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Kirby: Making the most of milestone birthdays

By Robert Kirby

Tribune columnist

First Published May 19 2014 02:23 pm • Last Updated May 19 2014 10:14 pm

Monday was my wife’s birthday. I’m not exactly certain of her age. In the interest of not saying something stupid, I never try to figure it out. It’s too dangerous.

My wife said to treat Monday like just another day. It was a lie, of course. Every birthday means something to a woman, especially if she’s within 100 yards of a scale or a mirror.

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General female birthday statement: "I can’t believe that I’m 29 now. I’m a hag!"

General male birthday statement: "I can’t believe I ate an entire cake."

My wife is able to see things in her face that I don’t see because I’m a guy and automatically no more observant or feeling than a stump.

I made a giant mistake when my wife turned XX. It was supposed to be a happy day. I bought her something expensive. I even vacuumed a little. Instead she was subdued. When I asked why, she pointed at her face.

Her: "Just look at this line."

Me: "Haven’t you always had that?"

I survived the incident somehow and have been more considerate since. Even relative simpletons have a survival instinct.

The truth is that I’ve always considered my wife beautiful. Always. This includes during the delivery of three babies and a prolonged, hair-robbing battle with cancer.


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But I have a Y chromosome and therefore can’t be entirely believed when assessing a woman’s looks. When it comes to that, all men are deemed to be either lechers or leavers.

The effect birthdays have on a person depends largely on individual personalities. Some of my friends despaired at turning the Big 50. They received condolence cards, bouquets of black balloons and pitying remarks.

For me, 50 felt like 24 hours older than 49 years and 364 days. I didn’t suddenly get uglier, slower or more delusional. I was already like that.

I’ve only ever paid attention to four birthdays. They meant something because each of them represented a major milestone in my life.

Sixteen — because I could drive. I had already passed drivers ed. Now I was legal. Nobody could stop me — except for my parents, the police and court.

Eighteen was an important age for me. I was old enough then to vote. Eighteen meant I was entitled to help direct America’s future. I didn’t care about that. The country could elect presidents without any help from just one more moron.

What America couldn’t do was fight a war without me. Vietnam was still on the front burner when I turned 18. Voting was entirely voluntary but the Army was not. I immediately got a letter that said so.

I looked forward to turning 21. It meant that I was old enough to legally get drunk. Thanks to the Army, I already had a lot of practice. What I didn’t have at 21 was the right environment.

I turned 21 on an LDS mission in South America. My entire journal entry for that day reads, "Two years in a row I’ve stayed sober on my birthday."

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