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The Birthday Blues

Guest Column
Jeff Roberts

While I write this, it is February 28, 1999. Yesterday our nation’s First Daughter, Chelsea Clinton, celebrated her 19th birthday. So did I. Okay, I don’t know if “celebrate” is the proper term in my case. Chelsea and her family went on a ski vacation to Utah, shacking in the house of affluent Hollywood executive Jeffrey Katzenberg. I stayed at MIT’s own Baker House, drinking Moxie and eating rapidly melting ice cream cake. The only trip I took was a journey on the Blue Line to look at some desolate marshlands near Suffolk Downs, just to feel like I was taking some sort of vacation of my own. Of course, I had to think smaller in scale. She’s staying there all weekend until Tuesday. I have problem sets to do, and classes on Monday. So a few hours of celebration is all I get.

This Chelsea thing has been getting on my nerves for the past six years. It reached its climax last year when we turned eighteen. I was sitting on my couch watching the NBC Nightly News after another thrilling day at school, and right at the end came the hard-hitting news that Chelsea decided to skip school to spend the day in New York City to party all night at some swanky night club. I guess one thing that bugged me was that she was in college and I was still in high school. Her birthday was announced on national news, and my moment of fame was when the morning announcements ended “and if you see Jeff Roberts today, make sure you wish him a happy birthday.” I still think it would have been great if NBC reported “Chelsea took the opportunity of her adulthood to purchase cigars and pornographic videos” which, in the minimetropolis of Pittsfield, was the only thrill in becoming an adult.

How important are birthdays, anyway? I guess it depends on how important you are. I mean, for months leading up to Jesus Christ’s birthday, everyone goes nuts! Okay, maybe that’s a bad example. Let’s think of something a little closer to home. People used to think that President Washington and President Lincoln were both so important that on their birthdays everyone should get a day off fromwork. Later people decided that we should just get one day off to celebrate both of their birthdays (which also both just happened to be in the month of February). Did their individual importances just get cut in half? And it gets worse; now we celebrate the birthdays of all of our Presidents on that same day. So I have to celebrate Bill Clinton’s birthday in addition to Chelsea’s. Both in the same month, too.

This brings up another interesting point. How important can birthdays really be if so many people share them? It’s likely that at least one person reading this has the same birthday as Chelsea and I, so why is our birthday so special if that guy (or gal) has it too?

I guess I’m implying that something which is shared can’t be special to any one particular person. That, of course, isn’t true. Love is the best example. I guess sharing isn’t so bad, anyway. I mean, when my friends and family wish me a happy birthday, they don’t list Chelsea and all the other people born that day as well. Just me. It lets me know that people care. And if Chelsea gets to go out and have all the fun that she can, when you get right down to it, she can’t get any more out of it than a feeling that people care. So her birthday really isn’t any better than mine. Well, there is the skiing, of course. I wish I were skiing. I’ll be bitter at her about that. But I’m allowed to be bitter on my birthday.

Sorry, Chelsea. Nothing personal.