Birthday dinners are quite possibly the worst thing ever. Can I get an AMEN?
To the anonymous writer from The Bold Italic who shared a hilariously authentic rant about why you hate birthday dinners: THANK YOU.
The writer so eloquently laments, “If your birthday wish is to watch me chew things from afar, I could have saved the $110 and sent you a really beautifully produced Snapchat.”
We feel you.
I have long considered birthday dinners the bane of my existence at times escalating into reconsidering whether I need to prune some friendships in order to get out of the age-old tradition of paying too much for too mediocre an experience.
I love getting together with friends, and I love finding a good reason to celebrate. Most of us would consider ourselves generally kind people and good friends, I’m sure. But having to pay a ridiculous amount for food that we didn’t even eat to honor a celebrant who we didn’t even get to speak to for more than 30 seconds, only to endure the harrowing task of negotiating the bill with 40 strangers seems more a tortuous tribal ritual than a true celebration.
For reasons difficult to explain (I blame Miley Cyrus, My Super Sweet Sixteen, and the economy), nowadays birthdays have devolved into a parade of narcissism where people are given social permission to “make it all about me” for the days, weeks, and months surrounding the anniversary of the day they were born, whilst their friends brace themselves for the emotional and financial Armageddon of said friendship. As if people in 2014 (the pinnacle of the #selfie generation) needed another reason to be more focused on themselves? Seriously?!
Now the illustrious birthday dinner has become a farce where one is permitted to do things that would be friendship-ending in any other context: invite their friends to get together at a restaurant of their choosing, and then expect everyone to like each other and pay for the celebrant’s (and each others’) meals. And they expect this to be an enjoyable experience. What? Can you imagine if people did this for other events? (“Hi, we’re getting married in Cabo! It’s going to be $1000-5000 depending on how lavishly our friends want to live it up, you’ll have to room with a stranger with no social skills for the entire trip, and we may only see you for 5 minutes the entire time. If you protest or try to pay for just yourself, we’ll consider you a selfish cheapskate and a bad friend!”)
Birthdays, you have gotten out of control.
You are Charlie Sheen ranting about winning and tiger blood.
And you need to stop.
So, dear readers, I propose the following: NO MORE BIRTHDAYS (#NoMoreBirthdays)
At least, not in what has become the all too traditional sense of the word. You see, once upon a time, birthdays used to be about gratitude for another year of life, and celebrating the gift that life is. In Oregon Trail days, if you didn’t succumb to Typhoid or getting trampled by bison, living another year was a freakin’ feat. You pretty much deserved a medal for living past the ripe old age of 16.
Compadres, let’s make the circus of the traditional birthday dinner (of inviting friends and expecting them to pay) a thing of the past.
The #NOMOREBIRTHDAY Movement is about bringing the birthday celebration back to what it should be: expressing gratitude.
Instead, let’s follow what many Europeans do… that is, let’s change our birthday tradition to one where the celebrant treats their friends (instead of the other way around) and expects NO GIFTS. I think this is better for many reasons:
- Since you only have one birthday a year, you’ll likely spend less money overall which is easier to budget for and generally a more pleasant financial experience.
- The celebrants will be naturally motivated to only invite the friends that really matter to them, eliminating that weird “kinda sorta friend” dynamic and leading to more authentic appreciation of the friends who you are grateful for
- The celebrant can go as lavish or as affordable as they like for their celebration without creating anxiety for their friends that are on a budget
- Not expecting gifts means that those who want to go out of their way to give a gift will have the gesture even more appreciated
Alternatively, the celebrant can offer an experience where the expenses are paid for individually, with no expectation that friends participate (i.e., “I’m going to be at this bar, stop by for a drink if you’re around.”)
AND EVERYONE WINS.
One of the best birthdays I had was where I made zero plans and then my friends came and surprised me with cupcakes. It hardly cost a thing but the gesture was so much more than I expected and I felt extremely loved. And isn’t love the point of everything in the first place?
So, who’s with me? Tell us what you think below or tweet me @DoctorTherese with the hashtag #NoMoreBirthdays