Dear Captain Awkward and friends,
Due to frequent moves both by me and by many of them, the seven or so people I consider my closest friends are scattered across three countries on opposite sides of the globe. (And most of them don’t know each other.) Nevertheless, I keep in frequent contact with them – we communicate at least once a week, often more. I’ve known them all for years (several of them for decades), they’re all very important to me, and they’ve been there for me in tough times, so I don’t think this problem indicates a major break in our friendships or anything like that, but. Yesterday was my birthday, and not one of them remembered it.
My birthday isn’t public on Facebook because I never liked the hollow “hbd” posts from people who I don’t really interact with. So the lack of a Facebook reminder is almost certainly a factor here. But I know that these seven friends know when my birthday is, and all of them have sent me birthday messages unprompted in the past. I didn’t even expect messages from all of them this year – it’s just that not receiving even ONE hurt a lot more than I thought it would. Especially because it’s not a secret that my birthday is important to me, moreso now that I have stopped celebrating most major holidays. Maybe it makes sense that more of my friends wished me a merry holiday-they-know-I-don’t-celebrate-anymore than wished me a happy birthday, but it still sucks.
And I don’t think I’m being a hypocrite here! I try hard to remember my friends’ birthdays, whether or not they have them on Facebook, and I make sure to send them birthday greetings. Which was all I wanted in return. One birthday text from a friend and I wouldn’t be writing to you!
Anyway. Any thoughts on how I should handle this? Do I bring it up with them? Do I admit how much it hurt? Should I obnoxiously remind them next year? Or should I focus on the nice messages my family sends me and the kind words from the friends I’m making in my current location, and try not to worry about my friends elsewhere? Do I just need to accept that if I don’t let Facebook announce my birthday, no one will remember it?
Hi, Happy Belated Birthday!
I’m sorry you’re feeling overlooked by your friends on your birthday, that really sucks.
I also must fully confess that without Facebook reminding me when people’s birthdays are, the time in my life where I kept a paper address book or calendar with such reminders is over. I remember my family, my husband, and like, three friends. With everyone else I like a lot, I may have a vague idea of the month or time of year and that’s it, sorry, I outsourced that part of my brain to the Internet some time ago and that hard drive space is never coming back.
I’m also at the age where, if you want to celebrate your birthday in some way, there’s a 99.99% chance that you’re going to be the one taking the lead on making sure it is observed in some way. People I know run the gamut of “Birthdays are for children only” to “Ho hum, is that today?” to “Only a greeting card sent in the mail counts, what is this texting you speak of” to “August is my BIRTHDAY MONTH, plan accordingly beyotches” and there’s no way I’m gonna even try to come up with a list of rules or guidelines about how to do this that should apply to everyone beyond “If there’s something in particular you’d like to happen on your birthday, you should tell the people who matter to you so they know what it is.”
As for what to do now about communicating with your faraway friends about this, what do you want to happen? Do you want an apology? A promise not to forget it next year? For them to say “Ugh, I’m so sorry please remind me”? Or is this a sign that it’s time to check in, more generally, and reestablish ties with people who have been drifting a little bit or remind them about your birthday before it happens next year? Is it time to plan a reunion or some trips and make sure you love on their faces sometime in 2018? Is it better for you to say “I had a good birthday, but I was kind of bummed not to hear from you, did you forget?” or is it better to make the date public on Facebook and risk a few “shallow” “hbd” posts in exchange for reaching/reminding some people who are important to you?
I don’t know. I completely get feeling sad about this – there’s something melancholy in here about the passage of time and things changing in your relationships – and I am here to give you pets and validate those feelings. But practically speaking, I think the thing you want (for them to have remembered on their own and somehow sense how hurt you are and magically correct the error)(AND to not have to ‘give in’ to the Book of the Face juggernaut for future birthdays) is not perfectly achievable here. Choose your battles, I guess? I wish I had a better solution.
254 thoughts on “#1069: “My friends forgot my birthday.””
I agree with the LW here … even though my birthday is on Facebook (and just occurred, on 1/13) there are always people I consider to be close friends who still didn’t text or write a Facebook post on the day. It’s harder to see people’s birthdays when you are on mobile, as well, as the app doesn’t remind you.
This is a hard situation though … if it’s super important, I would say a gentle reminder would suffice – you could even be cheeky about it if you want (“So I had a good birthday … thanks for asking … 😉 ” ) or if you wanted, a more serious text or discussion with all of them.
