What is it like to be a princess? Very few among us are born with the title; another lucky few acquire it through marriage. Some of us are occasionally accused of acting like one without justification. The rest of us have to wait till that one day of the year when we can at least make believe.

This week I celebrated a birthday (21 AGAIN, it really is quite remarkable). Normally quite a low-maintenance, do-it-yourself-if-you-want-it-done-right variety of middle-class Kiwi girl, I make an exception on the 11th day of the 11th month to graciously accept the attention generated by being born.

Usually that entails a full day bunking off work, and various pleasurable pursuits and social gatherings which are hard to justify on any other day of the year.

Basically I aspire to spoil myself rotten, and to also be spoilt rotten by anyone else who feels inclined to do so.


Chiefly this inclination (some might call it an expectation) falls upon my boyfriend, who earns immeasurable brownie points by producing a hotel-styled breakfast menu to hang on the bedroom door the night before, and then brings in my selection with something small, stingy and poorly wrapped. In the first year or two, this achieved the desired result of providing him with long minutes of entertainment while I endeavoured to compose myself and act grateful when what I was really thinking was something along the lines of: "What a tight b*amp;@!d, time to trade up."

Of course time has taught me that the first two or three lame presents are usually followed by the main event, beautifully wrapped and carefully considered.

And so my day of being a princess begins.

This year, though, given my birthday fell during the week and the only results of taking a day's leave is doubling the workload for the following day, I decided to go to work.

Curiously, I discovered that instead of detracting from my princess-hit, the buzz was increased because of the feeling of being constantly interrupted from the hum-drum of daily life to talk to my amazing set of friends and family who kept calling throughout the day and even in the early hours of the following one, thanks to people living on the other side of the world.

Flowers arrived, lunches were bought, dinners were booked and Facebook birthday wishes stacked up by the dozen. By the end of the day it felt like there was five litres of champagne and endorphins pumping through my veins instead of blood. I felt awesome.

Despite initially being in a sulk about turning 21 again, by the end of the day I had been reminded once more why we have birthdays; not to mark the passing of the years (I'm sure most of us would be happy to skip that bit), but for those that care about us to have the opportunity to show it. In a busy world, it is easy for us all to forget (for 364 days at least) that we matter ... to one person, a handful, or to many more.

As my own life has got busier, I have been guilty of using that as an excuse to not make the effort I once did on my friends' birthdays. Being reminded how amazing it feels to be princess for just one day provides a mental kick in the bum to try harder next time.

In a perfect world, none of us would ever get a day older. But since we can't avoid that inevitability, the perfect world might just be getting older, but at the same time learning just how much we are loved.

Eva Bradley is an award-winning columnist.