Saturday 24 August 2019

Leslie Ann Horgan: 'Back off Lena - birthdays are not something to be leaned into'

Lena Dunham poses with Brad Pitt on her birthday
Lena Dunham poses with Brad Pitt on her birthday
Leslie Ann Horgan

Leslie Ann Horgan

Even as an adult, you get the feeling. From the instant you wake up, there's an internal fizzing of nerves that tells you this day is something special. There may be some cards on the mat in the hall, or perhaps you have children to haphazardly make you breakfast in bed. There may be a dinner or night out or weekend away planned. Friends or family may be popping in to raise a glass. There may be a pile of gifts. There should at least be a cake with candles.

Yes, it's your birthday. Your special day. That annual occasion that is all about you. A day so good that Alice's Mad Hatter marked his 'unbirthday' so he could celebrate 364 days a year instead of just once.

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May is a busy time for birthdays in Celebland. This week alone saw Cate Blanchett, Robert Pattinson, George Lucas, Stevie Wonder, Sofia Coppola and Harvey Keitel turn a year older. There were plenty of Irish stars born this week too: Gabriel Byrne turned 69, Andrea Corr 45, Pierce Brosnan 66 and Downton's Allen Leech 38.

Elsewhere, Jordan Knight and Danny Wood of New Kids On The Block turned 49 and 50 respectively, making the rest of us feel ancient. And Game Of Thrones actor Iwan Rheon's big day was on Monday - my, what a fitting present crazed queen Daenerys provided for Ramsay Bolton.

Lena Dunham is also among the May babies - the actor and writer turned 33 on May 13. An Instagram post to mark the occasion showed her hanging out with friends, speaking into a microphone in a sunny garden, getting a hug and a bunch of flowers, and cuddled up with Brad Pitt. All in all, that seems like a pretty good birthday. Even without the flowers or friends or sunshine or, well, anything else - the woman got to cuddle Brad Pitt.

Underneath the photos, Dunham added a lengthy caption. "For someone who loves attention and presents, I've sure cancelled a lotta bday parties at the last minute," she wrote before apologising to the friend who had hired a "crafting teacher" last year and another who "was ready to DJ" in 2011. "I used to think there was something a bit unseemly about an adult leaning into their birthday until I realised I was actually just jealous of the confidence and self-love it takes to say, 'it's my day people!'. I often felt I was making up for some original sin and that the nicest thing I could do on my birthday was make myself as unobtrusive as possible…"

Dunham went on to explain that, this year, she marked her birthday by hosting a fundraiser for a home for women recovering from drug and alcohol abuse. She finished the post by encouraging friends to donate to the home in lieu of giving her presents.

With respect to Lena's charitable endeavours, and at the risk of bringing the wrath of the internet upon myself for an insensitive stance - what a load of crap.

Birthdays are not something that need to be leaned into. Yes, we all know people who prefer not to make a fuss, but that doesn't mean they feel some sort of guilt for having a birthday in the first place. Take it from us Irish, who know a thing or two about original sin, Lena - this is the one day a year you are allowed show an interest in yourself without being accused of having notions.

It doesn't take confidence to celebrate the passing of time either - it just takes some considerate colleagues, friends or family members. And buying yourself a nice brekkie on the way to the office or pressing 'checkout' on whatever you've been looking for an excuse to purchase online just because it's your birthday didn't need to be termed 'self love' for it to be allowed. As for asking for charitable gifts, that's all well and good during the Christmas season of excess or if you're Mother Teresa, but the rest of like to get a nice candle and a shiny new notebook once a year without having to feel that we've sinned.

So back off Lena, and leave birthdays alone. They don't need to be therapised or to be woke or reclaimed. They need to be sacred and safe from guilt or judgement. They need to be left up to the individual, be they the kind to throw a three-day birthday festival or the kind who never mention it's their special day. By the way Brad, my birthday is December 15, just in case you're wondering when to deliver my cuddle.

Irish Independent

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