Wednesday, September 30, 2009
No Happy Birthday Pony.....Again
Tuesday was my birthday and I turned the ripe old age of 47. It was the usual kind of birthday with the cards, phone calls, emails and such from friends and family, along with some presents, and a birthday dinner with waiters loudly singing happy birthday off-key as they waited for me to blow out the solitary candle on my free birthday ice cream dessert. And despite the lack of a pinata, a clown, or a pony, or any identifiable theme for that matter, a fine time was had by all.
(My dream of having a birthday party theme based on existentialist philosophers, replete with paper cups and dishes with the faces of Kierkegaard, Heidegger and Sartre, will have to wait another year.)
I know that I'm not a child anymore, but who says that adults shouldn't want to go to Chuck E. Cheese and play in bounce houses and swing bats at candy-filled paper Barney the Dinosaur? I want a shot at him, please! I want to play in the bounce house (and yes, it is insured - I checked.) I want my birthdays to be every bit as entertaining as those from my childhood, however, I will skip the pony rides as that would amount to blatant animal cruelty. Just because we have grey hair it doesn't mean we don't have tiny 8-year olds inside of us who want to yell, whoop and scream. (I named mine Jeremy Sneed, but I digress.)
I'm at the age where I'm too old for pin-the-tail on the democrat but too young for a shout out by Willard Scott or a "personal" birthday greeting from the president, and it bums me out. I believe that as we get older and our bodies adapt to the latest installment of decrepitude that we should find a way to celebrate it and not wait until we've taken leave of our senses for it to be appreciated. I, for one, do not wish to have my drooling and disoriented photo flashed before millions of the TV audience to see when I hit the century mark:
"This is Tom's 100th birthday today," Willard would say. "His nurses say that Tom enjoys tapioca pudding and likes to make up new, nonsensical words and shout them at inappropriate times. Well Tom, here at Good Morning America we all want to wish you a wonderful birthday today. Oh, and by the way, GRULPKA to you too!"
I know I will no doubt find allies within the AARP community when I say that just because we are old, that it doesn't mean that we don't like to party. We just need new and updated birthday games that pay tribute to our generous longevity. Okay, bobbing for apples at the old folks home was a bad idea. No one wants to look into a bucket of water and see a bunch of apples floating in it with other people's dentures embedded in them. Clearly something must be changed.
Drawn from personal experience, I have the following recommendations:
1. Tell Me What Hurts: Contestants have 60 seconds to tell you as many of their aches and pains as they can before the buzzer goes off.
2. Name That Muzak Tune: Contestants compete to see how many Muzak tunes they can identify.
3. Where The Hell Is My Car?: Contestants are driven to a large shopping mall and escorted inside. Then they are left in the middle of the mall with instructions to return to their car. The contestant that finds their car first (or comes closest to finding it) wins.
4. Pin-The-Appointment-Reminder to the Calendar: Contestants are given appointment reminder cards from their doctors and must pin them onto the corresponding date of the calendar without the aid of their glasses. Contestant with most correct or closest cards wins a years supply of orthopedic sandals with black socks.
5. A Prune-Juice Chugging Contest! Winner gets a years supply of adult diapers or a case of replacement pads for the Swiffer Wet-Jet Powermop.
6. Hide And Go To Sleep: A variation on the children's Hide and Go Seek, but in this version the person that is IT has to successfully find and wake up all the game contestants.
7. Non-Musical Recliners: A variation of the standard Musical Chairs but using recliners and yelling "SIT DOWN!" in contestant's good ear instead of playing music.
These are just a few suggestions. The point is that older people, though somewhat burdened with some physical and mental limitations, can still enjoy themselves as they once did in childhood, only with games that are less physically challenging considering their health conditions. Birthdays are, after all, for cheering on our friends and family on their special day and for making them feel triumphant for reaching this plateau of life.
All of us want to feel like a champion at some point in their lives. When you are old, it doesn't really matter why you are champion, just as long as you are are recognized as one and cheered for your accomplishment.
Think about this, you children or grandchildren of geezers. You want to make someone feel good? You want to make someone smile and feel proud to be who they are? Then structure a game that you know they will win.
Hold a contest to see who has the most or the longest ear hair. Hold a fashion show and award the dude who wears his pants the highest. If your gross Uncle Waldo is celebrating his birthday, then reward him for his stunning collection of belly button lint. Just be mindful to be positive and encouraging and not to make him or her feel like a freak. For instance, I'm sure your Aunt Martha doesn't want everyone to know she has the longest chin whiskers, so find a different avenue to follow.
Birthdays can be joyous occasions that bring families and friends together with a common goal of celebrating the life of one of their own. Games are one great way to get everyone involved and raise the spirits and morale of all the party goers. And even though children have enjoyed the attention of us adults for many years as we sat back and observed the fun, I think it's fair that we aging adolescents take back some of the party enjoyment for ourselves. After all, it's never too late to be a kid.
And by the way, me first!