought about his comment the remainder of my run and well into the rest of my day. Really? Everybody (as in over a thousand people) were so focused on a 2-mile Fun Run that they couldn’t say, “Happy Birthday?” We weren’t competing in the Olympics for crying out loud.
Now, to clarify, I didn’t wear a cake hat so strangers would recognize my birthday. I wore my cake hat simply to celebrate my day. But, it did seem odd that only one out of over a thousand people shouted out a “Happy Birthday.” Why is that? I wondered.
This year, both Siobhan and I wore cake hats, as well as “Happy Birthday” sashes and socks with confetti. If people couldn’t tell that it was our birthdays, then they were simply unconscious. We collectively received around 20 well-wishes this year. Definitely an improvement over last year. But still. There were over one thousand people walking/jogging/running! Even the guy who snapped our pre-run photo, handed back my phone without showing the slightest recognition that it was our birthdays. Is it really that hard to tell a stranger, “Happy Birthday?”
Just as I was pointing out this point to Siobhan (for yet another time), a lady and two children walked up. “My two kids want to tell you ‘Happy Birthday’,” the mother said. Both her son and daughter looked up at us, smiled, and said, “Happy Birthday!” Their expressions, as if they were peering at royalty, showed how genuinely excited they were for us. They understood the bigness of our day. We had made it one more year, thank you very much.
Whoever said, “Children should be seen and not heard,” doesn’t understand the value in bold, authentic, joyous childlike living. Their well-wishes made Siobhan’s and my birthdays.
I can’t help but still wonder though, why is it that so many people can’t get out of their “zones” and do something as simple as extend a birthday greeting? Several people suggested different theories:
- Even though I was wearing a cake hat, it didn’t actually say, “birthday.” Perhaps people just didn’t make the connection. (Really?)
- Maybe people are just shy. (A thousand shy people?)
- I could have been too tall, so few people could actually see the candles on the hat. (But Siobhan is short. No missing her candles. This theory doesn’t make sense.)
- It’s because you’re human. If you were a dog wearing a cake hat, you would most certainly receive birthday wishes. (This sadly makes sense.)
- Or maybe it’s because you’re in the “middle ages,” not young or old, but in the overlooked middle. After all, if a child was wearing a cake hat or an elderly person, people would chime in. Right? But who cares if someone at midlife made it another year? (This makes sense too. Sadly.)
I’m not sure what’s up with all the zoning out, but I think I will do some investigative reporting to uncover some theories that are a bit more science-based. Stay tuned, as this is not yet over.
In the meantime, what do you think? And would you give a birthday greeting to someone wearing a cake hat?
Please leave a comment to help satisfy my childlike curiosity.