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April Fool: The Cruelest Day of the Year



For most people, April 1st is a day of harmless pranks and good-natured jokes among friends and family. The silly string flies, the whoopee cushions get planted on chairs, and by the end of the day, everyone has had a few laughs. But for Sara, April Fool’s Day was never a celebration – it was a gauntlet of psychological torment that she had to survive year after year.

Sara was born on April 1st, and from her earliest childhood memories, her birthday was a minefield of mean-spirited “jokes” and intentional disappointments, all in the name of the ridiculous April Fool’s tradition. Instead of the happiness and celebration that other kids experienced on their birthdays, Sara’s special day was tainted by a toxic cesspool of hurt feelings, dashed hopes, and misguided “pranks.”

“Each birth anniversary, there’s a well-meaning but hurtful practical joke,” Sara explained, the painful memories still fresh decades later. “Everyone – family, friends, teachers, co-workers, boyfriends – thinks they’re the first person to play their joke and expects me to laugh. Because I love them, I try to play along, but it gets tougher each year.”

The pranks started first thing in the morning, as Sara would tear into beautifully wrapped birthday presents, her childlike excitement building…only to find empty boxes inside (APRIL FOOL!). As she grew older, the “jokes” became more emotionally cruel – birthday cards filled with glitter or other messes, fake authorities showing up claiming to arrest her or take her children away, and even simulated death notifications about loved ones in the middle of the night.

“I answer wee-hour calls telling me to rush to hospital because somebody’s hurt,” Sara recalled, her voice laced with disgust and disbelief that anyone could find humor in such psychological torture. “My husband asks for a divorce and bosses fire me.” 

One year, Sara’s own mother was in on the sick game, baking her a birthday cake that had been sabotaged, either with hot sauce as the “prank” filling or inedibly salted as the April Fool’s payoff. Trusted loved ones seemed to relish Sara’s confusion, disappointment, and hurt on a day that should have been filled with joy and celebration. Year after year, it was the same toxic pattern.

Perhaps the cruelest April Fool’s prank took place when Sara was an adult attending a local church. The ladies’ society at the church decided it would be hilarious to throw her a surprise “birthday party” that April 1st, having her show up to the fellowship hall amid decorations and brightly wrapped empty boxes. 

“When I arrived, they jumped out yelling ‘Surprise!'” Sara recounted, her voice trembling slightly at the betrayal and hurt she still felt over the incident decades later. “For a moment I was touched and elated, but the joke was that it wasn’t a party for me.”

Sara’s face flushed red-hot with humiliation and rage as the curtain dropped and she realized she had been punked yet again, this time very publicly by people she looked up to and respected as moral authorities and pillars of the community. The ladies cackled at her crestfallen expression, soaking up her disappointment as the punchline to their cruel prank.

“I tried – really I did – but 26 years was too much,” Sara said, the emotional torment of reliving that pivotal moment still weighing heavily. “A few tears escaped, so I ran to my car and left.”

The stunned silence in the church hall must have stretched for an eternity as the realization dawned on the pranksters that they had finally gone too far. Sara’s emotional well-being was no laughing matter, yet they had essentially bullied her on her birthday in the name of a childish “tradition” that stopped being funny approximately never.

To their credit, the chagrined ladies attempted to make amends, calling Sara to apologize and explain that they were just trying to have some innocent fun with her on April Fool’s Day. But the damage had been done – this cruel disregard for Sara’s feelings and boundaries on her birthday, the one day she should have been made to feel special, had crossed the line into mental cruelty.

Sara’s husband intercepted the calls and fibbed that his wife wasn’t home, giving her the space and time to process the trauma. After a few days of reflection, Sara made the difficult decision to permanently distance herself from the toxic people and relationships who had turned her birthday into a landmine of emotional abuse each year.

“I celebrated my 27th birthday alone that year,” Sara said, her voice regaining its resolve and determination. “But it was the healthiest birthday I ever had, because for the first time, I didn’t have to force a smile or pretend to appreciate being taunted and humiliated. I owned my day, I owned my truth, and I owned my power.”

From that pivotal moment on, Sara took a stand and drew firm boundaries to protect her peace on April 1st. Loved ones who persisted in trying to prank her on her birthday were excised from the celebration, or avoided entirely if they refused to take her seriously. Bosses and authority figures were sternly warned in advance that any attempt at an April Fool’s “joke” would be dealt with as actionable harassment.

What should have been a silly day of harmless fun turned into a minefield of psychological trauma for Sara year after year as the people who claimed to love her most willingly inflicted emotional abuse in the name of an idiotic tradition. While most people look forward to April Fool’s as a day of levity and lightheartedness, for Sara it became a heavy emotional burden that took years of work to finally unpack and overcome.

“I still get a little anxious each year as April 1st approaches,” Sara admitted, the echoes of past hurt still audible in her voice. “But I’ve drawn incredibly firm boundaries, and the people who stuck around learned that my birthday is strictly off-limits for pranks and ‘jokes.’ I set consequences and stuck to them, even if it meant cutting out some toxic people to protect my peace.”

Sara’s hard-earned evolution birthed an empowering new outlook on life: “If you can’t celebrate and honor me on the one day that’s supposed to be all about me, then you don’t deserve me on any other day either. My birthday is an occasion now, not an ordeal – and it will never be an April Fool’s punchline again.”

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