Marvellaland

Essays on memoir, music, and more from Beatrice M. Hogg

Gypped

Beatrice&Tree

At Christmastime, almost everyone is preoccupied with holiday gifts. Beginning even before Thanksgiving, newspaper and television ads are devoted to finding that perfect present. But in spite of all of this “gifting,” those of us born between the middle of December and the first week of January usually get gypped.

With all of the emphasis on Christmas gifts, holiday birthday celebrants often get shortchanged. It is worse when you are a child, as Christmas and birthdays are the main times that you get gifts and spend quality time with friends and family members. Kids with summer birthdays may get a birthday picnic or pool party. But for those of us with Yuletide birthdays, our party may be combined with a Christmas party and our presents are encased in Christmas wrapping paper. That is if we even get a birthday present. Many times, we get one gift that is for both Christmas and our birthday. But this compound gift is rarely the equivalent of two separate gifts.

It’s just not fair. Even if I weren’t overly materialistic, I would still rant about this injustice. It’s not our fault that our parents were frisky and fertile in March or April. We didn’t pick our holiday birthdays, so why do we get overlooked and undergifted?

I was born on January 4, ten days after Christmas. As a child, I got gypped in several ways. Many times, my birthday fell on the day that I returned to school after Christmas vacation. So of course, no one at school remembered that it was my birthday. The teacher hadn’t even put up the new year’s calendar yet, so my birthday wasn’t even designated with a star by its date. Also, I usually didn’t get any presents. I grew up in a Pennsylvania working-class coal-mining town. The refrain I got was, “I’m still broke. Your birthday is too close to Christmas.” As a child, I didn’t realize that most working grown-ups probably hadn’t even completed a post-Christmas pay period yet. Worse of all, it usually snowed on my birthday, not enough for a snow day off from school, but enough to ruin any birthday plans.

As an adult, I have tried to be more grown-up about this holiday birthday situation, but to no avail. Just as Christmas turns adults into wide-eyed children, getting gypped on my birthday turns me into a spoiled little brat. I love to get presents ― the bigger and more personal the better. The sight of a mound of boxes and cards all with my name on them is my idea of nirvana. In fact, the idea of two sets of presents is the only good reason that I can think of to get married. But since I have no husband, lover, or child, and nor am I a boss, Christmas and my birthday are the only opportunities that I have to satisfy my need for greed, I lament in my finest whine.

But I am not alone. For years, I have been querying friends, acquaintances and clients on this subject. Almost everyone who was born between December 15 and January 10 has a story to tell. And they ain’t pretty. They all remember getting upstaged by Santa Claus, Rudolph, and Ebenezer Scrooge. Bah, humbug!

So this year, create a happy ending for the holiday birthday boy or girl in your midst. Be generous. Buy that nice birthday wrapping paper, even if it isn’t on sale like the holiday paper is. Do not put a red or green bow on the box though, because we know where those come from. Most importantly, do not regift. We want our own personalized, well thought out present, not some gift that you didn’t like from the office gift exchange or from some hated relative. And last, but not least, do not forget us! Amid all of the holiday hubbub, please remember that it is our birthday, our special day, and treat it as such. Don’t gyp us any more.

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5 thoughts on “Gypped

  1. Well put. My wife’s birthday is January 3rd; I’ll have to share this with her–I bet she could relate. I’ve tried my best to make her birthday a special day and separate from Christmas, with varying degrees of success over the years I’ve known her.

    • My late cousin Richard’s birthday was January 3. Please share the piece with your wife and wish her a Happy Birthday! I’m sure she appreciates your efforts to make her day special. Thank you for reading!

  2. http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=gypped
    be careful with some words…and remember to ask for what you want. Many of us have needs that are not met until we ask or remind people. Best wishes.

    • Sorry, never thought of the word as an ethnic slur – it was just what we used to say in my Western Pennsylvania hometown. Did not mean to offend anyone. Not changing the title, though, but thanks for the information.

  3. PS. my mom’s birthday was the 8th so we always celebrated three weeks in a row, just to make sure she felt special. I still do an homage to her each year.

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