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Discuss: Birthday Expectations

image found on SweetapolitThere are two kinds of people in this world: People who are enamored with their birthdays and people who don’t think that birthdays are such a big deal.

My brother is the former.  I am the latter.

Growing up, The Boy didn’t have a birth “day,” he had a birth “week.”  Typically, this week included a family party, a large gathering of friends (at a bowling alley or a pool), a school party and then a smaller slumber party comprised of only a select group of friends.  And if you dared refuse to acquiesce to any of his requests you would be met with an emphatic, “But it’s MY BIRTHDAY!”  And so it was.

My birthdays, on the other hand, were usually spent at home with my family and one or two friends eating Chinese food and chocolate birthday cake with vanilla icing.  My Nana and Papa would come to visit, and the highlight of the day was wearing the new “birthday” dress that they brought me. 

The disparate nature of these celebrations wasn’t personal.  My parents certainly didn’t love The Boy more than they loved me. (At least, I don’t think they did.) My low-key birthday celebration was usually due to logistical concerns more than anything else.

You see, the 29th of May either falls during or immediately after Memorial Day weekend, so no one is ever around.  They’re camping, they’re at the beach, they have family in town, etc.  So planning a party for the day of my birthday is impossible, and coordinating everyone’s schedules for something in the weeks after is like planning the invasion of Normandy. 

Thanks to that fluke of the calendar, I never really had big birthday celebrations growing up and I still don’t have them now.  I tried a few times, but planning your own birthday party really stinks.  This is especially true if your birthday falls on a holiday weekend.  So I just got to a place where I rather enjoy having a small celebration or none at all.

True to form, I don’t have any plans for my 30th birthday.  I might get a drink with friends or dinner with whoever is around.  But when people ask questions like: Do you have something special planned?  Or what are you doing for your birthday?  The implication is that doing nothing, and not living up to the socially accepted birthday expectations, is not okay.

The news that I’m not planning something has been met with surprise, disgust, ambivalence, frustration, mocking and even a few whiny complaints.  It’s deeply frustrating.  And, in a way, it’s hurtful.

Some people are happy to mock me for not having a party, “Of course, you’re not having one. You’re not fun.” That really helps.  But it was just a joke, right?

Several folks are happy to remind me how special birthdays are and how I NEED to have a party, right before they tell me that they’re busy/out of town for most of next month, but if I could find a date that worked for them, they’d be happy to attend. But don’t suggest that you might do something on a day when that person cannot attend, because then they’ll feel left out and send you an e-mail telling you so (happened this morning).

I think what it boils down to is this: We should be able to spend our birthdays however we choose, and I am not a birthday party person.  That doesn’t mean I need your pity or concern.  It doesn’t mean that you need to express your disappointment that I’m not planning something.  And it doesn’t mean that I am some how emotionally stunted or malformed.  Because it’s my party, and I’ll spend it drinking $200 champagne and eating Georgetown Cupcakes all by myself if I want to.

So ladies and gentlemen, are you on Team Belle or Team Boy when it comes to birthdays?  Do you want the big party or something low key?  And do you judge people who either a) don’t celebrate their birthday or b) celebrate their birthday too much?

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    61 comments

  1. Siobhan says:

    Team Belle and the $200 champagne! Happy B-day!

    November 30, -0001/Reply
  2. Sim says:

    I'm so with you on this topic. My birthday also falls on the 29th of May and although I'm still one year away from the big 30, I have people asking me now what I plan to do next year and that I MUST have a big party. To be honest I am happy to spend a quiet night at home enjoying a nice dinner or even just going out to see a movie. I don't understand why people put such emphasis on birthdays. But saying that I love attending friends birthday party's. Maybe it's all the organization and fear of no one turning up that puts me off from having a big party for my own birthday.

    November 30, -0001/Reply
  3. alex says:

    I am on your side I am in college and my birthday falls during finals and in high school it was during testing as well. So I have never had a party I have always had a test or had been studying for a test on my birthday. This was the first year that I had nothing so I just went out to dinner with my sister and I am happy just to do that. I don't need a big party and I am happy with out one. Just having a nice dinner or going to see a movie is all I need.

