A 16th birthday is rock ’n’ roll. It was like that when you turned 16 and is still true for kids today. A typical birthday card looks like this: a shiny new set of keys and smokin’ wheels peeling out and away from adolescence. The vast open road. Freedom. At 21, it’s a birthday candle in a pint glass filled with beer. New privileges abound with each passing year.
Until you hit 50 …
A mere 29 years after your first legal drink, the cards you receive are looking grim. Here’s a sample: remember that ill-advised sleeve tattoo you got during your misspent youth? Think how it looks to your doctor while you sit in his office complaining of incontinence.
Rock ’n’ roll, indeed.
If we’re to believe the greeting card industry, 50 seems to be the age when everything goes to the proverbial dogs — and turning 40 is no picnic either. Because this is the digital age, you get to know about it with song.
We did giggle for a nanosecond … but the message is all wrong. The perpetually wrinkled, saggy-faced shar-pei represents aging? “Holy moly! Why are we so tired? Seems our lifetime battery’s expired” — and with a swirl of confetti, balloons and party hats to boot.
Imagine if this logic applied to cards aimed at young adults and imagine it with a goofy salsa beat:
Making real things, those jobs are long past. Learn to code online and learn it fast. Luck you’ll need ’cause the job market’s grim. Chances of success? Slim.
Where are the cards for 16-year-olds that tell them they haven’t grown into their faces yet, that acne scarring is real and, yes, too many bong hits can lead to distracted behavior in adult life?
Come on people. Get with the times. George Clooney is 55. Aging looks different now! There’s no need to keep sending depressing ageist birthday greetings — and we’re finally starting to get some options:
Let’s find and send the card that says you’ve learned to never drink the Jell-O shots, even if they are free. Or you’ve perfected the fine art of the “smize” (smiling with your eyes), and because of it you always look like you care … even when you don’t. Or your friends are badass and many are accomplished in their fields, which means good advice is always a phone call away. Or you don’t need to bring spare flip-flops to weddings anymore because you stopped wearing torture devices, aka high heels, ages ago. Or you can express yourself just fine without using emojis — but also know when to send the perfectly timed dancing lady in the red dress. Or you don’t sweat the small stuff anymore, unless the small stuff is a hot yoga class. Then you sweat … profusely.
I hope when Amy Schumer sends a birthday card to Julia Louis-Dreyfus this year, it looks like this.
Your age is your privilege. That road you envisioned at 16 still beckons you. Wading through the online greeting card aisle can be depressing. FORGO PASSING IT ON! And try these design-driven cards from Paperless Post instead:
The idea is to CELEBRATE! We aren’t very far away from an e-card that shows a silver-maned goddess zip-lining across the tops of a jungle canopy and screaming “yeeeeeeeeeehaaaawwww!!!” because it’s already happening in real life. Let’s make better choices, and the greeting card industry will realize that birthdays should be more of a reflection of what is rather than tired old stereotypes of grandmas past? In the meanwhile, remember … you’re still cool, so act like it.
Helen Berger is a writer/screenwriter living in Los Angeles. Helen.firstname.lastname@example.org