A Long Wait For Cake

patience is key for those whose birthday is on the rarest of all days: February 29

Allison Puestow

We all love our birthdays. Even if you’re the kind of person who hates getting older and constantly lies about your age, you still love and celebrate your birthday. And why not? It’s the day when you become the center of attention and get showered with cake and presents. But for someone like me, birthdays don’t come every year. Why? Because I was born on that annoying day that only shows up once every four years. Yup, I’m a Leap Day Baby.

Nearly every time I tell someone this they’ll invariably ask, “How old are you?” and I’ll respond with my age, 23 (soon to be 24). But then they will always follow with, “No, how old are you really?” This question actually kinda irritates me a little bit, so let me clarify this: I am 23 years old, but I have only had five birthdays. Savvy?

Nearly every time I tell someone this they’ll invariably ask, “How old are you?” and I’ll respond with my age, 23 (soon to be 24). But then they will always follow with, “No, how old are you really?”

While I do love my birthday, it’s become a sort of a love-annoyed relationship. I love it because it’s unique and part of who I am, but you’d get annoyed with it too if certain male members of your family (cough Dad cough) tease you about it all the time. And I wasn’t even supposed to be a February baby at all: I was born three weeks early and on Leap Day of all days! C’est la vie.

Since I only get a real birthday every four years, when it does come around, we tend to make a big deal out of it, especially when I was a kid. My first birthday was more of a big family party. Granted, the memory is a little fuzzy, but I do remember parts of it, like posing underneath the “Happy Birthday” banner strung over our mantle for a picture. And I remember my awesome birthday cake: It had a black and white puppy on the top.

My second birthday was one of the best. It was a school day, but my parents and my teacher still arranged to have a special party for me. The room was decked out with streamers and balloons; I even had balloons taped to my desk. Everyone signed a birthday card my teacher made me. Around noon, my parents came by with lunch (hot dogs, in case you were curious). Then the awkward moment when I sat up front on a stool while everyone sang “Happy Birthday” to me. (Seriously, does anyone else feel awkward when they sing “Happy Birthday”?)

My third and fourth birthdays were both bowling parties. They weren’t huge affairs – just my parents and a few of my closest friends – but they were so much fun! Almost had a whoopsie moment with my fourth birthday cake, though, when it was fumbled getting out of the car. Pro tip: Always make sure you transport your cakes in a container with a lid! (Thankfully we did, so we just smudged the frosting.)

The last real birthday I had was pretty special, given that I was studying abroad in Ireland at the time. Even though it was rainy and gloomy, it was still a very nice day. I went into the city and treated myself to a nice meal at a little café for lunch. And some of my housemates surprised me with lasagna for supper and a delicious cake.

So what can I expect with my upcoming birthday? I have no idea. My best friend isn’t telling me what she’s planning. However, I know it will be awesome.

Birthdays are fun, but I think having a real one once every four years just makes them that much more special and memorable. And at least I’m not the only person who goes through this. Personally, I’ve only met two other people that share my birthday; one of them even studied abroad with me! I believe the statistic for being born on Leap Day is 1-in-1,461, which is rarer that being born on Christmas, which I believe is a 1-in-365 chance.

Believe it or not, you probably know at least one celebrity who was born on Leap Day. Ever heard of an Italian guy named Gioachino Rossini? He the composer who created the operas The Barber of Seville and William Tell (you’d recognize them if you heard them). And according to a 1988 issue of Time magazine, Superman also has a Leap Day birthday!

So, to all the other Leap Babies out there, embrace your odd birthday and have an extra slice of cake. I know I will. Happy Leap Day!