• Choosing to spend Christmas Day alone can feel like a rebellious act - especially when it's your birthday. (Getty Images)
Who are you spending your birthday with, my friends ask? I tell them it'll just be me, myself and I.
By
Ryan Bautista

16 Dec 2019 - 10:26 AM  UPDATED 16 Dec 2019 - 10:45 AM

“What a rebel.”

That’s what my peers told high school me whenever I went out on my own. At the time though, I didn’t understand why being a rebel was linked to going on solo adventures.

Right until I turned twenty-one in 2016 on Christmas Day. They say that sharing the same birthday as Jesus sucks, but on my 21st birthday I made sure it sucked a little less. To celebrate, I went on a hike. Just me and me only.

That year was known as the year of “realising things”. That’s when it hit me: why didn’t I do this earlier?

In grade two I did a presentation on how I celebrated my seventh birthday. The point was to show that everyone celebrated their birthdays differently. I held a piece of A4 cardboard with balloons and stars drawn in, and a photo that fully encapsulated that day: the obligatory photo of me blowing candles on a cake, with my family, family friends and my best friend from primary school surrounding me.

A standard birthday, yes, but as I got older it was no longer the standard. My parents stopped throwing parties. Instead, whenever a family friend announced they were having a Christmas party, we showed up.

I didn’t get much birthday love at these dinners, and I didn’t get many presents coming my way either. My dad took me aside and stressed the fact Christmas isn’t about me, it’s about togetherness.

I didn’t get much birthday love at these dinners, and I didn’t get many presents coming my way either. My dad took me aside and stressed the fact Christmas isn’t about me, it’s about togetherness.

Indeed, Christmas does bring families together, but we found solace in our little groups. One Subtle Asian Traits user shared a meme originally posted on the You Know You’re Filipino If??? Facebook group. The meme suggests it’s a subtle Filipino trait for women to gossip among each other while men drink and banter. To that I would add, both women and men bonded over karaoke and watching TFC (The Filipino Channel). As for the tweens and teens? They chill in the living room and bedroom. 

When I turned 21 it dawned on me that I needed to stop whinging and do something about it. The hike doubled as what The Cut calls a “personal annual review”, “a moment to consider whether you’re satisfied with your life, or whether you feel there’s something lacking”.

When I turned 21 it dawned on me that I needed to stop whinging and do something about it.

Spending my day looking inward is why I prefer to celebrate solo. However, my friends try to budge.

“What are you doing on your birthday?” they ask.

I reveal my plan for the day.

“Who with? By yourself?”

I tell them it’s me, myself and I.

“Aw, can I come?”

I didn’t want their pity.

Matt Ortile, writing for BuzzFeed at the time, reflected on what he learnt from spending his 24th by himself. A September baby, he writes, “There’s something taboo about being alone on your birthday, much like New Year’s Eve. A day that’s meant to celebrate new beginnings, it seems, must be spent in the company of others doing the same.”

Since my birthday falls on a famous public holiday, there’s this notion that having no one to celebrate with equals staying at home. “Everything is closed on December 25th,” they say. That doesn’t faze me. Regardless if you’re a holiday baby or not, you still get the luxury of doing whatever you want (even if that is being a homebody).

Since my birthday falls on a famous public holiday, there’s this notion that having no one to celebrate with equals staying at home.

In February this year, Harry Styles spent his 25th birthday by himself in Tokyo. “I had a very [Haruki] Murakami birthday because I ended up staying in Tokyo on my own,” Styles tells Rolling Stone. “I had grilled fish and miso soup for breakfast, then I went to this café. I sat and drank tea and read for five hours.”

Meanwhile, on December 25th, 2017, I paid a visit to the zoo. I stood out among the sea of tourists and families. I showed up solo, for one. Still, I was an outlier for another reason: I had a badge pinned on my jumper. “It’s my birthday too!” it read, in all capital letters.

As I made my way through the zoo, I wore another badge with pride.

The rebel one.

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