It's My F---ing Birthday [NOOK Book]

Overview

“In the coming year,” she said, hoisting her blindingly clean and gleaming glass into the air, “may half of all your dreams come true.”

“Mom,” I said to her, “isn’t that kind of pathetic?”

“Well, it’s realistic.”

It’s her thirty-sixth birthday, and she really thought things would be different this year—that she’d have figured out men and how to get along with her narcissistic parents enough to survive a birthday celebration. But nothing’s changed. Her disappointing day is capped off by the delivery of a ...
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It's My F---ing Birthday

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Overview

“In the coming year,” she said, hoisting her blindingly clean and gleaming glass into the air, “may half of all your dreams come true.”

“Mom,” I said to her, “isn’t that kind of pathetic?”

“Well, it’s realistic.”

It’s her thirty-sixth birthday, and she really thought things would be different this year—that she’d have figured out men and how to get along with her narcissistic parents enough to survive a birthday celebration. But nothing’s changed. Her disappointing day is capped off by the delivery of a huge bouquet of flowers from Carl, with whom she has recently, and bitterly, split. A gesture of reconciliation? Of passive aggression? She’s too unhinged to tell.

It’s My F---ing Birthday unfolds in seven state-of-my-life addresses this hapless high school art teacher writes to herself on consecutive birthdays, as she is determined to break the patterns of behavior that are keeping her down. Her objective: to avoid making the same mistakes over and over and start making some new ones. Through seven outrageously funny years of needling parents, self-absorbed boyfriends, riots, O.J., and Monica—and bigger and bigger bouquets from Carl—she navigates a circuitous (and ultimately successful) route to happiness in a world where everything seems to conspire to the contrary.


What I Learned This Year That I Need to Remember

1. No more taking the bait from Mom. Even if the fight becomes about not taking the bait.

2. No more dwelling in the past.

3. Try much harder to continue being a vegetarian. This will limit the restaurants the folks can take me to.

4. No more trying to decode the flowers from Carl. If he sends them again, just think of them as a fun, free thing, like a little sample box of cereal or detergent that suddenly appears in the mailbox.

5. Don’t make a big deal out of the fact that there were no guys this year. Perhaps that’s a better thing than continuing to get involved with guys who exhibit behavior from the beginning that indicates the whole thing is completely hopeless. So try to remember the above as a coping strategy when I am so crazed with horniness that I want to throw myself off a building.

6. No more mumbo jumbo. This means no more calling 900 astrology numbers listed at the end of horoscopes in women’s magazines to find out my love forecast. And no more going to psychics, no matter how dicey things get.


From the Hardcover edition.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Funny in a sly, true, painful way.”—Los Angeles Times

“On-target, poignant . . . a study of one woman’s evolution from passivity to self-esteem.”—The Washington Post

“Witty . . . [Markoe] finds humor in those not-so-Kodak moments. So will you.”—Glamour

“Bickering parents, weird sex, and ambiguous floral arrangements pave the road to enlightenment in legendary comedy writer Merrill Markoe’s first novel. . . . Along the way she reminds readers that the heart is a fragile little critter. And sometimes the best we can do is make a wish and blow those candles out.” —O magazine

“A dark, witty story about one woman’s attempt to find the right man and not kill her mother.” —Talk

“Witty . . . Markoe’s very funny and astute about women’s insecurities.” —The Hartford Courant

“Perfect for curling up with at the end of the day when we long for the company of good friends, but they’ve all gone to bed. You know, after watching the Late Show.” —St. Petersburg Times

“Laugh-out-loud debut fiction . . . classy stuff that deserves tons of flowers from dazed and satisfied readers.” —Kirkus Reviews

“[Markoe] brings her crisp, gratifyingly feminist sense of humor and flair for satirizing the lives of frustrated singles to an irresistible first novel.” —Booklist

“The perfect gift for all women who face birthdays with grim determination, pepper spray and sharp fingernail files . . . Markoe teaches the joy of laughing through pain and bubbling through toil and trouble.” —Publishers Weekly

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307415721
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 12/18/2007
  • Sold by: Random House
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 708,896
  • File size: 269 KB

Meet the Author

Merrill Markoe was the original head writer of Late Night with David Letterman, and she has won five Emmys for comedy writing. She was also a regular contributor to Not Necessarily the News and wrote and performed in several comedy specials for HBO, winning Writers Guild and Ace awards. She is the author of What the Dogs Have Taught Me, How to Be Hap-Hap-Happy Like Me, Merrill Markoe’s Guide to Love, and a children’s book, The Day My Dogs Became Guys. She lives in Los Angeles.


