December is the cruelest month - for birthdays, that is

December 21, 2006|By Thomas J. McFeeley

I have a theory about conspiracy theories. I think they were invented by people born in December.

Today - four days before Christmas - is my birthday, and it's made me a bit paranoid.

When I turned 9, my grandparents forgot my birthday. No card, no gift, no cash. Nothing. My parents made me rewrite my Christmas thank-you note, which originally read, "Thank you for the sweater. It was so nice, I almost forgot that you forgot my birthday, which is December 21."

The night I turned 21, I went out with only one friend. Anyone else who was still on campus had a final exam the next morning. The others had all gone home for the holiday, leaving this December baby to quietly mark a milestone.

One Christmas, I counted the gifts. My brother and sister each opened 14 gifts. I opened only 12. Four days earlier, I opened two birthday gifts.

So you can see why the Sagittarius might be a bit paranoid. Being the opening act for Jesus and Santa Claus is no easy gig. Nobody ever remembers an opening act, much less buys the CD. Even the opening act knows nobody's paying attention.

We don't ask much - just some attention for our big day, nestled among holiday stress and chaos. We likely won't ask for a party, because everyone's busy, and it would just become a holiday thing anyway.

Here are some helpful tips you can follow to make your December baby a little happier this time of year:

Never, ever, under any circumstance wrap a birthday gift in Christmas paper. We know it's a crazy time of year, and your mind is on other things. We are just asking for the same wrapping paper you use for everyone else. Even children's wrapping paper, with teddy bears and tugboats, would be better than sleigh bells and holly.

Call us on our birthdays. It means a lot to us that you haven't forgotten us in favor of Kriss Kringle, Hanukkah and Ramadan. Even if you're not the call-on-the-birthday type, make an effort for the Child of December. Santa's shadow, as you might imagine, is very large, very dark and very, very cold.

When you make that call, please be sure you have the right day. Maybe it's the thought that counts, but when my buddy consistently calls me on the wrong day, then explains that it's just so busy this time of year, ask me which thought counts just then.

Throw us a half-birthday party in June. The perfect birthday gift for me as a child would have been tickets to a baseball game. But tickets in December are hard to come by. So June 21 would have made sense. Guess which day my first and only niece chose to enter the world? Yeah, you got it. But she's the best (half) birthday present I could have asked for.

Try to mark the day somehow. We know enough not to throw a birthday party on Dec. 18. So take us to lunch during the week. Have a guy's night out in early December or just after the New Year. Just a little something.

Don't give a Christmas-related gift. No Dallas Cowboys ornaments, no outdoor holiday light sets. No goofy sweaters with snowflakes, pine trees or Rudolph the Red-nose Reindeer on the front.

Yes, we know how it is. And we hope you know how it is for us this time of year also. Comb through that address book and find your December birthdays. Take us to lunch, wrap our gifts in appropriate paper, call us on our actual birthdays to let us know you're thinking about us. Just treat our birthdays as you would anyone else's. That's all.

And maybe, just maybe, we won't regift this Rudolph sweater to you later this month.

Thomas J. McFeeley is a Connecticut-based freelance writer. His e-mail is

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