“(“So I had a good birthday … thanks for asking … 😉 ” )”
That would not sit well with me at all. I wouldn’t end a friendship over it or anything, but I wound find it irritating and I would feel more inclined to distance myself further from the person than to try to remember their birthday in the future.
It’s just not going to happen from me without a Facebook prompt unless you’re my or my husband’s immediate family member, spouse, or child. Or my one very close friend whose birthday is close to mine and who I have a birthday week tradition with, and even then I generally can’t remember the actual day….
Oops, I meant that as spouse or child of my or my husband’s immediate family member, so sister-in-law, nephew, that kind of thing.
Yeah, I can remember one friend’s birthday. It’s exactly a week before mine, and we’ve known each other since elementary school.
Usually, I get a card from her and go, “OH SHIT IT WAS HER BIRTHDAY LAST WEEK.”
My brother in law was initially irritated at our family because he would get all of the cards from our family late. His birthday is a week before my sister’s (his wife’s). So we all get cards for both of them at the same day. His is usually late, hers is on time or slightly early. I’ve been making an effort to get both their cards in time for his birthday, but for the rest of the family, he’s just accepted that his birthday got lumped in with hers because we are more used to hers.
May your BIL suddenly have the lightbulb go on that I got when I was feeling bad that my birthday always seems to be overshadowed by my mother’s, two days earlier: its proximity to my mother’s bday, increases the chances that it will be remembered.
Happy belated birthday, Liz!
“(“So I had a good birthday … thanks for asking … 😉 ” )”
I’m another vote against aiming for a “cheeky” response. I wouldn’t have interpreted this as cheeky. I would read this response as passive aggressive and critical, and I would either end up hurt or angry or both. I can see how you intend this to come across as “gentle” and light-hearted, but that’s not how it reads to me. I think that a straightforward, honest explanation is less likely to exacerbate the situation.
Another vote for passive-aggressive.
Yeah, I can’t help but read it as snarky. I would apologise politely for having missed your birthday, but I would then move you out of the friends category and into passive aggressive acquaintances.
I didn’t forget your birthday because I’m a jerk. I forgot because it’s not on FB, I’m busy, and it slipped my mind. I’ve forgotten my own mother’s birthday. (To be fair, I’m not a dates person.)
Yeah, I’d hear it as passive-aggressive too.
Include me among those who view this cheeky response as passive-aggressive and attention-seeking. I believe that the risk of others perceiving the comment that way is high enough that it’s just not worth the potential miscommunication. If your feelings are hurt, why not just come out and say that your heart is pining away for the days of paper address books and calendars, and that you just can’t seem to adjust to others not remembering your birthday without you prompting them.
Better yet, try to accept that people are already on information overload and make it easy for them to remember your birthday by turning on your Facebook birthday reminder. If you limit your friends list mostly to those people who care about you, you are unlikely to receive any hollow birthday greetings.
+1 on the passive aggressiveness. And I too only remember the exact birthdays of my parents and a couple of very close, long time friends. I have very dear friends whose birthday I’d never be able to remember if it wasn’t for Facebook reminders. I understand the hurt, but remembering or forgetting a date is not a referendum on your friendship or on your worth as a human being. Just turn on the reminder, people have busy lives.
My app reminds me of everyone’s birthdays, whether I want it to or not, so the people I care about unfortunately sometimes get mixed into the people I don’t really care about, and sometimes I see the notification and think “oh I’ll wish them a happy birthday later” because I’m busy at the moment, and then forget.
I just don’t put a lot of stock into wishing people “happy birthday,” on social media or elsewhere, and if someone gets pissy about it I might not want to be friends with them.
(“So I had a good birthday … thanks for asking … 😉 ” )
That is not something I would respond to positively. From my point of view, it smacks as passive-aggressive and entitled snark. A dear friend would just tell me how she felt; a less-close friend, well…this would reinforce why they were a less-close friend.
Ask for what you need, LW, don’t manipulate for it.
( A dear friend would just tell me how she felt; a less-close friend, well…this would reinforce why they were a less-close friend. )
A while ago, I had a vague internet acquaintance inform me out of nowhere that I had missed his birthday a month prior. I do not know him through a site that does birthday reminders. I have no earthly reason to know when his birthday is, let alone mark it on my calendar. I’m pretty sure him telling me this was weird. It did not make me want to mark his birthday on my calendar.