    November 30, -0001/Reply
  4. Laura says:

    Happy almost birthday! Mine is the same day. I will be out of town for work, but the weekends before and after will be full of celebration — less by choice than by having awesome friends. For many years in high school and college, because of tragedies surrounding the date (friends and family members dying), I didn't celebrate. Last year, it happened that my friends and I all went out of town together for the weekend, and it turned into a full weekend birthday bonanza. It's really a great change.

    May 25, 2012/Reply
  5. Laura says:

    Team Belle all the way!
    You should spend your birthday how you choose and don't be pressured by other people's expectations of parties, large gatherings etc. Do what makes you happy and do it for yourself!

    May 25, 2012/Reply
  6. lisa says:

    I am definitely team Belle. My friend had three (3!!) parties for her birthday this year and it wasn't even a big birthday (i.e. 30). I even though I love her, I thought it was ridiculous and self-indulgent.

    May 25, 2012/Reply
  7. Airlie says:

    Team Belle all the way. I hate making a big deal out of my birthday. I usually do a low-key dinner with boyfriend/family/friends and call it a night. I do tend to judge those that make a huge deal out of their birthday.

    May 25, 2012/Reply
  8. Well... says:

    I say, ” You go girl!” However, I am on team Boy. I like doing stuff for my birthday. Nothing big, nothing crazy but something. It is a special day of sorts and it does only come once a year. With that said, I'm not a party person so it's usually a trip out of town or dinner and dancing with my friends. At any rate it is your birthday and you should do whatever you want. I'm sorry you have holiday logistics to battle but I'm sure you'll make the best of it. I can't believe someone sent you an email to complain about not being able to come. How obnoxious. Happy birthday in advance!

    May 25, 2012/Reply
  9. Kate says:

    My ideal birthday is something in the middle. I want something to make the day different and special when compared to the normal,run-of-the-mill day. However, I don't need a week with multiple parties and lot of attention. I'm happy if my husband sends me flowers and then remembers to make dinner reservations.

    May 25, 2012/Reply
  10. SC2 says:

    Something low key with just family and maybe a small dinner or lunch with friends is fine with me. My birthday is in the week between Christmas and New Years, so planning anything fancy is impossible. When I was younger I used to get jealous of my friends who got to have big parties and not deal with scheduling issues, but as I've grown that's not what matters. I was surprised for my most recent birthday that most of my friends were able to attend my birthday dinner, which I held on a weekday.

    May 25, 2012/Reply
  11. KiKi says:

    Team Belle: You should spend your birthday how you want. If you want to have a party, have a party. If you want time for yourself, do that. Where it gets challenging and frustrating is when you are Team Boy and you expect everyone to come to all 14 of your parties, dinners and gatherings. I find people like that birthday-zilla.

    I am like you. My birthday isn't a big deal for me and I don't care for a celebration. I always take the day off work. I do not want to be at work having a bad day on my birthday. I then spend that day as I wish: taking a walk, exercising, getting a massage, eating a fabulous meal, swimming, reading, seeing a movie. Just having that time for me is celebration enough and makes me happy.

    Have a wonderful birthday. 30 is fabulous!

    May 25, 2012/Reply
  12. Kristen says:

    I'm like you – mine is May 16th… and once I hit college I stopped celebrating because it was always a few days after finals were over. People were always exhausted or it was their first few days home and didn't want to travel or were broke because they hadn't started their summer jobs yet. I got out of the habit of celebrating, and I prefer a low key celebration. Planning your own party is no fun, and I find it annoying when others say “well you have to do something!” like not doing anything makes you uncool or antisocial. I always go to my friend's bdays when invited and have a great time, and I think it's great that some people want to go to dinner and drinks and rent hotel rooms and have parties… it just isn't for me.

    May 25, 2012/Reply
  13. Amy says:

    I like to do at least a little something fun on my birthday, but I don't need for it to be anything terribly huge. My birthday always fell during exams from high school through grad school, so any year that I had something more than a candle in my cupcake at the dining hall was pretty cool with me.

    May 25, 2012/Reply
  14. HM says:

    Team Belle!! The part about you getting an e-mail because someone is offended you are doing something when they're unavailable is hilarious, because it's so true. An acquaintance of mine is upset because my friends and I won't shell out hundreds of dollars so we can pay for a party bus for HER 25th birthday. This is an event that she scheduled. I'm moving across the country a week after this ridiculous party, of course I don't want to spend any money. I am more than happy to celebrate your birthday by buying a few beverages or whatever. But please keep it to one party and be conscious of people's spending limits.

