“Only the painting feels no desire” from The Secret Language of Birthdays by Gary Goldschneider & Joost Elffers

May Mustapha by © Emily Dozois

Image © Emily Dozois

An Interview with May

Q. What is your best memory/moment from one of your past birthdays?

A. I think it was my 12th or 13th birthday maybe, my best friend Julia at the time had planned a huge surprise party for me. I ended up finding out about it because I couldn’t understand why she was being so secretive so we got into a fight about it and she spilled the beans but I remember how much fun it had been when the party did come along. Her parents and herself had thought of every little thing that I liked and had it at the party. I remember feeling so loved and grateful for all her efforts even if I had managed to have the surprise spilled.

Q. How about the worst? And why?

A. I don’t really remember what my worst birthday was but I’m sure there’s some awful story out there where I probably ended up in tears claiming I hated my birthday and would never celebrate it again.

Q. What was the present you’ve received for your birthday that most surprised you?

A. For my 23rd birthday, my best friend surprised me by taking me bungee jumping as my gift. She knows I’m adventurous and love trying new things but I think I hated her and loved her all at once when I found out because I was so terrified but excited too. To this day though, it’s been the most memorable gift I’ve ever received.

Q. Is there one food or dish that you insist on eating during your birthday celebration?

A. Anything red velvet or cheesecake!

Q. What do you believe is the most important aspect of celebrating a birthday?

A. As cliché as this may be, the most important aspect of celebrating a birthday is simply being around the people who appreciate you and love you the most. Who better to show you how important your birthday is than the people you appreciate you in their lives the most? You should be surrounded by all that love when you celebrate a birthday.

Q. Do you/your family/culture have any traditions/rituals/ceremonies that are performed to celebrate birthdays? What is it?

A. Not particularly, my dad always tried to get all us all to come over when it’s anyones’ birthday for dinner and cake.