Celebration in the Age of COVID and Loneliness

What is it like to celebrate your birthday on your own?

The month of May has been filled with birthdays of friends far and near. This weekend was marked by a friend’s 60th birthday. The previous weekend we celebrated the 43d birthday of another friend, as well as the 50th birthday of my sister. All of these birthdays were marked by friends and family coming together. To celebrate.

I’ve always enjoyed birthdays. A lot. I’m the person who tells everyone at work when their birthday is, and brings a cake to celebrate. I like extending birthday celebrations from a day to a week to a month. I feel like ageing is hopeful and fun and should be rejoiced and the fact that I have a date to pin it to seems like a good enough excuse for a party!

But COVID-19 and the loss and delay of birthday celebrations had me thinking about celebraring birthdays alone. As so many of us live longer and longer lives, there are also more of us living alone, sometimes with family and friends scattered far away. How do we celebrate life on our own? Does loneliness or social isolation stop us from marking these days?

I just read this great article about social robots, especially the Joy For All robot cats and dogs. What was really interesting to me was the apparent ability for us to ‘suspend’ reality enough to feel as if the pets were real and to know that even if we were pretending, it made us feel better, feel soothed. The loneliness of life was relieved.

I wondered about getting a robot pet. And talking to it and feeling less alone in the world. I wondered about being alone when I’m older (as a woman, it’s more likely). Who will celebrate with me? My robot pet?

Perhaps it doesn’t really matter when your birthday is at all and maybe it matters even less the older we get.

Choose a day to celebrate life and its ups and downs. Make it your day. Dance, eat cake, drink champagne. Do it alone. It doesn’t matter.

(Photo by Terrance Raper on Unsplash)

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