Andy Young

On the second-to-last day of last month two people I know observed their half-birthday. Jane, a colleague I very much like, turned 30 and a half on Sept. 30, while Dave, an accomplished fellow who lives a couple of time zones away, became 80.5 years young.

Naturally I sent both of them hearty congratulatory notes on their achievement, as any decent friend would. But in the midst of contemplating all the gala events each was undoubtedly attending that day to commemorate their respective milestones, a somber thought came over me. Suppose each had been born one day later, and thus didn’t have the opportunity to celebrate?

Sadly, that nightmarish scenario is all too real for 1.7 percent of America’s (and the world’s) current population. As there is no Sept. 31 on the Gregorian Calendar, people born on the last day of March are doomed to go through life without the opportunity to commemorate their half-birthday.

Famed jazz trumpeter, composer, songwriter, and Tijuana Brass headliner Herb Alpert was born March 31, 1935, and as such has never known the unbridled joy of celebrating the date that falls precisely six months after his most recent birthday and six months before his next one. The same lamentable fate has befallen actress/singer Shirley Jones (born March 31, 1934), who would undoubtedly trade her starring role in the film adaptation of Oklahoma and her title as Miss Pittsburgh 1952 in exchange for the half-birthday all but a very few unfortunates (like her and Mr. Alpert, to name two) have the option of celebrating every year.

The too-often-overlooked psychological issues associated with being born on the 31st of March are undoubtedly daunting. But sometimes being dealt a bad hand produces character and strength which might have otherwise lain dormant. One inspiring local example is Angus King, who despite being born on March’s last day in 1944 attained Maine’s governorship for two terms, and currently represents our fair state in the United States Senate. Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy (1940), former Massachusetts representative Barney Frank (1940), and former vice president Al Gore (1948) were also born on March 31, and the heights to which that trio has risen politically bolsters the argument that having no half-birthday provides valuable fuel for those already equipped with healthy amounts of determination and ambition. Others born on the third month’s final day include accomplished actors Richard Chamberlain (1934), Christopher Walken (1943), Gabe Kaplan (1945), and Rhea Perlman (1948).

Life is similarly unfair to people born May 31, or on the last two days of August. Actor Clint Eastwood (May 31, 1930), Super Bowl-winning quarterback Joe Namath (May 31, 1943), actress Brooke Shields (May 31, 1965), philanthropist Warren Buffett (May 30, 1930), comedian Lewis Black (May 30, 1948), basketball great Robert Parish (May 30, 1953), actress Cameron Diaz (May 30, 1972), baseball Hall-of-Fame member Frank Robinson (May 31, 1935), actor Richard Gere (May 31, 1949), hurdler Edwin Moses (May 31, 1955), football star Larry Fitzgerald (May 31, 1983), and Portland-born Olympic swimmer Ian Crocker (May 31, 1992) all must deal with the ongoing anguish caused by perpetual half-birthdaylessness.

Being born on Halloween is scary enough, but Oct. 31 babies are further burdened with the heartache of knowing they’ll never formally observe their half-birthday. Among those afflicted: newsman Dan Rather (Oct. 31, 1931), football coach Nick Saban (Oct. 31, 1951) and rapper Vanilla Ice (Oct. 31, 1967). And while New Year’s Eve may be a great night to party, those born Dec. 31, including actors Ben Kingsley (1943), Bebe Neuwirth (1958), and Val Kilmer (1959), will never be able to live it up on their half-birthday, as there is no June 31 on which to celebrate.

Those born on Aug. 29, like baseball Hall-of-Famer Eddie Murray (Aug. 29, 1956) and Supreme Court justice Neil Gorsuch (Aug. 29, 1967), get a half-birthday every four years. It may not seem like much, but at least they get the opportunity to kick up their half-heels once every 1,461 days.

But there’s no reason to let being born on a seemingly inopportune date have any long-term adverse effects. Never celebrating a half-birthday didn’t prevent now-departed people of substance like artist Henri Matisse (Dec. 31, 1869), educator Maria Montessori (Aug. 31, 1870), General Chiang Kai-shek (Oct. 31, 1887), baseball star Ted Williams (Aug. 30, 1918), clothiers Geoffrey Beene (Aug. 30, 1927) and Liz Claiborne (March 31, 1929); comedians Buddy Hackett (Aug. 31, 1924) and John Candy (Oct. 31, 1950); and hockey greats Gordie Howe (March 31, 1928) and Jean Beliveau (Aug. 31, 1931) from achieving greatness in their chosen field(s) of endeavor.

Sure, it’s possible to compensate for an unfortunate birthday, assuming one has enough imagination. For example, French skier Jean-Claude Killy (born Aug. 30, 1943), who won three gold medals at the 1968 winter Olympics, will turn 40 million minutes old next Sept. 18. But really, who honestly thinks an arbitrary, haphazard excuse for a holiday like that has even a fraction of the significance a truly meaningful occasion like a half-birthday does?

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