What’s the worst birthday?
Every year we grow closer to death
At some point this year you will reach an important birthday. Happy birthday — this is what they mean.
You may or may not get your period.
According to AA Gill, this is the age where you can start smoking, wanking and drinking. But because you’re a middle class teen from suburbia, you’re far more likely to have a bar mitzvah than get anywhere near a bottle of anything over five per cent. If you have really cool or highly irresponsible parents, they may occasionally sling a can of Fosters or a cheeky ciggie your way, and you’ll be the biggest legend in year eight.
You’re desperate to stand out from the crowds of other boring teens your age. Maybe you get a purple streak in your hair, maybe you drop the ending of your name and just become “Oli”. Enjoy it. This is a time to experiment with being as wanky as possible without repercussions, because everyone else is doing the same thing. You’ll look back when you’re 20 and laugh at how tragic you were, but you’ll never recapture the unbridled freedom of hanging around in a grim town centre with nothing to do and no money to do it.
See 14, but add 19-year-old guys perving on your fit mates and the occasional Lambrini induced stomach pumping.
You reach 16 with all the zest of someone who’s just realised they’re a grown adult, then realise the only thing that’s different is you can now legally drive a ride-on lawnmower. It’s not like you weren’t having shit teen sex in a park or someone’s shed anyway, so the only way you can celebrate this non-milestone is by getting someone else to buy you some WKD to drink in the park ’till you’re sick. If no-one will, it’s not the end of the world – you’re old enough to buy alcoholic truffles now. Four or five boxes should do it.
You started 17 full of hopes and dreams, spurred on by glossy Zac Efron films and the fact that everyone in 90210 seemed to be perpetually 17. You thought you’d have your first car, a dope leather jacket and the sort of carefree smile that makes the chicks swoon when you glide down the high school corridors. What you’ve actually got is horrific acne and a part-time job on the Aldi fish counter.
Face it: if you still haven’t hit puberty by this point you probably never will. You may as well just cut it off.
Congratulations, you can now join the army, legally drink and unless you massively fucked up your A-levels, you’ll probably be heading to university soon. You think you’re headed to a paradise of freethinking people, free flowing booze and free and easy sex. But what you actually encounter is a dystopian world of sticky floors, stickier VKs and congealed vomit on threadbare carpets. Once you thought of 18 as the beginning of your adult life, but it’s really the end of your youth. Mum is gonna stop ironing your pants, you’ll start paying taxes and everything is downhill from here. Welcome to adulthood.
People say to me, Will, what did you do on your 19th birthday and I shrug a bit, look a little bemused and simply tell them the truth: I have no fucking idea what I did on my 19th birthday. Which is the entire point of the 19th birthday, the engine powering them, their raison d’etre. Sandwiched awkwardly between the inexplicably enormous milestones of 18 and 21, your 19th is a complete write off, which is perfect. You can still get away with it all messed up. You can still wake up in the morning (3:40pm) with a mouth like a lorry driver’s crotch and a cock drawn on your forearm. You will never have less to worry about than when you’re 19 – literally nothing you do is of consequence – once you realise this you’ll have the greatest year of your life.
No longer a teenager, paying your own bills in a house with your mates and you’ve got a girlfriend who actually wants to semi-regularly have sex with you – things are looking pretty good. The drugs get stronger, the exams get easier. Enjoy it.
Not this bullshit again. Come here, sit down, open a tinnie and just hear me out for a second. 21 is a bullshit age to be, and a bullshit birthday to endure. Here’s why: because of the expectation. Rightly or wrongly, everybody has same suspicion about their 21st birthday – “It’s going to be the best night of my life.” It’s not. The best night of your life is really really unlikely to correspond with the arbitrary, random day that is your 21st birthday. Your outsized expectations will warp everything which happens on the night until you remember: nothing lives up to expectation. I’ve sat in enough sad marquees in Gloucestershire to know nobody enjoys their 21st birthday, even if the party requires everyone wear a suit, a dress, a superhero costume or if there are loads of waiters running around handing out Prosecco and mini Yorkshire puddings. It’s better, always, to travel hopefully than to arrive. Excitement is in the climb, not reaching the top of the mountain. 21 is a mountain. Ignore it and the anticipation it foments.
The age at which everyone, no matter how close to you they are, stops giving a shit about your birthday. Sure, they’ll try to look excited as they drone out a monotonous rendition of Happy Birthday, but the complete lack of emotion evident on their faces and in their voices tells you that they can’t even be bothered to eat a slice of your budget cake. This is it. The beginning of the end. You’re never going to be a famous bassist in an alt-rock band, and cufflinks will never be cool.
Blink 182 said it, and it’s still true: nobody likes you when you’re 23 — and you probably won’t even like yourself. It’s the year you’ll start hopelessly scrambling after your lost youth like a crumpled beer can floating out to sea, and you’ll proceed to moan and bitch in a way that will make even your closest friends resent you. Even when you’re trying to recapture your glory days, you’ll fail spectacularly. All three of the festivals you take time off work for, you’ll burn out on the first night. Bae won’t let you go on holiday with your home friends, and you’ll still somehow be clawing your way out of your overdraft without the careless bravado that came with debt in your younger years.
You’re now officially in your mid twenties. Your boring home-town friends have legitimate children and the rest of them are engaged. You will never be considered a “wonderkid” or “hot prospect”, and if you don’t know what that means, good – you’re way too old to be playing fucking Football Manager.
You’re one quarter of the way to a century, as everyone younger will repeatedly remind you. By now, you’ve realised your parents have never had their shit together and so you don’t need to either. Instead all that matters is you have a decent-paying job and friends who are happy to share their drugs with you. You can’t go to the same teen-packed club nights you used to and you’re too old for most warehouse raves, so it’s “exclusive” bars with a strict door policy for you every Friday night. It’s now acceptable to move out of the city and become a commuter, move in with a girlfriend/boyfriend and get engaged. Not married though, you’re still too young for that crap. And for fuck’s sake don’t get a dog.
If 26 was a person it would be Jamie Oliver, smiling his dead-eyed youthful smile as he mercilessly wrings the last dregs of childish fun out of your life like turkey twizzlers from a school menu.
The only young thing you can do now is die.
Christ you’re old. All your friends are getting married and having kids and moving out of their crappy flats in East London, you may as well end it all, because nothing exciting will ever happen to you again. You’d rather watch a nordic crime drama on Netflix than go out on Saturday night and you have no idea why people keep using the word fire as an adjective. The world is becoming scary, cold and bewildering. Your recreational drug habit used to be a bit of a laugh, but now, with your face looking like sweaty, smashed offal in the toilet mirror you’re starting to think Skinner in Blinded By The Lights is not the glamourous life you thought it was when you were 10 years younger.