    May 25, 2012/Reply
  15. Kay says:

    Oh lord, I know exactly what you mean. My birthday is the 30th, so growing up, I would have a party every so often, but mostly we were doing family holiday events. My best friend and I threw a joint Sweet 16 (two months after my actual bday and one month before hers) and I went for a fancy dinner with friends on my 21st. Other than that… I don't think I've had a “birthday party” since I was about 11.

    This year my husband and I will be going out to dinner (because we got a Groupon and we never eat out), splurging on a bottle of bubbly, and eating cake back at home. And that will be just right.

    May 25, 2012/Reply
  16. Molly says:

    I agree that your birthday should be spent the way you want it. However, at a certain age celebrating too much does look self indulgent and very immature. I know someone who recently turned 34 and wore a plastic tiara on her head, in a skin tight mini dress while playing flip cup (she has worn the tiara for the past several years on her birthday). In my opinion that is not exactly the way you should ring in a birthday in your 30s. Something tasteful in an age appropriate manner, big or small is a good way to go! Don't let people judge you for not going over the top for your 30th, champagne and cupcakes sounds just fine to me. Happy Birthday!

    May 25, 2012/Reply
  17. Kat says:

    My birthday is between Christmas and New Years like SC2's and growing up it was always tough and I stopped celebrating. However, two of my college roommates' birthday's are that week too so if we are all together we spend a week celebrating. If we can't all be together we just spend our birthday's doing whatever makes us happy. It's YOUR birthday so you can spend it however you choose to whether that's partying into the wee hours with a bunch of people or just spending an entire day in your pj's!

    May 25, 2012/Reply
  18. K. Hill says:

    First off, Happy Birthday!

    I am #TeamBOY! I LOVE MY BIRTHDAY! And I too celebrate it to no end. I have had so many of my family members diagnosed with cancer (i.e. Mom, Dad, Grandma, Grandpa, Aunt) that I MUST celebrate every year to the fullest. Who knows when it will be my time?

    BUT, I am on your side in the sense that you should do what YOU want on your bday. It's time for you and you can do whatever you do or don't want to do. Enjoy your day!

    May 25, 2012/Reply
  19. Theresa says:

    I'm a huge birthday person – but unfortunately, the last two years I have been really let down with low expectations. There were even some tears this year (alcohol-fueled, and in the privacy of my bedroom, but still). I hope that next year I learn to relax on the birthday front and enjoy something low-key that will be guaranteed to make me happy.

    P.S. cupcakes and expensive champagne – Belle, I'd happily join you for that kind of celebration!!

    May 25, 2012/Reply
  20. Monica says:

    Totally agree with you. I always plan a camping trip for my birthday so that when people ask, I am doing something, but not something that everyone and their brother is invited to. I had my 30th last year and went with my husband, brother-in-law, future sister-in-law and our collective four dogs. My mother still felt like she had to throw a party, even though I just shrugged my shoulders when she brought it up.

    I think half of the expectations are about you having a birthday to entertain your friends, not to entertain yourself. Just like how weddings have come to be about providing a non-stop over the top party for the guests and not being about the bride and groom at all.

    Some people make an extra big deal about 21 and 30. But 21 isn't the beginning and 30 isn't the end. They are milestones, but not that big of a deal once you've passed them up.

    Good luck dealing with the knuckleheads who want to make you feel bad, hope you have a wonderful birthday in spite of them!

    May 25, 2012/Reply
  21. L says:

    Happy birthday, Belle! I hope that no matter how you spend your birthday, you still get that birthday dress. If that's you're favorite way to mark your birthday, make it happen!

    May 25, 2012/Reply
  22. L says:

    One time when I asked my former-roommate what her favorite holiday was she replied, “Christmas and my birthday”.

    I don't like the attention surrounding my birthday, a nice quiet dinner, drinks and a good card is all I will ever need.

    May 25, 2012/Reply
  23. Terri says:

    My birthday has NEVER been treated by anyone as anything special other than my now deceased grandmother. She would buy ice cream sandwiches for my class in elementary school deliverying them herself after lunch in the cafeteria. Sometimes I think I missed that because I just needed a little acknowledgement. I admit…this makes me sad. But, hope your day is at the very least a little something special. Happy Birthday Belle!

