What do you do when they sing “Happy Birthday?”

What do you do when they’re singing happy birthday? What do you do, when you’re opening presents, and it’s one gift card after another, like you asked for, but you still have to act surprised and delighted?

My family insists on having a birthday dinner every year. It’s subdued by the fact that my sister’s birthday is the day before mine, so at our joint celebration dinner the attention is split between us. However, it’s still way more attention than I want.

I really just don’t like my birthday. Why do we have to celebrate being born? I prefer when my friends and I just go out for dinner. At least then we all get something out of it. And they never make the waiters sing for me.

My godson and his two older brothers are my saviors, because it’s always acceptable to leave a dinner early to play with the kids—as long as their parents say it’s okay. They don’t care if it’s your birthday as long as they can plunk along on the piano with you and play superheroes. I love ditching all birthday responsibilities to play with the Barbies my mom digs out of the closet. Kids are easy.

Kids don’t make me feel the need to escape and be alone. I guess it’s because they don’t expect much out of you, but still (unless they’re bratty or too young) treat you like a respectable person. My cousins especially are fun to be with, and they always amaze me with how smart they are for their ages.

I also like them because no one else spends as much time with them at parties as I do. People always eventually get tired of them and want to go back to talking with the grown ups, but I prefer chilling with the kiddies, so eventually I get them all to myself.

What is it about kids, and certain other people, that negates the “I need to be alone” factor for me (and presumably other introverts)? I naturally always like time to myself, but with most people it’s like a countdown timer to “I can’t stand this anymore.” With kids, my boyfriend, my best friend, and my sister, the timer seems to be put on hold. I could hang out with them forever, singularly, without ever feeling the need to run. Perhaps I’ll need to be alone, but I never need to run.

I think it’s acceptance. I know they all accept me for who I am, so I don’t need to hide anything or pretend to be something I’m not. Knowing I can act like myself around them means I don’t have to leave them to act like myself. And that’s really what being alone means for me—being myself.