The Ten Commandments of Birthdays

The Ten Commandments of Birthdays

I turn 44 next week. I'm not going to raise a fuss, or be embarrassed by my advanced age. If anything, I see it as evidence that I'm doing everything right. It also gives me some insight to the proper way that birthdays should be celebrated. So here are my Ten Commandments of Birthdays.

1) Thou shalt not be an old poop and refuse to acknowledge thy birthday. Everyone has one, so it's no use pretending you don't. You're already getting older, and ignoring your birthday won't make that stop. Also, you may say you don't want to draw attention to yourself, but then go through the year shrieking, "I DON'T WANT TO CELEBRATE MY BIRTHDAY! I DON'T WANT TO CELEBRATE MY BIRTHDAY!" Please know that this attracts way more attention than sucking it up and smiling and thanking people for one day a year.

2) Thou shalt be happy about surprise parties held in thy honor. In addition to not being an old poop about your birthday, you also can't whine about surprise parties people throw. They're doing it out of love. To grumble and say you hate surprise parties is your way of saying, "I don't really appreciate you people, or the fact that you think highly of me." It's ungracious and makes you look like a baby.

3) Thou shalt get a real birthday cake. This is your special day. You only get one of these per year, and you need to celebrate it in real style. Don't weenie out and stick to your diet. One piece of regular cake won't kill you.

4) Thou shalt covet real presents, not things thou needeth, especially for work. I've known self-employed freelancers who got writing software, construction workers who got tools, and home makers who got cleaning equipment — all stuff they asked for. Ask for something that you would never buy for yourself, but you've secretly wanted, not toiletries and socks.

5) Thou shalt not buy presents for kids who do not have birthdays. If you're celebrating a son or daughter's birthday, don't get a present for a sibling just so they don't feel left out. No kid really wants to share their birthday with anyone else. For one whole day, they get to be the center of attention, and they don't want their spoiled sibling stealing the spotlight. I have never met an adult who didn't resent sharing their childhood birthdays with another kid who whined just because he wasn't getting any presents.

6) Thou may choose thine own birthday cake flavor. It doesn't matter if no one else likes, say, cherry chip cake. The birthday holder's choice trumps all, and everyone else has to deal. No one else gets to whine and complain that they don't like that. Otherwise, the birthday holder is free to whine and complain about that person's choice. However, the birthday holder shalt not be a royal pain and choose something they know everyone will hate.

7) Thou shalt show appreciation for all gifts. Whether it's something you already have, didn't want, or don't know where you'll ever use it, you will show graciousness and gratitude for everything you receive. Whether it's a pair of socks or a magazine subscription to a hobby you haven't had since you were 12, you will smile, thank the giver, and return the thing later when everyone has gone home.

8) Thou may bear false witness about thine age once thou art over 60. Everyone reaches a point in their life where they're free to lie about their age, and 60 is as good a number as any. If you look younger than 50, then you can lie and say you're that age. If you look older than 60, lie and say you're the age you look, so no one looks shocked and says, "jeez, you look like hell."

9) Thou shalt not lump birthdays and major holidays together. Anyone who has had the misfortune of being born in November through January quickly learns to identify the cheapskates in their family. They're the people who give one present that's supposed to cover both a birthday and Christmas. Winter birthday kids always miss out on half the loot that the summer birthday kids get, and it really bothers them to have to share a birthday with Jesus, even if his is 30 days later.

10) Thou art entitled to making a big deal out of thy birthday. Never feel like you're bragging by telling people it's your birthday. It's the best day of the year, and should be a national holiday. Everyone has one, so this isn't something that some people get while the less-fortunate don't. Be proud, and tell people, "hey, it's my birthday today."

We all have a limited number of birthdays, and a limited number of times to feel like the coolest kid in the city. Enjoy your birthday and celebrate the specialness of the day. I know I will.

I've registered on, and my favorite color is blue.

My book, Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), is available on, as well as at Barnes & Noble and Borders bookstores. I wrote it with my good friend, Kyle Lacy.

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