    May 25, 2012/Reply
  24. giggling gourmand says:

    Happy birthday! Fiance and self have stopped buying presents for big occasions and instead we take a trip or go to a really fancy dinner, just the 2 of us. This year on my birthday we will have just returned from honeymoon, so trips and fancy dinners won't be in the cards. I was thinking of inviting a few friends to a bowling alley and getting a sheet cake. What I hate more than anything is when somebody plans a dinner for their own birthday but then expects the guests to pay.

    May 25, 2012/Reply
  25. AD says:

    I feel your pain Belle. I'm also blessed with a May 29 birthday (which isn't so bad considering we share it with JFK, Patrick Henry and Bob Hope) but I never had big parties growing up because it was just inconvenient for people with so much going on (finishing up the school year, Memorial Day, etc etc etc) and now I have Louisiana's legislative session and the occasional oil spill to add to the mix (at least Hurricane Season doesn't begin until June 1). I've always wanted to have big crazy fun parties, but it's rarely worked out (aka my 16th birthday spent with my parents at this crappy diner in town eating a piece of cake I didn't even like while holding back tears). So I've given in to the low key birthday.

    But enough poor poor pitiful me and my birthdays… there is an organization in Baton Rouge called Brave Heart that gives birthday parties to children placed in Group Homes as a result of neglect or abuse. The birthday party is to remind them that they are special and unique and their birth and life means something. I've always thought about getting involved – and now seems like as good of a time as any. https://www.braveheartchildren.org/helping.html

    May 25, 2012/Reply
  26. L says:

    Terri that is so sweet. You should carry that memory with you. Hell, buy yourself an ice cream treat and maybe do the same for some elementary school kids.

    May 25, 2012/Reply
  27. Anna says:

    Team Belle (happy birthday!)! My birthday always seemed to fall over spring break, which for me meant that they were very quiet, at home with mostly family. I turned 30 this spring as well – spent the day at work and then went out for cheeseburgers with my husband. Very low key, and perfect for me!

    May 25, 2012/Reply
  28. Amy says:

    Belle, I'm with you. My birthday is the day after yours, so perhaps we've always had to compete with a holiday weekend. I've lost count of the times I've had a birthday on someone else's graduation or wedding weekend. My family has tried to host “big” parties for me on the major birthdays (which I disliked), but now we just spend an evening at home with some cake on whatever weekend I visit.

    All this is to say, celebrate your birthdays however you damn please. But let me know what kind of champagne you end up buying so I can follow suit ๐Ÿ˜‰

    May 25, 2012/Reply
  29. MM says:

    I guess I fall somewhere in the middle between Team Belle and Team Boy, and as I get older, it's really more about personal celebrations…doing something special for myself and really celebrating where I am in life. You should get to do exactly what you want to do on your birthday! I spent my 30th shopping and then making pizzas for a small group of friends. I love to cook and entertain, and it was my perfect birthday. At the end of the night I realized I had spent most of my birthday in the kitchen and on my feet…but I was perfectly happy!

    May 25, 2012/Reply
  30. sw says:

    My birthday is two days after Christmas, so I never really had birthday parties growing up. Thus, I am on Team Belle. I have done nice little dinners with a few key friends (generally, after they get back from their holiday vacations)–but I'm not a big fan of making a huge deal out of birthdays.

    And I'll continue the well wishes–Happy birthday, Belle!

    May 25, 2012/Reply
  31. Colleen says:

    Happy birthday, Belle! I hope your birthday is fabulous!

    I hear you on the holiday birthday. My birthday is July 4. As a kid I hated it because my friends were rarely around and we always had a cook out, which seemed so boring to me then. Plus, my grandmother always gave me a book about American history or American presidents. Twenty-some years later I've come to appreciate my birthday. It's a federal holiday so my husband and I will almost always have it off and now cooking out is one of my favorite summer pastimes. And, I'm certain my love of history came in part from my grandma's gifts.

    This is my 30th as well. My mom has been after me to have a big party but I wanted something a little more low-key. So, I'll be spending the evening of my 30th at a Detroit Tigers (recently moved back to metro Detroit) game with my family and my in-laws. There's 22 of us that will be there, including my 92-year old grandfather, my 5 month old seven month old nephew, and my godmother. We're all getting together for a cook out before the game. Burgers, a beer, baseball, fireworks, and the people I love most- it's perfect.

