This post got me thinking:
"Birthdays are strange. I don't get it. You have done nothing special. It’s really just another day. All it is, really, is the anniversary of the day you were woken up and forcibly removed from a place where you were napping. Big deal. That happens to me all the time when I try to get some shut-eye at the public library. But do you see anybody baking me a cake for that? No, you do not."
The importance of "milestone birthdays" does change over time.
5 is the first Big Birthday. You start school. The beginning of socialisation and the beginning-of-the-end of your parent's monopoly on your development.
[Actually, twoish is the first really big milestone because that's when you have to start wiping your own ass. But that's really only a big deal for the parents, so I don't include it here. Plus, it comes around to bite your children again when you hit seventy or so. So be nice to your kids!]
10 is cool. It's the birthday where you hit double digits. Makes you feel "old". Which is cool when you are a kid.
At 13 you become a Teenager! Huge! Puberty, cursing, hiding shit from your parents, incoherent hormonal rages, experimentation with dangerous choices. Life becomes emotional and complicated.
14 and 15 are critical. So many choices get get made. This is really when you decide what direction your life will take. It's also the age when you are less likely to listen to you parents and more likely to listen to your friends.
At 16 you GET TO DRIVE A CAR!!! A quarter ton of hurtling metal and glass traveling at 70 mph is under your control. Now all of the choices you made between 13 and 16 become magnified by a factor of 100. Good choices become better. Bad choices become worse. Life or death. This year scares the hell out of me.
17 is the year from Hell. It just sits there between 16 and 18, taking up time. NOTHING HAPPENS. It is an ETERNITY! It's the worst, most frustrating year of a teenager's life. I wouldn't be 17 again for all the money and power in the world.
At 18 all kinds of things happen, depending on what state you live in. You go from high school to college. You might be legally considered "an adult" (a dubious and overrated distinction...one that should in no way be tied to age). You might be able to drink. You can enlist in the armed forces, fight and die for your country, even though you may not be able to vote for who is sending you there. What's wrong with THAT picture?
All of the advantages of being over 18 pretty much hold you over and keep you happy until you hit The Big One. 21. At long last! Every last privilege of life, citizenship and adulthood is yours. Just because you had a birthday. Doesn't matter how educated or mature you are. You are an American Adult with all of the Rights and Priveledges Thereof.
After that it's 29 years of absolutely meaningless, uneventful, unrewarding, mildly depressing birthdays that sneak up on you without any warning.
Then you hit 50.
You will get an invitation to join the AARP. Makes you feel "old". Which is not nearly as cool as it was when you turned 10.
The very day that paper-spam hits your mailbox, you will start having aches and pains in places you didn't know existed. You'll start worrying about your cholesterol and your blood pressure.
You will start scheduling "procedures" and "tests". You will start "tracking" things.
You will slowly but surely start eliminating, one-by-one, every "vice" that you ever considered to be an essential reason for living.
Biscuits and Gravy.
Baked potatos smothered in butter, shredded cheese and sour cream.
BREAD! Lots and lots of soft, hot, buttery BREAD!
BATTERED, BREADED AND DEEP-FRIED EVERYTHING!
Give it all up.
Start getting free blood pressure readings at Walmart.
Start getting old.