Bleak Birthdays per Seinfeld

Birthday party

Photo credit: Άbdullah ; unique via / CC BY

It’s been more than 15 years since Seinfeld went off the air, but it’s fun sometimes to revisit gems from this American sitcom’s nine seasons (1989 – 1998).

Recently, I enjoyed a clip in which George Costanza berates Jerry for being too funny. George is certain, by contrast, he’ll fall lower in his date’s estimation. When the woman returns to the dinner table, having left to wish her aunt a happy birthday, Jerry chimes in with quite a dire view of birthdays.

In a bleak voice he characterizes birthdays of a reminder of “how little we’ve grown” and “that for the rest of our sad, wretched pathetic lives, this is who we are to the bitter end.”

It’s true, yes, that many people see their birthdays in this light. Especially, research has shown, around the big-0 birthdays.

But I’m on the side of people such as the 100-year-old I wrote about recently who embraced his birthday on social media.

Big Birthday at 60!

In my researching this blog, I learned that people in China don’t actually pay a lot of attention to their birthdays until they are 60! There are big parties for the person each new decade they reach — getting bigger and more festive every 10 years.

My guess is this is related to the whole population-out-of-control-thing over there; with so many people being born every day, maybe they don’t want to get too caught up in celebrating birthdays until the person has proved they can last. If that’s the case, one would think this tradition will be whittled away with longevity being more expected (noodles served on birthdays or not).

Still, the perspective that 60 is a great age to reach is one I find more and more appealing as I age. In China this is an age to be proud of. Instead of marking wretchedness a la Seinfeld, this is a celebration of all that has been accomplished in the life cycle. Thus, turning 61 marks the start of a new life cycle.

Perhaps this is really the way we should be looking at birthdays universally? If we could see them as each decade as a new cycle’s beginning, we might always be able to look forward instead of getting sidetracked by the thought of how much closer we are getting to the bitter end.







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