x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

My other half's birthday: an occasion to celebrate love

It is crucial to recognise and accept the love that others have for us and allow them to freely express that love.

It was the other half's birthday this week. As usual, the pressure was on to come up with a fabulous birthday celebration. After several years of marriage, this becomes harder. I haven't made life easy for myself since the honeymoon years of our marriage, when I managed to create some spectacular events.

The first year I arranged a surprise seven-day trip away to Marrakech. Bags packed, flights and hotels booked and annual leave taken surreptitiously from his workplace, he knew nothing of the trip until we arrived at the airport two hours before the flight was due to take off.

The following year was a treasure hunt around London, taking in the sights of this amazing city in the winter time. We skated on magical outdoor ice rinks, drank luxury hot chocolate and walked romantically along the South Bank. On one side of the serene River Thames reflected the London skyline by night, and on the other the walkway was lined with twinkling lights, and the smell of toffee apples and candy floss wafted from the Christmas market.

A few years of spoiling him with expensive and personalised gifts, and several surprise parties later, my creative fountain has run dry. But the pressure is still on to keep trumping efforts from previous years. I am tempted to give up and declare myself out of ideas and tell him that the attention of the early days has gone; that the long and uneventful middle years of married life have set in, and that he has to resign himself to a preprinted card and some shop-bought cake.

But each time I consider doing so, I think about what it is that makes all the effort and planning worthwhile: it is seeing the joy he displays when being utterly spoilt and having an entire day focused entirely on him.

Perhaps my desire to bring to life a magical birthday stems from the delight I experience of putting a loved one on a pedestal for a day, of being able to express without moderation how important and beloved that person is.

But it's also a day when not only do others get to spoil the birthday person unashamedly, but that the birthday person gets to enjoy and accept with full grace that others love them and want to celebrate them for who they are and how important they are.

This acceptance of being loved is not something that we find easy to do, especially when we are encouraged to remain humble and modest. Accepting love - and finding ourselves worthy of receiving it - is something we are trained out of doing. But it is crucial to recognise and accept the love that others have for us and allow them to freely express that love. It's equally crucial to recognise and accept that we are worth loving.

Cheesy though it sounds to say it, love is one of those rare commodities that increases the more you give it. To have your love accepted by another is one of the most magnificent feelings a human being can experience.

So, if it's your birthday it is important to accept being spoilt and enjoy the attention. That is the greatest gift you can give to those who love you.

So what did I get him this year? Dear readers, a married woman should at the very least have some secrets, and that is one secret that I'm carrying in my tummy. All will be revealed to you in the new year, inshallah.

Shelina Zahra Janmohamed is the author of Love in a Headscarf and writes a blog at www.spirit21.co.uk