(Photo by Jillian Sipkins)
When I was five I did an Elvis impersonation at a school performance. Hair gel, wobbly legs, the whole bit. I wasn’t asked to. I just wanted to. At lunch times I’d practice the dance moves behind the church with a portable tape recorder… other kids played with their friends.
It was my 26th birthday on Tuesday. For so many years I’ve avoided celebrating them. When I was ten my mum opened my bedroom door to my gleeful exclamation “It’s my birthday!”. Even now I can still visualise her face sinking as she said “Oh shit. I forgot, sorry.” In that moment a small crack formed in my birthday spirit. The crack only became deeper as each successive year brought its own pile of “sorry I can’t make it” texts and empty dance floors. One year I made Mum cry because I refused to come home and cut the cake the family had made for me. I know, I know. I’m a monster. By that point my birthdays had only made me feel isolated, so I no longer wanted to participate in them.
This year I was booked to host a comedy night on my dreaded day of birth. I shot up the stairs at The Imperial Hotel to a crowd of friends, family and randoms there to see the show. I was greeted with hugs and presents. My favourite was a set of lightsaber chopsticks. Not because I like geeky things, they’ll most likely end up in a draw unused, but because I didn’t expect that person to get me anything. The last comedian of the night even got the crowd to sing me happy birthday. The room booker organised candles for me on a donut to blow out. The same old birthday things. Yet they felt different that night. Before arriving I had been in my room practicing the Elvis impersonation. I hadn’t done it since grade one, it was just meant to be a joke about how silly I was as a kid. When I took the stage with Blue Suede Shoes, though, it was like I’d been given my childhood back for a minute. This is what I’ve always done: work on something by myself in an attempt to win people’s affection. I must be growing up or something because I realised I don’t need to “win” people’s affection. I already have it… even if it comes in the form of a Krispy Kreme birthday donut and impractical Star Wars cutlery.
Later on that night, I ran into another comedian (who shall remain Josh Thomas) at a bar. He rustled through the small bag of presents I was carrying. He pulled out the lightsaber chopsticks, a psychology book, a Japanese anime wristband and the rest. “These are horrible gifts. I’d hate to get them from my friends” he said with the candid charm that makes it seem so easy for him to be famous. This made me grin. I guess one man’s trash is another man’s reminder that he doesn’t have to feel isolated any more.
Thanks for all the well wishes.