    I do have quite a bit of fun though, telling the young kids in my family that the fireworks and celebrations around the country are for me. ๐Ÿ™‚

    May 25, 2012/Reply
  32. stephanie says:

    Team Belle!! My family and I, on the whole, are just not big birthday people. But like Kristen above, my birthday is mid-May, and once college hit, celebrating big became impractical. I also just don't really care that much. This year, my best friend and I had a movie marathon while eating cake and guacamole on my couch, and then I finished packing up my apartment so I could drive home the next day (I'm in law school). It was perfect!

    May 25, 2012/Reply
  33. UB says:

    I am obsessed with my birthday, after all it's my personal holiday. I just don't throw parties, but I don't throw parties anyway because I hate preparing and cleaning up. I am also obsessed with my friends' birthdays.

    If you don't want to have a party that's fine with me, but I will get you a little something to make your day brighter, even if it's just a gift card to your favorite store… but now your post makes me wonder if I step on people's toes when I do that.

    Our office has a long tradition of decorating or pranking people's cubes and offices. Everything goes, as long as it can be cleaned up quickly so we can get back to work. We have one coworker who specifically said she doesn't want to celebrate her birthday and we respect that. Everybody else is fair game.

    May 25, 2012/Reply
  34. EBT says:

    Happy birthday, Belle!

    I am totally Team Belle. My birthday doesn't even fall on a holiday weekend or anything (January 27), but I just haven't ever been big on my own birthday. I love planning for and celebrating others' birthdays, but I HATE planning my own party. Case in point – this year, I decided to go on an optional work trip and one of the travel days was the actual day of my birthday (a Friday). That weekend, my lady friends and I went out on H Street. We had brunch the next day. It could have been any other weekend of my life. My mom used to try to throw epic birthday parties for me and it always made me really anxious so I asked her to stop when I was in high school. The one exception to this was when my college boyfriend threw me a surprise party for my 21st. It was perfect because he only invited my very close friends and I didn't have to be involved in the planning even a little bit.

    On the other hand, I have a coworker whose birthday is 5 days before mine. This year she announced to me that it might be problematic if my birthday week coincided with hers. And then I have a mother who calls all her friends on August 1 (her birthday is at the end of August) and announces that there are 21 more shopping days till her birthday. Go figure.

    Anyway, however you choose to celebrate or not, I hope you enjoy yourself!

    May 25, 2012/Reply
  35. An says:

    Happy almost-Birthday, Belle!

    I understand the scheduling issues a little myself — my birthday is New Year's Day. My birthday preferences fall somewhere in the middle — I've never really thrown a big party, but usually celebrate in some way (though many times just with family, or out of town, etc.). However, I have gotten a lot of those negative reactions from people who would be out-of-town even if I did celebrate. (What do you mean you're not throwing a party? What do you mean you're not 'going out'? What do you mean you are still going to be visiting your family out of state for the holidays? How dare you! Oh, but I'm going to be out of town that weekend.) It's not fun to be judged for your choices on your own birthday, even if they are couched as friendly (or frenemy-ly) ribbing.

    Dude, love the champagne and cupcakes. How about a massage… that also sounds awesome. Whatever you do or don't do, have an awesome time!!!

    May 25, 2012/Reply
  36. Rachel says:

    I am always a little disappointed when friends don't celebrate their birthdays. This disappointment comes from a good place, though! I think the desire to celebrate with a friend (in any way they choose) is natural; it feels like a moment in a friendship when you can focus completely on that person and be thankful to have them in your life. I know not everyone loves this kind of attention, but I think it's important to sometimes let your friends do something nice for you.

    May 25, 2012/Reply
  37. Dakota says:

    Enjoy your day however you wish. Isn't that the best gift? Happy birthday, enjoy it!

    May 25, 2012/Reply
  38. Elisabeth says:

    Oh, I identify with this so much! Like you, I turn 30 this year, and my birthday also falls around the holidays. And not just any holiday, the Christmas holidays! So I, too, never do anything on my birthday. Growing up, everyone was on Christmas break so no one was around for the holidays. In college and after, people are traveling either to their parents or on vacation. My birthday is two days after Christmas, and no one wants to have a huge party a few days before they already have plans for the new year. So my birthday falls in the dead zone of celebration.

