Military Keep Mum on Birthdays

 I know little about military culture, so I was interested to read recently a We Are the Mighty blog offering several reasons troops don’t tell others its their birthday. The reasons definitely reinforce my idea that being part of a military unit can be a lot like having several unruly siblings.

The first reason to avoid sharing your special day? “Your gift is embarrassment.” U.S. Army veteran Eric Milzarski, who was deployed to Kandahar, Afghanistan with the 101st Airborne Division as a radio operator, tells us that the company might sing to you but only with the intention of making you feel awkward and embarrassed.

Second, the surprise party in the training room is highly unlikely. Instead military personnel will be expected to do push-ups for every year they’ve lived.

While, this might ruin many civilians for the rest of their birthdays, the veteran author tells us “It’s in good fun though and they’re almost always done with a grin.” Even when extras are added on: “One more for the unit! One more for the First Sergeant!”

Ultimately, things need to keep on keeping on. So amidst the pranks and awkwardness, the attitude is primarily: “Cool. You’re older. Now get back to work.”

Reactions to Singing the Birthday Song

Birthday song

Photo credit: mag3737 via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

What do you do when someone sings you the “Happy Birthday” song?

The last time I heard it directed at me, I danced and sang along. But, I am seldom afraid to make a fool of myself if it earns laughs, and I love being celebrated on my birthday.

Recently, though, I was part of a group of women singing out loud to a friend. She had told us in advance that this group meeting would coincide with her birthday. She had reminded us the week of when we were planning the buffet contributions. She had welcomed the cake bought in her honor. Yet, when the singing started, she became completely embarrassed. Head in her heads, she tried to make herself small, as we sang around her. Please note: this was not in public and we weren’t that off key!

She said, blushingly after, she didn’t know what do when people sang to her. Other women suggested singing along. Sometimes you’ll see a person fixate on the cake as if she could cut it with the force of her stare. But, what do you do? What’s your reaction to the attention? Is it different if you’re home, among family and friends, or out in a public space celebrating?

The question intrigues me because I’ve recently encountered a psychological study on birthdays that talked about narcissists and their birthdays. This article made me question my own mental health a little — is my love for birthdays a sign that I have a narcissistic personality disorder? Here I am, after all, sharing my thoughts about birthdays with the world via this blog as if my ideas matter…

Oh well, in the meantime, I will continue to comfort myself with the knowledge that I love not only my birthday but those of others too. I enjoy the opportunity to share the joy of birthdays with my friends, family members and co-workers and doing what I can to make them feel special. Yes, even if that means singing while they hide behind their hands in embarrassment!