Yeah that’s not cheeky, it’s passive-aggressive. Passive-aggressiveness does not get people in your corner.
LW, I know it can be hard, but I would just be honest. Birthdays are also very important to me, and as a forgetful person I go to a lot of effort to remember them (I have a Google calendar just for that!) In your position, I would also feel pretty hurt, and I would send separate texts to my friends along these lines: “Hey Joan, I know you are busy and probably just got distracted, but it hurt my feelings when you didn’t text me to say happy birthday yesterday.”
However, going forward, I do highly recommend the Captain’s advice. Precisely because birthdays are so important to me, I get way out ahead of it/make a big deal/bang the drums etc. “August is my BIRTHDAY MONTH, plan accordingly beyotches” is totally me–not because I necessarily want to go out or DO a lot, but I start making noise about my birthday well in advance so that nobody has to check the calendar to remember it’s coming up. (Amusingly enough, my birthday actually is in August)
Ha! My birthday month is December, so that Jesus guy already has dibs. I’m happy to get those shallow FB greetings, including the belated ones. The secret is to remember that your birthday is more important to you than it is to anyone else. (Um, unless you’re that Jesus guy.)
Feeling ya….. December 29th.
I have a nephew whose birthday is Dec. 24. I’ve always been careful to distinguish between his birthday and Christmas presents and not to combine the two into a present that would be less than what his siblings get over the combination of their birthdays and Christmas.
You have the same birthday as my cousin! We also have 13 (me), 20, and 22, and we do not have that many birthdays in this family.
*gasp* We… we’re twins!
My nan’s birthday was December 25th. (Aptly, she was named Carol.) I never did ask her what she thought of that, and I really wish I had…
@Kai Lowell, my mom, also named Carol, has a birthday the 22nd. She’s also a middle child, so it got overlooked a lot. I make it a point to send her something different for her birthday than for Christmas, and if I’m giving her the gift in person, to wrap it in birthday rather than Christmas paper.
That’s sweet of you. Someone elsewhere in this thread said it better than I managed to. A Happy Birthday wish/acknowledgement says ” I celebrate this day because you were born on it and you exist.” and my world is enriched by your presence in my life.” I know that sounds kind of sappy but the acknowledgement from the people most important to me on the only day of the year that is truly mine is important to me. No matter the reason and no matter how unintentional the forgetting is, it still can make you sad.
Me too! Happy recent birthday twin!
HAPPY BIRTHDAY birthday twin! Including myself and you, I know of only two other people who share our birthday. We’re a small, select group evidently, lol!
I’m December 29 too!!!! Never met anyone else with that date.
Oh yeah…December 19 here and my son is Dec. 24. I’m glad at least my birthday is BEFORE Christmas, so there’s still a festive vibe in the air.
Mine is just before christmas and while I try to keep some distance between them it takes serious logistical dexterity and forward planning to organise any event to celebrate my birthday. Too many people are already caught up in the christmas whirlwind to have any time or if they do have time, that time doesn’t coincide. I’ve just accepted that if I want to organise a party I need to start in October and reserve space in people’s diaries (and even then accept the fact that people will cancel at the last minute with “I’m so sorry but spouse’s family is having their christmas celebration on that date so now I can’t make it”).
January 4th here. Literally no-one cares by then. Everyone is broke and has made resolutions not to do stuff.
Yeah. That’s me too. Mind you, my month is October. And my dearest friend’s bday is three days after mine. And my nephew’s is five days before. And, and, and it’s still my month! (And another friend’s is five days after, and the first friend’s son shares a bday with his mother, and then there’s another friend two days after me, and it’s still my month!)
But yeah. I make a fuss.
Yeah, I throw myself a hella big party every five years or so, so my friends never forget my birthday. 🙂 APRIL IS FOR WINNERS, BITCHES.
I think maybe instead of “So I had a good birthday … thanks for asking … 😉 ” you could say something like “For my birthday this year I decided to do XYZ, and that was really nice/fun.”
I always get a cookie cake, because I’m a fucking adult. Last year I also decided to get a tattoo, which I then never got. But I think sharing how YOU commemorated your birthday is a nice thing to share with a friend and a good reminder that does not include an aggressive “SINCE YOU FORGOT BITCH” subtext.
They will likely feel bad they forgot without the underlying aggression in the prior message.
Assuming they did, in fact, forget.