    I also felt inferior growing up when people ask me what I'm doing and I say…nothing. You're right, it's a catch-22. “Oh, you're not doing anything, WHY NOT!? Ok, I'll go out to dinner…oh wait I have to visit so and so cousin/ I'm going on a ski trip that day.” As I've gotten older, I relish in just being able to spend the day as I want to. Last birthday I went out to lunch with my sister, walked around Chinatown shopping, and then went to see a movie. It was perfect. And it just seems narcissistic to me to throw yourself a huge party, so I'm sure I'll be doing the same for my 30th. Now, all my friends are turning 30 this year too, and I've definitely partaken in weekend long celebrations, which are lots of fun. I'm just content in knowing mine won't be the same.

    May 25, 2012/Reply
  39. espie says:

    Kudos to you for doing what you want, and Happy Birthday! ๐Ÿ™‚

    I'm certainly with you on this one, my birthday falls on Valentine's Day (talk about an uncomfortable day to throw a party..)
    I much prefer low key-but l also want my birthday to be my birthday, so often it gets all jumbled up in Valentine's day that the four-year old inside me wants my birthday all to myself…but I'm perfectly happy celebrating with take out and some wine and cake. there must be cake.

    May 25, 2012/Reply
  40. Rachel says:

    I agree with you, Belle. Your birthday is for YOU to celebrate the way you want to celebrate, and other people don't get a say. Some people do not like attending parties at all, much less a party that is all for them!

    I also have strange birthday timing. It is right after the election, so every other year, the majority of my friends are just getting back from exhausting campaigns. They aren't exactly in the mood to party when they return to DC! DC people problems, I guess. Haha.

    Anyways, have a happy birthday, and I hope you celebrate it exactly the way you want to!

    May 25, 2012/Reply
  41. No Drama Mama says:

    I'm definitely low key when it comes to my birthday. For my 30th, I told my DH that unlike previous years, I actually expected him to make plans–meaning dinner and theater. Not exactly lighting the town on fire.

    RE: the logistical problems of your birthday—crap. My daughter's birthday is May 28. She's only three, so I guess we just hadn't realized we screwed her in the birthday department yet.

    May 25, 2012/Reply
  42. J says:

    Team Belle. I had a couple birthday parties as a kid but as I grew older I didn't really see the need to celebrate it that way as my desires for a good birthday had changed. I've never had a surprise birthday party so I can't attest to that. Dinner and drinks with a couple people sounds like a dream birthday to me. Also Happy Birthday! I'm one day before you and never had the same problems as Australia doesn't celebrate Memorial Day (there is ANZAC day, or Remembrance Day instead).

    May 25, 2012/Reply
  43. Lydia says:

    I'm all over the map with celebrating – really just depends on the year. 30 was a knock down drag out crazy night on the town with a big crowd (thanks to a very awesome friend). 32 was Chinese takeout and wine.

    But this year's big birthday breakthrough? I got tired of always waiting for friends to plan something fun for my birthday or send out an invite, so I took matters into my own hands and planned the whole thing. And you know what, it was GREAT – so much fun. I picked a fun, low-key venue, hit send on a paperless post invite and called it done.

    I also made a decision up front to not sweat the rsvp list or people's schedules. A holiday weekend and travel meant I had to do a weeknight, so only about half the invite list could make it. But it ended up being just the right sized group to still be able to kick back and enjoy myself.

    Definitely going this route every few years going forward.

    May 25, 2012/Reply
  44. TW says:

    I most certainly lean more towards Team Belle! For my birthdays all I ask is that my husband take me out to dinner on or near the actual day. That's about all I need. Which my in-laws just can't seem to grasp. They are very much Team Boy! My mother-in-law, who will be 58, this yearis currently trying to guilt us into taking 3 days off of work and driving 8 hourswith a 3 month old just to be there to take her dinner and so she can “see us” in person. I think Skype will do just fine! Happy Birthday Belle – enjoy your day, your way!

    May 25, 2012/Reply
  45. Ann says:

    I am a New Year's Eve baby and have never had a birthday party on my birthday. 20 years ago I married an amazing man who decided that he would celebrate my “Half Birthday” on July 1. We have half a cake, put half as many candles on, etc. It's not so much that I want the party as much as it is that he makes me feel so special and that my birthday matters – he's a keeper for sure!