From the Trade Paperback edition.
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Read an Excerpt

Thirty-six

Well, it’s my fucking birthday again. One year ago today I remember being so sure that this was the year that everything would turn around. I could sense it. I could feel it in the air. But here I am, a full year later, just as screwed up as ever, still making the same mistakes over and over. So I am initiating a new tradition. My plan is to carefully scrutinize my past in the name of not being condemned to repeat it by writing myself an annual report on my birthday. Kind of a personal state of the union to help me chart my profits and losses or at least get a clearer picture of what I am doing right and wrong. I’m not stupid enough to think it’s going to keep me from making mistakes ever again but it would be nice if at least I could start making some new ones.

Okay. So, still living alone. Still an art teacher and still not minding it too bad. Although I wouldn’t have believed it possible when I turned thirty, turning thirty-six doesn’t feel like that much of a nightmare. And what more could a thirty-six-year-old girl mired in the quicksand of the one-year anniversary of a painful breakup want on her birthday than a long day of sulking, followed by a chance to go out to dinner with her narcissistic mother and father? Nothing eases the pain of a searing depression like the joy of watching one’s elderly parents pick petty fights in upscale restaurants.

As always, the fun started the minute we were seated at a table in a pleasant little bistro near the ocean called Kettle’O’Fish (which I ordinarily would have condemned based on the ’O’ thing but it was actually pretty nice). My mother took one look at the complimentary tureen of crudités being placed before us, gave the smiling waitress a withering glance, and said, “That’s a very meager amount, isn’t it?” The waitress stared blankly for a few seconds, picked up the crudité arrangement, and took it back into the kitchen, where probably every member of the staff pissed or spit on it before she brought it back a carrot stick or two heavier. I, of course, sat quietly cringing like I used to do in the seventh grade, only too aware that neither of my two options provided me with any solace: to invoke the wrath of my mother by daring to criticize her or to sit in quiet humiliation, doing a little out-of-body traveling, pretending to enjoy balmy breezes in Bora Bora.

“So what if everyone in this restaurant hates my mother?” I could say to myself unconvincingly. “I’m used to that by now. A lifetime of such incidents have enabled me to produce antibodies that process the bodily fluids of restaurant employees into beneficial dietary supplements, like riboflavin or vitamin B12.”

I could also harbor the tiniest glimmer of hope that the jury was still out, among those who would condemn us, on my father. It was possible that maybe the waiters and waitresses might think I was his child from a previous marriage.

However, what my father lacked in active vitriol, he compensated for with sheer arrogance. His tenacious grasp of the obvious had long ago given him the impression that as the bearer of a superior intellect it was both his duty and his burden to patiently explain even the simplest processes of daily living to nearly everyone he met, not just once but every occasion that they met. Which is why my birthday lunch found him lecturing the busboy in excruciating detail on the preferred way to pour water from a pitcher.

“Listen to me carefully so I don’t have to eat my damn lunch soaking wet,” he began. “If you don’t hold that pitcher with two hands how the hell do you expect to get any directional stability when you pour?”

If I’d ever used that tone of voice on any of the kids in the high school classes I’ve taught, I would have received enough dramatically incensed exhalations to be pushed across the room like a sailboat in a hurricane.

Next it was back to my place for the annual celebratory birthday drink, a pleasant yearly ritual that I almost ruined for them both by not knowing about the water spots on my champagne glasses. This, of course, sent my mother into a tailspin. When she finally recovered from the nightmare of being exposed to potentially life-threatening bacteria during a visit to her own daughter’s house, and the rewashed glasses were polished to an almost terrifying state of cleanliness, the champagne was dispensed by my father with one of his patented two-handed pours. That’s when my mother offered her annual toast.

“In the coming year,” she said, hoisting her blindingly clean and gleaming glass into the air, “may half of all your dreams come true.”

“Mom,” I said to her, “isn’t that kind of pathetic?”

“Well, it’s realistic,” she said, taking a sip of champagne and staring into the middle distance.

No point in ignoring harsh realities in a birthday toast, I thought to myself, realizing that she had given me something for which I should be grateful. Because if realism was her point, she could have said, “May half of all your dreams die a horrible death.”

Then she did her part to make sure I didn’t score better than 50 percent in the dream department this particular birthday by giving me yet another piece of clothing there was no chance I would ever wear in this or any other lifetime: an unstruc- tured floor-length velveteen tunic with a gold rope belt and gold braid trim, a kind of high-fashion Greco-Roman monastic sheath.