Being passive-aggressive like this is cluelessly inviting the day when you find out your friend spent the day in the emergency room, or dealing with a dying pet, or otherwise having life interruptions that pushed giving a needy friend attention and “happy birthday!!!!” messages off the priority list.
This, this, this!!!
Something similar to this could also help next year. If you’re talking to a friend, say, a week before your birthday, you can always throw out ‘And for my birthday I’m planning to do XYZ’. Even if your plans constitute nothing more than being stuck at work and splurging on something from the vending machine, you can joke about it. Primes them to remember without feeling attention-seeking or passive-aggressive.
Even if they still don’t remember on the day, you’ll probably get an instant ‘Oh, happy early birthday, have fun!’, which might scratch the itch a bit.
I know everyone else has been critical of the “So I had a good birthday … thanks for asking … 😉 ” approach, but I honestly think that if a close friend that I’d forgotten sent me that, my response would be ‘Oh shoot, I’m so sorry I forgot, i hope you had a great day and let’s schedule a skype date/catch up/whatever soon’. I think we’ve all gotten so oversensitive to ANY sort of criticism at all, and it’s not good for friendships if we can’t mention things that are bugging us but instead leave the hurt festering below the surface.
I think it’s less about the mentioning it and more about the how it’s mentioned. If a close friend said something like “I was really sad last week because no one wished me a happy birthday,” I would be more inclined to ask when their birthday actually was (because I sure as hell wouldn’t know without a FB reminder) and let them know I cared about them and make an effort to remember it the next year. I just don’t do sarcasm as a communication style for something that’s meant sincerely. Other people may be fine with it; it’s one of those compatibility things.
Yeah, I got the distinction and I get that lots of people don’t like that approach. But I just wanted to chime in with a vote for sometimes being a bit cheeky/sassy even if it is a bit passive aggressive. It’s great that people want their feelings considered (and hopefully want to consider the feelings of others) but it feels like every single conversation about feelings has to be deadly serious and correctly phrased with the right amount of sadness before it is permitted, otherwise it will be tone policed to hell and you’ll be ostracised for being abusive to your friends. If a close friend forgot her birthday, maybe the LW is allowed a free pass on a slightly pissy response.
There’s really a lot of room between ‘the exact correct response’ and being passive-aggressive.
Starting a conversation with a friend about a (possible) slight with pissiness is really not the way to go. As others said above, this wasn’t intentional, different people celebrate birthdays differently and some people change over time, sometimes people forget, and sometimes people have a lot of more important stuff they are dealing with.
As someone above said (now I can’t find them) you are setting yourself up for finding out “my dog died that day” or “I was in a car accident”.
Starting with pissiness assumes bad intent on the part of your friends, like you are punishing them for forgetting with a snarky remark.
What’s wrong with coming to them honestly and just stating how you feel? “My birthday was yesterday. It seems like you forgot and that hurt. What happened?”
The LW is allowed to do whatever response she wants (within reason), BUT: what is your goal?
Is your goal to potentially miscommunicate or piss off someone else on purpose? Ok, then go ahead with a passive aggressive or pissy response.
Is your goal to have your friends try harder to remember your birthday? Then you may want to go with something sincere.
Only the LW knows what her true goal is and how her friends would respond. But if nothing else is clear from the comments, going a passive aggressive or pissy route will most likely not lead to positive outcomes. I personally wouldn’t risk it, but that is for the LW to decide.
I’m with you.
Or you could go the proactive approach and *talk* about the fact that your birthday is coming up with the people you care about. When you chat with those faraway friends and they ask “what’s new with you this week?” you can say thing like, “Oh good. My boss is driving me nuts at work and I’m trying to decide what to do for my birthday this year.”
Another option: call your friend yourself on your birthday! Tell them it’s your birthday and you wanted to talk to good friends because it makes you happy to talk to them and you want to feel good on your birthday. I think there is a way to speak your truth without guilt tripping your friends.
If it helps, I forgot one of my best friend’s brithday last year. I was in a bad place, not terribly, but was just burned out and distracted and even though I remembered the week before and thought “I can’t forget to text her!” I didn’t text her. I also forgot my mum’s birthday this year because I was travelling across the country by three different trains and I’d written it in my phone the day before but my brain was full of ‘WHICH TICKET IS FOR WHICH SEAT AND DO I HAVE WATER?’ and I missed it. And in both cases, when I realised (My mums late that night, and my friends three days later), I was so upset with myself that I actually cried.
