Beating the birthday blues

Smoke a stogie at Monte’s.
Smoke a stogie at Monte’s.

Wake up. It’s your birthday, and in front of you is breakfast in bed and a set of keys to the silver Jetta parked outside your window. No really, wake up. It’s still your birthday, but as a university student, this day can potentially be the worst day of the year.

Think about it. Your friends are legal (drunk), stressed out (lazy), and on a budget (cheap). Avoiding a birthday that blows can be tough, but not impossible. If you have a birthday coming up, follow this advice.

First, keep your expectations as low as possible. As with any other day, the worst you expect, the better it turns out. Just ask my friend Adam if his 19th birthday improved after spending the first hour and a half of it standing outside in the bitter cold this past Sunday for a fire drill. (If he says no, he’s lying).

Second, be proactive by letting people know it’s your birthday. Remember Sixteen Candles? Of course you do. You can either wait around for people to remember your birthday like Sam did, or you can casually slip it into conversation the week before.

Finally, make thorough, simple plans, which may mean doing it yourself. Skip the strip clubs and surprise parties, a given if you’re planning the party yourself. Instead, pick a few solid places to eat, drink and chill with friends.

A couple of brutal birthday veterans and I hit the Ontario Street strip to pick out some worthy spots to spend your special day. First on the list was Monte’s, an Irish pub that looks like a gentleman’s club with it’s dim lighting and dark decor. A good place to get mindless on martini’s while sinking into fancy furniture, but we felt more like slipping into a suit and tie and smoking a stogie (picture Kim Basinger in 9 1/2 Weeks) than celebrating someone’s birthday.

If we didn’t find the birthday scene at Monte’s, it smacked us in the face when we walked into Woodenheads, just a couple of doors down. To the right of the door was a group of eight to ten girls celebrating. The birthday girl wore a gold crown and held in her hand a toilet brush tied with a bow. Just as my face flashed a look of horror at the prospect of receiving a toilet brush as a birthday present, the girl explained, “It’s a wand!” We took a seat at the closest table so we could see whether the birthday girl was truly enjoying her birthday.

Eventually, we came to the question, “What’s the big deal about birthdays?” At the risk of sounding like the biggest downer at Queen’s, I’ll tell you what we came up with. No one really cares about your birthday more than you do. Your mother used to, but not anymore.

While reflecting on the origins of our pessimism, we realized just how good the food we were eating was. We all ordered, following the helpful hand that pointed to Woodenhead’s favourites. What makes this place perfect for birthdays is its unpretentious paper napkins, it’s small, mobile tables to accommodate larger groups and sweet waiters who actually offer to doggy bag your food.

On our way out, we checked in with the birthday girl. There was an empty bottle of wine and a few cleaned off pizza trays. She looked relaxed and genuinely happy. Was this possible? Maybe birthday disappointment is not inevitable.

“Where to next, Sarah?”

“White Mountain Ice Cream. I hear it’s incred...Damn.”

We did not make it to White Mountain. It closes at 9:30pm Monday through Thursday, but is open an hour later on Fridays and Saturdays. I’m sure it would have been good.

As we headed home, we were feeling full, a little tipsy and a lot silly, perfect mode for a strip club. But we didn’t go. We didn’t!


Happy Birthday Sarah Massie, we’re sure your mother cares. On The Town appears monthly. If you ask nicely, it will appear more often.

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