Thursday, 2 December 2010

When is an anniversary just an irritation?

Happy Birthday, Grumpy Young Women! As one of the resident grumps I’m impressed but not surprised that we’ve managed an entire year recording our rattiness, while slowly but surely putting the world to rights. All that self congratulation aside, I can’t help but wonder whether this should be celebrated as a birthday or actually as an anniversary. And if the latter is the case I suspect we might we heading toward one of my real pet hates: the celebration of anniversaries that aren’t really anniversaries.

Before I really get going I would just like to state for the record: I’m not exactly a fan of birthdays either. They’re a bit like the Devil’s heroin luring you in with those addictive early hits packed with sugary cake and the heady pleasure of being a year older and therefore able to do more. But before you know it, it’s stopped being fun and you’re locked into a totally toxic relationship with this one day of the year which taunts you for months beforehand and then causes you to act like a borderline psychotic, culminating in a week-long hangover/shame cycle. Or maybe that’s just me.

Still, however bonechillingly dreadful the birthday is, at least there is no ambiguity about it. The date is there, in black and white on your driving licence and in your diary circled in furious red pen with ‘AGGHHHHH’ scrawled across the page. It could be worse, though: unless you’re a reigning monarch, there is no possibility whatsoever of going through that merry hell more than once each calendar year.

Then there are anniversaries, and even though it’s none of my business, and even though technically it does affect me, I’m so often intensely irritated by how other people choose to celebrate them sorry, not people, couples and how they choose to mark the ‘birthday of the relationship’. I can already feel a shudder coming on.

In my rather disapproving mind, you are you are only permitted to celebrate your wedding anniversary and that is it. At this point, I expect many of you to heartily disagree to the point of removing a shoe and hurling at your computer screen. Hold fire for a just a second. If you still disagree after hearing my reasons, please feel free to leave a comment.

My problem starts with the date itself. What is it actually anniversary of? The first time you met? Romantic in a way but also a bit creepy. I imagine on these celebratory evenings the lucky twosome play vomit-inducing music like Savage Garden’s I Loved You Before I Met You and other cringy numbers from their Top Ten Tunes for Stalkers CD.

So, how about a first date? A bit more sensible but sadly we’re not Americans and the majority of Brits didn’t have an official first date with their significant others until they’d already exchanged saliva along with a string of donor kebab meat on the walk home from some salubrious nightspot.

So that conveniently brings me to the first kiss. Again, in theory a reasonable idea if you were lucky enough to have your first kiss in a Hollywood movie. Personally I can think of nothing less romantic than an annual reminder of misread signals, jerky head movements and the taste of someone else’s beer breath mixed with nerves. Yuck. And just when you thought it couldn’t get any classier, there’s always the possibility of celebrating the consummation of your relationship. Best of luck telling your mum that your wonderful partner is taking you away for the weekend to commemorate the fact however many years ago he, or she, got to shag you.

A more sensible solution lies in celebrating the date when you ‘got serious’. But that all so wishy-washy, so unspecific. At least there's no ambiguity with a wedding day. It is the ultimate act of getting serious with someone, requires no awkward explanation and even has the added benefit of coming with its own annual gift guide.

I accept that people do celebrate other ‘unofficial’ anniversaries as the general trend is to marry later or possibly even not at all. And I do understand that couples wish to honour the period of time they have spent together in a committed relationship. It is an impressive achievement.

For those of you determined to never walk down the aisle, I can begrudgingly accept it. However, what happens when a couple does marry after many years together? Cast aside the original anniversary? Or go through the whole rigmarole twice a year? By the time you’ve also added in Christmas, New Year, Valentine's Day, two lots of birthdays, the year quickly becomes a bonkers merry-go-round of cards, naff novelty gifts and so-called special occasions on which you feel compelled to have an amazingly extra special, totally exhausting great time. Read more by Rosie.