Basically what I’m saying is that there is almost 0% chance that it was anything personal, and I can totally understand that it stings, but I think it was a bit of bad luck and that a lot of people just have stuff that sits on and squashes things like ‘besties birthday day’.
A possible solution, kind of linking in with the Captain’s advice, is to message each or all (if it’s a friend group) and say “Hey, it was my birthday on this day, and I didn’t hear from you. Honestly no big deal, life happens, but It’d be lovely if we could call/skype sometime soon” You could do those either as a group call or just enjoy a one on one with your friends, and it’s highly likely that you then get to bask in all the apologies and belated birthday wishes in a graceful way whilst reconnecting a little with people you love 🙂
I would not mention the birthday thing at all, and just ask to call/skype. There’s no way to bring up the birthday gracefully.
I disagree – a close friend should be able to be honest. I’d rather hear that straight-up than accidentally later in the skype conversation and then suddenly feel awful and awkward about not remembering until then.
“Hey, it was my birthday on this day, and I didn’t hear from you. Honestly no big deal, life happens, but It’d be lovely if we could call/skype sometime soon” Yes this is a good way to respond. It’s honest (well maybe downplaying it, but in a reasonable kind of way) but doesn’t set out to make anyone feel guilty AND the solution is built-in, both short-term (friends are reminded and you have a chance to reconnect) and long-term (they’re likely to realise it’s important to you, and put a note in their calendar for next year.)
If you want them to know they forgot, you could include a casual Birthday Report in your next email/letter/conversation, among the other Updates Since We Last Talked. So, like, a paragraph each about two other topics (job, class, family, mutual friend, relationship, great deal on jacket, whatever), then a paragraph that goes “I had a really fun birthday: I went out for all three meals, and also went to see a movie” or whatever (no mention of anyone forgetting), and then a couple more paragraphs about other topics.
But you may not want to make them feel bad, you may want to just focus on having them remember in the future. In that case, I’d say nothing about it this year but next year I’d remind them in a email/conversation about a week before the birthday, among other topics—and also giving them the information that it’s important to you. A couple of topics, then “I’m really excited about my birthday next week. I find it’s a way bigger deal to me now that I don’t celebrate most other holidays, so I’m really going to do it up: [plans plans plans],” a couple of other topics.
I like this! Show that it’s important
If the LW does approach friends about this year, I’d try a script like “You may not have known this about me, I think birthdays are super important because X and Y. Can we do a belated birthday event next month? Love to use this feeling as a reminder and opportunity to catch up!”
I also think if something is important to me, it’s on me to communicate that. It makes life much easier for me! Something to think about.
Personally, I don’t think it’s shallow for people I don’t know well to want me to have a good day. I genuinely hope everyone I wish happy birthday is indeed happy.
And if some people go through the motions and don’t really think I should be happy, well I appreciate that they did something.
In my family, we’ll often do birthday plans a month later. I’d rather use it as an opportunity and reminder that I can make effort to be closer to the people I care about.
I like the idea of “I’m bummed because I didn’t really have a Birthday this year, so I’m holding one this month, you’re invited.” Even if what you want isn’t a gathering but some social acknowledgment.
If there are one or two specific people you really want birthday greetings from (such as a romantic partner), maybe tell them that your birthday matters more to you than holidays, and ask them to please set up some kind of electronic reminder for themselves (like a yearly “send Vicki birthday wishes” appointment).
That’s something I have asked for, but it is a level of closeness, and there’s a vulnerability in saying “please, this may seem minor but it matters to me,” and being aware that the other person might drop the ball even if they do mean to get it right. It’s worth thinking about whether the likelihood of getting that card or text is worth the risk of feeling neglected if you ask them to do this, they say yes, and then next year or the year after it doesn’t happen, because they changed software, or something distracted them.
I wish I had a better/more effective answer here.
It’s tricky in a situation like what’s described, where the LW would have been okay with any one person not sending birthday wishes, or even multiple, but the problem is ALL.
No one of them can address that need directly. One of them can only be asked to do more than the LW actually needs from them specifically. So it’s that, or the LW takes the direct steps.
It’s possible to restrict who sees your birthday on Facebook to a certain list of friends. Where you add your birthday, click on the icon to the right to select who can see it. However, I can’t figure out how to create a new list (I have some lists like “Close Friends” but I don’t know if I created them a long time ago or everyone has them by default).
