How To Not Freak Out About Your (Still Single) Birthday


Have you ever had a bad birthday?

I have found that birthdays are among those milestones that drive us singles to drive ourselves crazy. (Others include New Year’s Eve, Valentine’s Day and every social function that requires a date.)

We tend to see them as barometers of how we’re doing.  (“I don’t have a spouse and kids to celebrate with, so if it isn’t a super-fun day, it somehow means I’m pathetic.”)  Hence, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves and everyone around us – which generally leads to less fun, not more.

I recently had a birthday fall on a day that didn’t, overall, turn out to be a particularly good day.

It looked promising.

My family was planning to celebrate it with me with not one but two dinners. The kids were excited (mostly about the cake). I’m actually going to an office every day now, so I had the opportunity to be around people I like all day instead of spending my workday at home like I used to. And it wasn’t a big birthday, so the new, slightly-higher age number was a complete non-issue.

Those were the plusses.

‘Over the edge’

The downside was that I had been traveling, working, pushing myself too hard and spending my spare time with the children I love but who happened to be serially sick. All of which left me running on fumes.

And all I needed was a birthday to send me over the edge.

I’ll spare you the details, but the short version is that, for no particularly good reason, I hit a physical and emotional point of no return at the first family celebration.

I was still in meltdown mode the next morning. I tried to go to work, and only made it as far as the parking lot when I realized a visit to the doctor might be a better idea.

Diagnosis: strep throat.

A trip to the pharmacy, back home and into quarantine, a long nap, brief dinner with the family.  Sick, physically and emotionally exhausted – that was my birthday.

Fortunately, as the day went on, I became increasingly aware of the ridiculousness of the pressure we place on birthdays. It has to be a good day…or else it’s a terrible, terrible thing.


I had a bad day. So what?


I think it’s actually better to have a bad day on your birthday, because at least you’re getting cards and your friends are calling and people you barely know on Facebook are sending good wishes. All of that can brighten even a crummy day – and it did.

The thing is, I have lots of good days – great days, even. (More now, thanks to the antibiotics and the two days or enforced rest.)

I had a particularly good one just last weekend. My sweet nephew spent the night, then I got to show houses to two sets of buyers I really like, then another buyer I really like went under contract, then I got to speak to the awesome singles at my parish and we had a great discussion. I was thanking God for that day, and I thought “Who am I to dictate when my good days come?”

I know – when you’re single, it’s hard not to freak out a little at birthday time. It does become a bit of a barometer for our success as single persons.

So here’s my advice: Next time you have a really great day, thank God for it, and then ask Him to remind you of it at birthday time.

If your special day doesn’t measure up, you can just go back to God and say, “Let’s call that other one my birthday.”

And presto! You had a great birthday!



  1. Bajuta-689744 May 8, 2011 Reply

    when we belive in our lord Jesus Christ we should never feel lonely on our own birthday he is always with us at all time. i liked your story.

  2. Paula-124871 May 7, 2011 Reply

    My grandmother died on my 41st birthday. What was really weird was that as we returned from the hospital to my parent’s home, my brother and sister-in-law decided it was time for an impromtu birthday party. It was a very weird array of emotions. The next year when not a whole lot happened on my birthday, it seemed a relief.

  3. Judith-575655 May 5, 2011 Reply

    I am completely freaking out… turning 50 in a matter of weeks. Dear friends and family are hounding me about how I want to celebrate the big event. I don’t feel like it. I know I have so much for which I am thankful and I offer my thanks to God every night. But the finality of turning 50 and the significance of not having kids or a mate, when that’s really all I ever wanted, is weighing so hard on me at the moment with this milestone birthday. I just want to go away, by myself, for a week and come back when it’s over. No celebration, no having to act happy and funny for their benefit. Your post helps. Thanks for helping to keep me strong and focused on the right things.

  4. Mike-646924 May 4, 2011 Reply

    Good Story! How i can relate to bad’s Mine was (last yr.) We (our) MOM passed a way Last june; My is in sept; Alway’s remember my Mother who baked a cake; Loved her cakes But this yr. B.Day was away from (MOM & Dad’s) House THANK GOD I HAD THE REST OF MY FAMILY & FRIEND’S THERE!! If not I really would have had a (some sort) of a meltdown!! So yeah i know’s can be Bad sometimes; THANK THE GOOD LORD FOR MY FAITH!! Take care everybody Mike “peace”!!

  5. Michael-339056 April 27, 2011 Reply

    I had a bad ear infection on my 29th birthday so I can relate. On the plus side, my nephew came over and spent all day saying, “Uncle Mike has a bad sniffle.” I should mention he is rather seriously Autistic. So it was cool. P.S. To this day, I can’t watch Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Man Who Knew Too Much” starring Doris Day James Stewart without getting an earache.

  6. Marie-575233 April 27, 2011 Reply

    I can definitely relate. I just had a birthday. On my birthday, I was sick with conjunctivitis and feeling horrible.A dear friend called me early in the morning to wish me Happy Birthday,sang to me over the phone,said the sweetest,most encouraging words I have ever heard and offered to bring me chicken soup.Some Catholicmatch peers sent me birthday wishes .My sister sent me a gift basket from Harry and David.My other brother sent me a birthday card. I felt special and loved due to all the attention received from siblings and friends.It was a good day even though I was ill.I was grateful. Yes I am older ,but so what.God continues to bless me with life. Your story and mine are similar. Thanks for sharing it.

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