Every party has a pooper: In college, birthdays no longer most important day of everyone’s year

By Helena Hunt, Staff Writer

Sunday was my birthday (and no, despite my manifest vanity, this isn’t a plea for more Facebook well-wishing).

I used to look forward to birthdays, counting down the days and weeks to Sept. 20 — usually starting around July 3 each year. When I had to do 200 math problems for homework in the third grade, I reassured myself that each equation brought me closer to that blessed day.

I could only endure trips to the grocery store with my mom by lingering in the bakery section, flipping eagerly through the laminated book of Sesame Street and Toy Story cakes. I spent the night of every Sept. 19 tossing and turning, imagining the raptures of the day to come.

And then it would come, and I partied hard. I gambled away my life savings at Peter Piper Pizza and definitely drank the Kool-Aid. I surveyed my mountain of presents — the price of party admission in those halcyon days — and opened them one by one, savoring the sweet taste of birthday cake and materialism.

And that was how birthdays are all your life, I imagined. Greasy pizza and all the people you sort of liked gathered in one place to celebrate you and all the joy you bring into the world.

My first birthday in college didn’t exactly match my fantasies of never-ending arcade games. My parents ordered me cupcakes, a few people wished me happy birthday in class and then I went back to my dorm room and watched Netflix.

Since my birthday comes so early in the school year, I didn’t have many friends to celebrate with. No parents can be fun sometimes, but it’s also a cold introduction to a world where the people you live with and see every day don’t necessarily love you more than pretty much everything else. There was no one to throw a party for me or bake a cake or put party favors into little plastic Barbie bags to give to my guests.

This year was better — having friends helps — but it still wasn’t that fantasy birthday, when everyone around you knows it’s your birthday and buys you a thoughtful pop-culture-related present and throws you a surprise party and says you’re the best person ever (I told you I was vain). My friends celebrated, but also had to do homework and were worried about their own lives and couldn’t spend all day fawning on me.

And I should really be all right with that.

At college, you’re not the center of attention (unless you’re Bryce Petty or something, I guess). There aren’t people who are here just to take care of you, to make sure you’re happy and well-adjusted and entertained at all times. You’re responsible for making sure those things happen on your own.

And yes, as you can tell, I very much like being the center of attention. But whether it’s birthdays or cooking or getting ourselves to class, we all have to pull ourselves up by the bootstraps a little bit. Life—even my life — isn’t always Peter Piper Pizza parties and gangs of children forced to give me birthday presents. It is, however, a time to make friends with people who will go to Austin with you at midnight on your birthday and pay to sleep on the floor at your feet. Those people may not worship you, but they will tell you they love you.

But then your parents will call you, and you’ll feel like the center of attention once again.

Helena Hunt is senior University Scholar major from Sonoita, Ariz. She is a staff writer for the Lariat.