In addition to being inappropriate, it also succeeded in making me sad that my mother was still energetically continuing her tradition of wasting time every single year searching out and buying me things that were not my taste, especially since she never failed to follow up the gift bestowal by telling me how much she paid for the garment in question, I guess to ensure that it would receive the respect to which it was planning to grow accustomed.

“This is not an inexpensive dress” is how she began this year. By the third glass of champagne she worked in the exact dollar amount, disguised as special care and cleaning instructions. “Be sure and get this dry-cleaned,” she said as offhandedly as she could. “It’s a two-hundred-and-sixty-dollar item.”

This was my father’s cue to begin his lengthy semiannual lecture on how to correctly remove wrapping paper from a gift.

“If you take the time to remove the tape slowly, the en- tire wrapping paper comes off in one big, untorn sheet.” He demonstrated, as though performing a trick for a poorly attended after-school magic show. “Just follow your creases carefully and it folds back up nice and flat.” I wore the same expression I’d been perfecting for decades, carefully constructed to convey such a visible amount of real comprehension that my father would feel no need to repeat himself. There was, of course, no chance at all that this would happen.

But the best was still ahead—the part where my mother insisted I try her gift on for them and provide a little fashion show. It has become an annual high-water mark for my feelings of self-loathing, an annual opportunity to see myself looking older, and fatter, and uglier all at once than I have at any other moment of the year. This year, when I caught a glimpse of myself in the window behind the very sofa on which my parents were sitting, I reminded myself of a bulldog who had just come home from the groomer with a bow tied around her neck. I looked like I was trying very hard to be something I was never intended to be, and failing in the most embarrassing way possible. I felt like Janet Reno in a fluffy ball gown.

Happy Birthday to me.

By now, my mother was deeply into full-out gush, showering me with the only compliments she ever offered me in fiscal ’92.

“See?” she said to my father. “She never buys the feminine styles. But look how lovely she can look if she wants to.” My father agreed, or pretended to agree. I could never tell if he was paying attention.

They were soul mates, my mother and father. They claimed to adore each other, as if the word “adore” meant “argue with ceaselessly.” And although they criticized and demeaned each other as much as they demeaned me, they lived in a weird little universe only big enough for two that was impermeable to criticism unless they were delivering it.

During these birthday moments it seemed as if everything positive I had ever honestly perceived about myself was incorrect. All I could do was stand there running a quick scan in my brain of the easiest, most trouble-free, cost-effective methods for killing myself.

As I saw it, I could take every pill in the medicine cabinet, without even knowing what pills were in there exactly. Would a whole bottle of Sudafed bring a painless death sentence? What about twenty-five Zoloft? If they didn’t kill me, might they at least provide enough relaxation to give me the courage to stumble out to the car with a hose and suck up exhaust?


From the Hardcover edition.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 6 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 5, 2012

    A fun read!

    This book is a lot of fun to read if you want something lighthearted and witty. The main character is insecure, flawed, wonderfully honest and authentic. She is far from perfect, makes mistakes, and knows it, but gets through her days with a blazing sense of humor. I thoroughly enjoyed this book!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 24, 2008

    An extremely depressing book.

    This book started off on a bad note, ended on a bad note, and the middle wasn¿t much different either. I expected the character to actually learn from her past and attempt to better her future 'her goal by the way'. It never did get better, only worse. Each chapter 'birthday' was filled with the same disturbing relationship with her parents, the same dating problems, and the same negative attitudes. At the end of each chapter, the character sets goals for the next year and each year they are the same. She never learned anything nor did she change what she thought was wrong with her life. It was as if I was reading the same chapter over and over¿very monotonous.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 28, 2003

    Laughed out Loud

    I really enjoyed this book. It takes you through the birthdays of a woman who always tries to have a great outlook, despite her crazy parents, obscure friends, and annoying relationships! It will keep you laughing the entire time!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 22, 2003

    Good start, but quickly turns 'sad'

    I anticipated a sly, witty look at the world of a single woman over 35, which this started out to be. But I became really disturbed by the dysfunction surrounding the character's relationship with her parents. There is nothing sly or witty about a 30-something woman who can't walk away when mean, hurtful words are the inevitable outcome of a family gathering. I wanted to see her stand up for herself, instead of chronicling another failed year.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 12, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted April 3, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews

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