Gather round, light the cake and prepare to eat some candles because Gallery is 15 today. When ranked against other things born in 2004 the magazine easily beats off competition from Strictly Come Dancing, the debut single by McFly and the launch of the Devil’s Phone Directory, a.k.a. Facebook. If Gallery were a human it would be sneaking out, staying up late and doing the floss dance instead of studying for its GCSEs.
It might have a temper and pimples, and perhaps you’d also be struggling to find an appropriate gift for a birthday party, one where it refused to talk to you. If Gallery was your wife, you’d be Googling “WTF is crystal wedding – is that real?” If Gallery was your dog, you’d be buying it a softer cushion and trying to persuade it not to wee indoors. What I’m getting at is that anniversaries have their own strange rules, and that doing the appropriate thing for each one is much harder than you think. Take this from me, a man who bought his wife a micro-scooter for her 40th and once said “congratulations!” to a group of Americans who informed me it was the anniversary of 9/11.
HOW TO CELEBRATE: A 21ST BIRTHDAY
Young teenagers get a lot of flack, but maybe the reason they’re no fun at birthday parties is because they’re permanently buzzed off a cocktail of hormones and vape juice, yet sober enough to know the party won’t get properly started for a few years. Even your 18th can be pants, because there’s still people who can’t get served and some people you haven’t worked out how to disinvite. By the time your 21st is on the horizon you’ve started developing adult tastes and a peer group to match, friends who’ll help you con your parents into checking into a hotel and trusting you with an official house party. These people will make the party a special one – and then help you shampoo sick out of the carpet and get the “Grant’s Mum: Town Bike” graffiti removed from the upstairs bathroom. Twenty-one is alternately the first year you deserve a significant gift, assuming you’re almost done with higher education or have worked for a few years without being fired. Rich kids are guaranteed a jetski or new horse as a reward for the ruling class tradition of covering up the murder of at least one servant.
PARTY, GIFT – OR BOTH? PROBABLY A PARTY, BECAUSE AT 21 YOU’RE STILL YOUNG ENOUGH TO CHANGE YOUR FASHION SENSE EVERY SIX MONTHS AND WILL BREAK ANYTHING MORE PERMANENT. IF YOU’VE BEEN STUDYING HARD YOU MIGHT JUST DESERVE A CHEAP TICKET TO GOA OR A DENTED FORD FIESTA.
HOW TO CELEBRATE: A 50TH BIRTHDAY
Woah, you’re (over) halfway there. Woah-oh, you’re living on a prayer. Whereas 21st birthday is full of young, beautiful people partying because they’re old enough to enjoy it, a 50th is full of greying midlifers partying because they aren’t quite so old that they need to stop. It’s hard to say which is more fun to attend – probably based on whether you need to get up in the morning and whether the music is loud enough to cover up any gravelly noises from your hip joints. Depending on how thoughtful your friends/partner are your 50th is also the likely to be the first significant birthday on which you might snag a properly impressive gift. You’ve had decades to refine and communicate your tastes, working to buy essential yet boring stuff for yourself, and now your peers are old and sentimental enough to start clubbing together for the likes of aged Scotch and vintage Batman comics. Both parties and gifts are also made more spectacular by every 50 year-old’s shared understanding that the grim reaper could unexpectedly take any of you, at any moment whatsoever. I’m still alive, pour me a triple.
PARTY, GIFT – OR BOTH? BOTH, BUT PUT MORE EFFORT INTO THE GIFT. IF YOU HAVE A FRIEND OR PARTNER WHO’S APPROACHING 50 YOU SHOULD HAVE A GOOD IDEA OF SOMETHING THEY’D LOVE BUT ARE FAR TOO SENSIBLE TO BUY. JUST DON’T ORDER IT FROM THE DARK WEB OR ANY WEBSITE YOU WOULDN’T OPEN AT WORK.
HOW TO CELEBRATE: A ROMANTIC ANNIVERSARY
The anniversary of meeting or marrying your special somebody should be an occasion for joy, reflection, and a very thoughtful kind of celebration. That might mean ‘thoughtful’ in the romantic sense, or it might mean ‘thoughtful’ in the sense of being intellectually tortured by the complex rules that can apply to gifts to your romantic partner. Even if you’re living in sin you could be in trouble if the gift isn’t serious enough, or if it’s too serious, or if you didn’t pick up on their hints they wanted a Thermomix. If you’re actually married you might be required to observe the arcane rules that mark the number of years you’ve successfully not committed a murder over their snoring. It feels like consulting an insane witch. “Fifteen years married my son? Oh – you must buy your sweetheart a single bird, made of crystal, and wrapped in a ribbon of finest blue! Dance thrice and present in moonlight – or I shall curse you with baldness and your willy will be eaten by squirrels.” If it’s your second marriage I can’t even help you – just make sure you keep it shiny and don’t accidentally get the first one’s name iced on a cake.
PARTY, GIFT OR BOTH? IT’S A GIFT. BUY THEM A GIFT. A PARTY IMPLIES YOU HAVE TIME TO PAY ATTENTION TO OTHER PEOPLE – YOU MIGHT AS WELL ADMIT IT, YOU’RE HAVING AN AFFAIR, I KNOW IT. YOU BASTARD.
HOW TO CELEBRATE: A SAD ANNIVERSARY
You’ll have gathered that I’m no great shakes at planning for other people’s special days, but instead of doing much for my own birthday I just love to do the planning for my own funeral. I’ve learned that I’m not alone – plenty of otherwise healthy people chill out by planning (for example) to be lowered into the ground whilst their friends and family listen to “Get Low” by Lil Jon and the Eastside Boyz. Yes, the pallbearers are dressed as the original Ghostbusters, it’s what he would have wanted. Older people love this, perhaps as a way of messing with their children, but they also love a sad anniversary in general. Depending on where the deceased was born, a funeral can easily turn into a situation where the police are called at 4AM to separate two octogenarians squaring off about a cricket match that happened in the 1970s. I swear if you could extend Remembrance Sunday to a weekend it would be my Nan’s equivalent of the Glastonbury Festival. I’ve learned you’re still allowed to celebrate a sad anniversary with a party, and cakes, and even booze – but apparently they draw the line at a decent sound system and my collection of classic jungle records.
PARTY, GIFT OR BOTH? DEFINITELY A PARTY, GIVING SOMEBODY A GIFT TO CELEBRATE SOMETHING SAD IS LIKE A REVERSE BIRTHDAY GIFT, CURSING THEM WITH ANOTHER YEAR OF SADNESS AND ILL FORTUNE. JUST MAKE SURE THE FACEBOOK INVITE MAKES IT CLEAR YOU’VE GOT CAKE, BUT THAT STROBE LIGHTING AND SMOKE MACHINES ARE TAKING IT TOO FAR.
WORDS Grant Runyon
ILLUSTRATION Jamie Leigh O’Neill