A friend recently emailed me to say that her big memory of her stay with us last year is that she had a great birthday, one of the few where she didn't 'act like a spoiled grumpy princess'. She tried to give me all the credit but as I explained to her, it was all down to having a fellow female organising the birthday fun rather than leaving it to her partner.
Her email got me thinking about birthdays and how very different men and women are in their attitudes to celebrating special occasions. It also had me thinking about my birthday two years ago when I threw a major tantrum in the Carrefour car-park after being told that we were off to do the weekly shop, kids in tow, which was simply the final straw at the end of a very uninspiring day. In contrast, my birthday last year was rather lovely (a morning on my own in a spa with no mobile coverage, pure selfish bliss).
This year - in a few short months, eek! - I'll be hitting the grand old age of 38. This will be my last officially-recognised birthday since I plan to never have another one again; obviously this will do nothing to halt the inevitable ticking of time (especially since my passport is always going to reveal the ugly truth, damn it) but it will enable me to attempt to stick my head in the sand and refuse to accept that I'm getting old. And, frankly, what the hell is wrong with that?
Since I'm such a nice, caring and sharing person, here's my list of essential tips for men who wish to avoid seriously pissing off their significant other on their birthday:
1. If she claims she doesn't want any fuss made or that she doesn't want anything special - DO NOT take this at face value. What she actually means is that wants you to prove your worth by organising a stupendous surprise designed to make her feel like a Goddess.
2. Most men are cr*p at buying gifts. If you're rubbish, feel thoroughly ashamed of yourself, then choose from the following: expensive and extremely impractical underwear (make sure you get her size right or questions will be asked); expensive and extremely impractical shoes; jewellery - doesn't have to be real but it does need to be pretty. If you're strapped for cash then burn her a CD of songs that mean something to both of you and present it with a charming explanation.
3. Take her out for dinner somewhere where the food is amazing and the atmosphere even better. Don't talk about work/ golf/ your car/ your mother - tell her she looks beautiful, that she's an amazing person and you're a very lucky man to have her in your life. Then go out and get messy together on complicated cocktails. Dancing optional.
4. Bake her a cake. If you truly don't know how the oven works then buy one, but bear in mind that even a lumpy, flat cake with burnt bits will be appreciated purely because you've taken the trouble to make it.
5. Pay attention, if only for one day of the year, and remember that it's often the little things that really count: you might think that running her a bath with a glass of wine and candles on the side is a bit sissy but she'll love it; breakfast in bed is a nice touch; look after the kids and give her some time on her own (threaten them with dire consequences if they disturb her for any reason short of a life-threatening emergency); fresh cut flowers; the latest copy of her favorite magazine; a loving look in your eyes; kind words.
Women aren't that complicated, really, if you've got a bit of insider knowledge. Make the most of it.