    May 25, 2012/Reply
  46. RB says:

    I'm on Team Belle for this one. My birthday is the first week of May, so for 7 years (4 of college, 3 of law school) I had exams either on my birthday or a day or two after, and even if I didn't, my friends usually did, so my birthday hasn't really been anything special since then. Usually I do a very small dinner with my boyfriend, a few close friends, or family members, and that's it for the celebration. I also just don't like the attention surrounding birthdays, it makes me uncomfortable. So, to each his own, but I am very low key when it comes to my own birthday.

    May 26, 2012/Reply
  47. CynthiaW says:

    I'm a big birthday person, but my husband is not. He indulges me and makes a big deal out of my birthday and I respect him and his wishes and we keep his birthday low key.

    I don't think that either way is right or wrong – it's just the way it is. I think that it's because my family just made a bigger deal about celebrations, period, and his didn't – so we both carried those expectations forward. I think that the important thing is that you honor the way that people want to or don't want to celebrate their day.

    But, no, I don't have three parties for my birthday – although I have been accused of having a “birthday week”. It's kind of our own private joke now.

    May 26, 2012/Reply
  48. TJ says:

    Definitely Team Belle! My birthday is on Christmas, so it just always seems like way more work to coordinate a party. Everyone is already so busy, myself included, that it's silly to add to it. When I was little, my parents would throw my party with friends on my half-birthday in June, and they're still really good about giving me a card and a non-Christmas present, and we'll do a cake after Christmas dinner if I'm home. I've really come to like the low-key celebration, and at this point having a party where I'm the center of everything would be weird – I've actually found my wedding and baby shower to be a little overwhelming.

    Bottom line: you should be able to celebrate with whatever makes you happy. Enjoy your birthday!

    May 26, 2012/Reply
  49. A says:

    I make a big deal of birthdays because I think it is a nice moment to be grateful for all the spectacular people in my life. This year I have celebrated a 64th with a spa day, cooked a brunch for two at my place for a 27th, hosted a barefoot bowling 30th and organised a cupcake and champagne movie night for a 28th- the one defining feature being I was celebrating my friends in a way they could enjoy. Personally I find big birthday parties stressful but love scheduling something special for each meal on my Bday.

    May 26, 2012/Reply
  50. M-C says:

    I agree that the seasonality of birthdays helps a lot to establish patterns of celebration that last a lifetime. My first couple decades alternated smack in the middle of exams with school friends already scattered for summer holidays, so I'm not much of a celebrator either. Often it came down to being able to choose a cake flavor (which is good for a cake lover, don't get me wrong).

    But there are also 2 schools of thought for holiday birthdays. Several friends born on Halloween, New Year's Eve or whatever wring their hands about how everyone is already busy and nobody loves them. Several others similarly endowed seize the opportunity to give the best Thanksgiving or Christmas parties anyone ever goes to, on the holiday rather than the precise birthday if necessary, every year. The latter are usually much happier about the whole thing..

    May I gently suggest trying out either a yearly stupendous barbecue on the Memorial Saturday or probably better Monday afternoon, or organizing a yearly camping trip to a great location with room for many, announced by February? Early planning is the key I think before everyone develops other plans. You may start to see these events with a different eye :-).

    Oh, and happy birthday all the same :-).

    May 26, 2012/Reply
  51. Jamie says:

    I completely feel your pain. I have siblings and friends who have “birthday weeks” or “birthday months” and it kind of drives me nuts. Celebrate as you wish but please don't expect me to do something with you seven nights in a row! I think at a certain point it stops being about a celebration of your life and starts being an excuse to make other people do what you want under the guise of an entitlement.

    My birthday is a between Thanksgiving and Christmas. It has always been low key for that reason and I really like it that way. I don't do well with a lot of attention or social expectations so I would much rather just eat some delicious dinner and go to bed. My fiance and I have birthdays close together and he feels the same way that I do, so often if we do get pressured into doing something with friends/family, we just “combine” them and get it over with in one night ๐Ÿ™‚

    May 26, 2012/Reply
  52. rebecca says:

    With a birthday smack dab on Christmas Day, I totally am on your side. My birthday is always a pretty quiet celebration after the commotion of Christmas morning. I was born in the evening on Christmas Day so my birthday is celebrated in the evening with cake and separate, non-Christmas birthday presents. My parents have always been great about about keeping the two events separate. And that has always been more than enough for me.

