– Freeman Dyson
The phone call comes, as it often does, from the wife or girlfriend of a guy you know.
It goes like this: “Bob is turning (40, 50, 60) in a couple of weeks and we’re having a surprise party. You have to wear black and …”
“No thanks,” I interrupt.
Then she will say, “But it’s his birthday and this one is special. You see, he turns (40, 50, 60).”
“Yeah, I got that part. But no, I won’t be there.”
“I don’t understand,” she will say, usually with some exasperation. “None of you guys want to come. It would mean so much to him.”
“No, it won’t,” we/me answer. “It would mean a lot to you. But take it from me, as a lifetime member of the Guy Club for Men, most of us would rather clean a bathroom than go to a birthday party, and we hate cleaning bathrooms.”
And so it goes.
Many things divide the genders and cake-and-candle-day is one of them.
Most are almost comically secretive about their ages. If a store cashier asks to see ID, many a madam will tear up the check and pay with plastic to avoid revealing a birth date.
I used to think it was to hide their weight, until it dawned on me there are no scales in the drivers license office, and women lie about their weight the way men lie about their height.
On the other hand, women love birthday parties. Forget one and you are in trouble.
A very nice ($$) gift is expected.
Dinner? Of course.
A party? (“You’re my hero.”)
A woman’s birthday cake will feature only a few token candles and her age – which is the reason you celebrate any birthday – is rarely mentioned.
Men are different.
They go through life bragging about their advancing years. It is a measure of senior status.
Men love to ask much younger women, “Guess how old I am?”
They enjoy this game, because they can’t lose.
If you guess older, you’ve given them lifetime achievement points. If you guess younger, you’ve suggested one looks pretty good for his age.
Have you ever heard a woman ask you to guess her age?
I don’t think so.
On the other hand, men hate birthday parties.
The cake is not only too sweet and confectionery, but nobody wants to eat something that some guy has just been puffing over trying to get all (40, 50 or 60) candles to go out.
The small-talk is awkward. And you can always think of a dozen other things you’d rather be doing at a dozen other places you’d rather be.
Bottom line? Men love birthdays. Women love parties. Neither loves both.