Friendship Isn’t Free
The birthday is, in a certain sense, the yearly sabbath from self-suffering, not to mention indulging the pitiable whining from an ambi-coastal, prematurely graying elder Imperialist.
Happy birthday, Jeremiah! You're 30, married, and ready to put away childish things, as the apostle Paul implored us.
Now buy me a Kindle.
What, you want a gift from me? How about my friendship for the past seven years? Thanks to me, Cultural Imperialist is a reality, your pride and joy - the baby you and Mrs. Imperialist won't have for a while, and cheaper than a dog, too. I turned you on to Arrested Development, which has guided your spiritual development. And really, the next step up from the gift subscription to The Atlantic you got me last year is a Kindle, the revolutionary wireless reading device that won’t be overtaken by the iPad.
'Tis more blessed to give than to receive - or did you ignore that part of Acts in Sunday school? Years of research suggest that people are happier when they give away their possessions. I know for a fact that you have more than you need - like everything in your wedding registry, including the overpriced pitcher I bought. Wouldn't you feel better if you sold some of that on Craigslist and used the proceeds to buy me something that will get me reading books again, and not just Diary of a Wimpy Kid?
Birthdays for adults are all about spending on others - they pay for their own parties, if not up front than when your friends bust before the check has been laboriously divvied by the resident cheapskate (frequently, me). I’ve been to a handful where the food was "free" and the only money out of my pocket was for a beer. Why not forgo this gradual drain on your finances over the years and just buy me a Kindle now? I'll cover your Guinness for the whole night the next time I visit.
You will quickly learn in marriage that you rarely get what you want, and even more so when you pop out the little Jeremiahs. It's good to practice giving in to the demands of those close to you now, especially those who aren't geographically close, because you won't be able to strangle or act passive-aggressive toward me. When the real sacrifices come, you'll thank me for annihilating your expectations.
Just to show how flexible I am, I'll settle for the Wi-Fi-only $139 Kindle.
Kindle the Birthday Love
Happy birthday to me! I'm the butterfly emerging from the cocoon of the Plenty Twenties into the harsh and unforgiving world of the Dirty Thirties. Now reality sets in, and I learn who loves me for who I am, and who simply tolerates me for what I can give him.
It is true that entering the adult world means spending less on oneself than our consumer culture demands of us. Our workaday lives are built upon constant giving; we give our time to our spouses, our bosses, and our children (or pets) and friends (if we have any left after our transparent bid for material goods at the behest of our aging friends). We give our money to utilities industries, landlords, credit card companies, grocery stores and the occasional fast food joint and movie theatre. We tithe our ten percent to the Lord, or at least we promise to next time (I promise, Lord!). We gift our friends with parties and ply our family with various ministrations; we are, in our daily grind, quite giving.
So the laying aside of this for one day, to be on the receiving end of our family's and friends' bounty, generosity, and pleasant goodwill, is not only fun; it is necessary. Giving up our birthday traditions and becoming Everyman to every man every day will leave us physically ill, bereft of zest and cheer, and soon, unwilling agents of kindness, bitter Mother Theresas for the human race. Who needs the pressure of constantly catering to everyone's whims and delights but your own? Who could stomach the responsibility for everyone's material happiness while ignoring one's meager desires?
Haven't you heard the saying, Give and you shall receive? That two-way street might become a boulevard if you'd open your heart--not just your mouth--to give without grudge.
Then again, if it is indeed better to give than to receive, then Greg is the apostle of "Do As I Say, Not As I Don't Do." When he gives, he does so with rancor, as if the gift itself is an offense against economic sensibilities--as in the case of the pitcher he purchased--and when he doesn't give, well, that's most of the rest of the time.
The birthday is the one day we are all allowed to relinquish the second commandment, at least insofar as buying Kindles is concerned. The birthday is, in a certain sense, the yearly sabbath from self-suffering, not to mention indulging the pitiable whining from an ambi-coastal, prematurely graying elder Imperialist.
The man who finds his spiritual solace in physical gifts from distant friends has no compunctions in asking, with neither tact nor grace, for gifts from his friends upon their day of birth; he shall reap what he sows--in this case, a lot of withering looks, rolled eyes, and an ironic gift sent O. Henry style to drive home the point. Greg wants a Kindle. I'll send him a book of matches.