    I think I have only had one birthday party in my entire life (when I turned 13) and I had to have it a few weeks early because it is not like I could ever have a party on my birthday. And I have never really minded or felt deprived. I am always off of work on birthday and I am always with my family on Christmas so in that way, it all works out completely great.

    I honestly think I would hate making a huge deal of my birthday but then again I really do no know what it is like to have a birthday on a normal, non-major holiday day.

    May 26, 2012/Reply
  53. Maharani says:

    Im on Team Birthday for this reason, though I dont actually throw parties on mine. Being Indian, of Hindu heritage, I have TWO birthdays! One is the “usual” solar birthday and the other, my “real” birthday (according to my mother) on the lunar calendar. Most years they fall several days apart so I celebrate for at least a week. THIS year they fell on the same day, as in the year I was actually born, so my mother said this is especially lucky. In India, birthdays thus have a semi-religious significance so celebrating them comes naturally, at least to me-I usually do something special for myself, occasionally in company, and feel good for at least a week. Growing up we had a puja at home, new clothes and gifts, though not parties as such. This drives some people nuts. They state definitively that I “should” have ONE birthday, this is America etc etc, but the fact is, birthdays are defined differently in different places and I like having two-it keeps me in touch with my heritage, and reminds me that many things are not absolute, but depend upon your viewpoint, and that holding 2 different viewpoints is OK.

    May 26, 2012/Reply
  54. hillybilly says:

    Team Belle! I'm a low-key birthday person, too. I'm so low key that I'm pretty bad about remembering other people's birthdays and must take care to not offend my loved ones when I act all “so-so” about their birthdays, even though I geniunely really do love and care about them. I guess it's like Valentine's Day to many people. Why choose one day to show how much you love when you could do it many other days of the year? That is my approach.

    May 28, 2012/Reply
  55. Victoria says:

    Team Belle for sure!! My birthday is the first week in January, so it's impossible to try and plan anything. People don't want to go out and celebrate because they are tired from the holidays, on a diet for their new years resolution, going back to school/work etc. I always get a myriad of excuses so I've stopped trying to plan anything.

    The thing that really irritates me the most is when relatives try to be “clever” and give me one present for both Christmas and my birthday. Some separate recognition on my actual birthday – like a nice card or a phone call wouldn't hurt. Plus I have cried on my birthday every year without fail. Not sure why it happens, but something upsetting always happens and I end up crying. So I figure it's better to spend time with people who are close to me and are supportive – boyfriend, a few friends, and family is really all that I need.

    May 28, 2012/Reply
  56. Anon says:

    My bday is Dec 22. I am emphatically Team Belle. I could have written your post myself. My 30th was this past Christmas (as in, 5 months ago) and I haven't the foggiest memory of what we did to celebrate.

    May 28, 2012/Reply
  57. Leah S. says:

    If it won't make it too big of a deal, I'll take an invite to the champagne and cupcakes party. Sounds divine.

    Keep living your life, by your rules.

    May 29, 2012/Reply
  58. Kelly says:

    I'm in between. I like to celebrate my birthday, but I don't expect people to completely rearrage their schedules for it. Last year I had a birthday weekend where I just told people where I would be the whole time (X bar on Friday night, X club on Saturday night, X restaurant for Sunday Brunch) and said I would be happy if they joined me for any/all activities. People could stop by when they had a chance and I didn't have to worry about coordinating reservations or anything.

    May 29, 2012/Reply
  59. Hae says:

    Belle–hope you have a GREAT birthday today…and you should definitely spend your day however you choose without judgment. I probably fall a bit in between you and your bro. I don't think I would like my birthday to pass by unnoticed, but I only wish it to be recognized with some thought by those closest to me. I have friends who are like your bro, and some who are exactly like you…and while it does put pressure on friends to ensure they are celebrating it the best way they know how, I accept whatever it is they want. What I hate (and this happened to me recently) is when certain folks except a certain level of telepathy as to birthday expectations! Happy 30th to you, and much health and happiness for many years to come. ๐Ÿ™‚

    May 29, 2012/Reply
  60. Nikki says:

    Happy Birthday Belle!

    Team Belle, but my husband would be Team Boy.

    May 29, 2012/Reply
  61. Freddie_my_love says:

    My Birthday is May 26th, and I've generally had the same experience as you.
    I would really just prefer to eat some food I like and hang out with a couple friends, but people always seem alarmed that I don't feel compelled to have a giant party…..

    May 30, 2012/Reply