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On Saturday I aged. Not in the sort of way that a near-death experience ages you, and certainly not in the maturity stakes, that much I can guarantee. However the milometer of my existence flipped a digit and I was subjected to the awful truth that I am now 28 years old.

We have a strange relationship with our birthdays, and one that varies the full range of the spectrum throughout our lives. As children, we see everything as progress, proudly announcing to strangers that we are “five and a half years old”, or leaping out of bed with excitement on our birthdays and running around like a demented puppy on crack. By the time we hit 40 (or 30 if you are a girl, especially a single one), the stereotype is that each passing year is another nail in your coffin and should be avoided at all costs. My boss recently announced his 41st birthday party as his “40th, part two”. It’s a game of denial.

I find myself in the awkward stage in between, one of total apathy. My 21st was about the last memorable milestone I passed, and I suspect that thereafter you only tend to measure your age in decades. The presents have gone from exciting to practical, so much so that when I told my mother what I wanted for my birthday this year, even she dismissed it as “too boring”. Sadly it’s hard to drum up the same enthusiasm for a few (much needed) practical items of clothing as I once did for Micro Machines or Thunderbirds.

Yes! Socks!

To be fair, I don’t really remember an exact moment when I ‘grew out of’ Micro Machines, so it’s entirely possible I haven’t. Perhaps I should request some for Christmas, or barring that maybe some Pogs, it may rekindle my enthusiasm.

Even the way I passed the day on Saturday had a distinctly low-key feel to it. I did at least have the distraction of going to watch Arsenal play Southampton, a game in which all seven goals were scored by people who were younger than me, although in my haste to get to the game I rather unwittingly spent my birthday lunch in Burger King. On my own.

I admire Burger King, mainly because they seem to use cash tills from the 1960s, for no apparent reason. I half expected the poor girl to whip out an abacus or charge me two-and-fourpence for my meal.

Later I went to someone else’s birthday party, where a few of friends had worked out (curse you, Facebook) that it was my birthday and treated me to celebratory Jagerbombs. Now ordinarily this would be a kind and generous offer, except that the one part of me that appears to have actually grown up in the last seven years is my liver.

I woke up in a tangle of duvets, sheets and pillows on Sunday morning with the sort of gasp that might succeed a few hours of waterboarding in Guantanamo Bay. It has taken me the best part of a week to even feel remotely normal again.

You Bastards. Damn you all to hell!

This never used to happen, I remember at university, the weekly routine of going out Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday was water off a duck’s back, how has this changed? Nowadays one measly night out is enough to put me off alcohol for about a year.

If someone had asked me on Monday what I wanted to do next weekend, the response would have been a toss-up between “not leaving my bedroom” and “joining a monastery.” It’s a good job that stag parties are no longer held the night before your wedding, as I’d probably have to cancel mine at the last minute to spend the day shivering in bed, watching DVDs.

I find it hard to believe that no-one has ever come up with a viable solution to a hangover. All these boffins sweating away at GlaxoSmithKline et al must go out and cane it every now and then. Surely there must have been occasions when they come into work on Friday reeking of Jack Daniels and think “you know what, AIDS can go on the backburner for 24 hours, I’m not feeling like a badger’s arse all day”?

I mean, sure no-one’s actually died of a hangover (ed. check this, they might have), but I imagine an average 20-something gets between 30 and 50 a year. That’s up to 14% of your existence spent in the fiery pits of hell. That has to be enough to merit some resource re-allocation in the world of pharmaceuticals? Look how many people buy Alka-Seltzer. And that does absolutely fuck-all. The creator of the flawless hangover cure will make millions, mark my words.

To bring this ramble back to birthdays though, the irony is not lost on me that my 18th birthday was a joyous celebration of my legal right to consume alcohol. A mere decade later and I’m begging for prohibition. Cheers.

by Harry Harland

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