Is This Graded On A Curve?

We all have one. How we view that ONE is highly polarizing. It varies from person to person. It only happens once a year. This past year, I ultimately judged everyone in my inner circle by handing out letter grades. High or low marks as to how loved ones celebrated MY birthday. I know. Right now, you are judging me. I can hear your internal monologue.

Is it petty for me to dole out letter grades like Mr. Hand in “Fast Times at Ridgemont High? ” Yes, but it’s a hobby, like Dave Portnoy assessing number grades for cheese pizza and the occasional gas station breakfast delicacy. My evaluation may not mirror how you enjoy celebrating your big day. It’s 100 percent subjective. I’d encourage you to scribble your own pyramid of wishes on a bar napkin.

The highest marks go to receiving a surprise party. I once had a bash at Buffalo Alice and saw three hockey-line shifts of demographics from 5 p.m. to closing. A visit from someone bearing a gift or food and a cameo video from a celebrity also get A grades. Oh, and birthday cards in the mail. Playing the long game deserves top marks. 

Above-average B grades include a call or FaceTime video. Also, any of those Happy Birthday-type signs mimicking the Hollywood sign for all your neighbors to see. Extra credit for a “Honk for the Old Man” banner to make all the golden retrievers in the area howl like there was a parade of UPS drivers down your street.

Social media greetings with the lame standard “Happy birthday, insert name here” are just plain average.  C- If it’s the person’s avatar saying it, it makes it even less personal. Belated birthdays are elevated to a C+. Who in this society owns up to their mistakes? I’m impressed by that. Kudos to you procrastinators!

D grades for those doing nothing.   

What could be worse than doing nothing? My friend used to tell me all the time never to be mean to someone who could be having their lowest day. Maybe they just bought a casket for a spouse, parent, or child that morning. I wish the world were kinder. I know that’s ironic to say after this article on passing judgment. When that Subaru on Hamilton Boulevard cuts you off in traffic, just remember, that motorist may be bummed about his loved one’s birthday. Giving a Grade Point Average would rule them out of playing sports in college.

On the flip side, I am uber-impressed with my buddy Bruce. He always writes the best messages in text form, sings to you in person, and scribes on social media to thousands of residents in Siouxland. My mantra for 2024 is “Be more like Bruce.” Write the letter. Plan the party. Get the cameo video from Jennifer Jason Leigh. (Yup. That’s my second callback to a movie from 1982.) These are fast times indeed, but you should try to savor every minute of a loved one’s day of birth. 

More celebration. Less angst in traffic.

That’s logic even Jeff Spicoli could endorse.

For those under 25, please replace all the old movie references above with quotes from TV show dramas “All American” or “Outer Banks.”

I won’t judge.

I will only judge your celebration of my birthday.

By Tony “Michaels” Michalski, an author who shares way too much in this space, every issue.

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