My Heart-Shaped Birthday

by Justin Meckes

This piece was originally published in the now defunct Punchnel’s Magazine.

I was born at approximately 9 a.m. on February 15. I’ve been told that my mother was in labor for the better part of  February 14. I appreciate that every year. Being born on Valentine’s Day would have been even worse.

I started to form “the plan” after a discussion with my girlfriend. A mention of February 14 reciprocated a long list of demands regarding that holiday. This communication happened over email, so some of her expectations were in all caps and highlighted in pink. I won’t list them here, but it was a specific set of wants stemming from what I perceived was a lifetime of disappointments.

I did not remind my girlfriend that the following day was the 15th. She knew that, and by the end of our exchange I was encouraged by an acknowledgment of my birthday. However, that acknowledgment came with profound disappointment. She thought we should enjoy the day of my birth and Valentine’s Day together. She added that this seemed “obvious” and that it would be a lot of fun.

The only thing obvious to me was that if I wasn’t careful I would be planning my own birthday. If you have a calender close by, please look at the year 2013. You’ll see that February 14th falls on a Thursday and that my birthday is the following day. That’s a Friday. There’s no reason for a melding or fusing of these events. If partygoers need a break from Thursday night’s lovefest, then we’ll celebrate the day of my birth on the 16th. As long, of course, as I receive emails, texts, or phone calls the day prior.

The next thing I decided to do was call a longtime friend because I believed he could aid my endeavor. He laughed at the birthday dilemma. His birthday is not on or around a holiday. I mistakenly thought he would be able to give me some advice or even take me seriously. He said he understood why I might be upset, but that was it. Then he halfheartedly assured me he would think about it.

If your birthday falls near a holiday, you understand. For example, Halloween is rough because everyone has had too much candy and nobody wants cake. You can’t enjoy blowing out candles after Thanksgiving because everyone’s sleeping off turkey. Labor Day? Okay, maybe that’s fine. But who wants to be born on April 2? People are still shaky about the whole prank thing and that really takes the fun out of a surprise party. Easter? You’re with me.

Maybe it was my fault. I called my friend weeks before Christmas. He wasn’t ready for Cupid, but I have to be. Valentine’s Day begins in January. I will be walking through Hallmark or any number of those big box stores, and they will have become pink, red, and doily eyesores.

Try not to misunderstand. I don’t hate Valentine’s Day. I just think there are plenty of reasons to disapprove of it. If you’re a man, you’ve spent a lot of money and you still wonder if it was enough. After reservations and dealing with pretentious waitstaff, you worry. You go home and have hunger pangs due to the meager portion offered in an expensive restaurant. Contrary to the hunger you’re experiencing, you have to wrestle with the fact that Valentine’s Day will make you gain weight. In late October, you can tell yourself that the candy is for the kids and maybe sneak a piece. On Valentine’s Day the candy is for you. No one throws out a heart-shaped boxes of chocolate.

What if you don’t have a Valentine? Everyone else has flowers and cards and you are lonesome. If you know what Secret Cupid is, then you know it’s just a true love’s consolation prize.

I know I’ll never defeat a day like Valentine’s Day. That would be like running through a storm of roses remaining uncut. My only hope is that Cupid will remind people that there’s more to come. Honestly, I don’t know a lot about the little guy, but I’d like to think he’s reasonable. I’ve seen him out there: half-naked and winged, young and cherub-like, and happy. I’ve also seen that he’s a complete Momma’s boy. But I shouldn’t mock Cupid. He’s good with a bow and arrow, and he’s been practicing archery for a long time. He might pull an arrow from his quiver and bullseye my heart. Then I’ll fall in love or bleed out.

I’ve said all this without admitting that I’ve never felt completely stilted by Valentine’s Day. It’s not as though the chocolates I received from a Valentine were rolled into my birthday. People don’t want chocolate on birthdays unless it’s in the cake, and cake is a birthday standard. Typically, I’ve received a Valentine’s Day card and another for my birthday and that’s fine. It’s really the build up, the anticipation, the pre-birthday that concerns me.

I want people to prepare sufficiently for my day. I hope to hear things like, “Hey, it’s your birthday soon. We’re gonna party!” Instead, every man is like I am. We’re trying to figure out how we can avoid messing up Valentine’s Day for our girlfriend or wife. Some of us have highlighted instructions. The rest of us wish we did because the women in our lives are in their head deciphering whether or not we are making sufficient preparations. Admittedly, it is a heady issue that I have with Valentine’s Day.

So, this year let’s keep my birthday simple. Anyone reading this is invited to throw me a surprise party. Think about it. Make it special. Take a break from your Valentine’s Day worry. The location is up to you. I think I’ve already said I’m available on the 15th or the 16th. Some of you might  want to get me something, but may not know me that well. I went ahead and registered at

You have been given the ability to make this my best birthday ever. One where I don’t lose a single gift to Cupid. I was born. Let’s celebrate that. And don’t worry: even though I’m expecting something spectacular, I will act surprised.

photo: Erika Lowe

Punchnel’s Magazine, R.I.P.