I really feel where the LW is coming from here. I would be super bummed too in their position. It reminds me of when my husband and I were early in our relationship and I had a milestone birthday coming up that I was having Big Feelings about. I wanted him to plan something special, like taking me out to dinner or planning a get-together with friends, but the day approached and nothing like that was materializing. So I decided it was time for the next best thing. I told him directly that I would like if he would do something like that for me. And he did. And it was fun.
I admit, it hurt my feelings initially that he didn’t think of this on his own, that he didn’t know me well enough to realize I needed it. But that wasn’t the reality, and practically speaking, it was better for me to speak up and get 90% of what I wanted rather than staying quiet and getting 0%.
What I’m saying is – it’s totally valid that the LW is hurt. But, practically speaking, I think the best way to make sure people remember your birthday is to make it as easy as possible to do so, which includes putting it on Facebook and maybe even taking the initiative to say stuff about it ahead of time to people close to you.
“practically speaking, it was better for me to speak up and get 90% of what I wanted rather than staying quiet and getting 0%.”
This was a lightbulb moment for me, thanks!
This is wise. The easier you make it for people to show you love, the more love you will receive.
The harder you make it, the less you will receive.
Not because people love you less, but because the older you get, the more hard things you have to do. Nobody can be good at all of them.
Yes, this. I’m another person who doesn’t want my birthday on Facebook, and I rarely do anything for mine, but it is nice to have it acknowledged by someone other than one sibling. My fix was to mention it casually in conversation beforehand – “well, my birthday is next week, I was thinking about going to that new Thai place that just opened with my (cat/boyfriend/coworker/a good book). I wish you didn’t live 1000 miles away, it would have been so nice to include you. Remember that time we went (out for Vietnamese/snowboarding/to the zoo) when you turned 23?” Not everyone still remembers, but at least it puts it vaguely on their radar.
I hear you about missed birthdays. Most of my friends ignore or forget mine. Of my 2 siblings, one always forgets, the other sib remembers about 50% of the time. I’ve even had my mom forget my birthday – and that was when she was visiting me that week!
There are two approaches that I’ve found to be effective at reducing my feeling of rejection, although not always emotionally satisfying.
1) Be proactive. In the lead up to your birthday, talk to friends & family about birthday plans. Be a bit subtle about it, don’t be obnoxious. “I’m going out next Friday with [insert name here] to [do awesome thing] and celebrate my birthday.” works better than “My birthday is tomorrow, everyone must send me something.” Even a post about looking forward to birthday greetings next week can help to jog peoples memories. It also sends a message about what you value – the connection vs things.
2) Accept that life moves on and people get busy and forgetful. This one is tough emotionally. Really tough. And also start to reciprocate. Over the past few years, if people don’t make an effort to stay in touch, I’m no longer making an effort at birthday’s and holidays. Over time, I’ve lost complete contact with some friends but made new connections with new friends. New friends get birthday greetings and (sometimes) gifts. If a friend becomes online only, then I stay in touch online, no mail, gifts, etc.
Also, find a way to make your birthday personally satisfying, regardless of the greetings you get or don’t get. I try to schedule my summer vacation so that I am at a cottage for my birthday and enjoy a quiet day on the lake. The quiet is improved by the lack of cell phone reception. 😛
Maureen, yes, that’s exactly what my advice is with regards to being proactive. I would never tell anyone “oh my birthday is Friday, you need to plan something”, but I would just bring up in conversation something I would already be saying to my friends like, “Oh I’m so pumped for Friday because I’m giving myself a birthday present of taking off early from work and going to the spa/having a netflix binge/driving to the beach!” I think it’s even fine to say to them next year “I’m so excited for my birthday next week – since I’m not celebrating holidays anymore, I’ve decided to really do it big and treat myself!” which serves as both an opportunity just to share about your life and if needed it will remind the people you want to remember. Some people are just never going to naturally remember without a reminder and that’s OK. Doesn’t mean that they don’t want to celebrate with you, but you just have to help them remember!
Same goes with anniversaries – I’m always surprised when people are mad that a significant other forgot an anniversary because I would never let him forget it in the first place! haha! If he hasn’t mentioned it by a week out, then I definitely will say to him in an excited/happy tone something like – “Oh hey! Our two years is Friday, what should we do to celebrate? Should I make reservations at our favorite place?”
I also definitely agree with finding a way to make your birthday enjoyable by yourself! I do the same thing – I always take the day off work. I might meet friends for lunch or something, but generally I love to sleep in, do a solo activity I love and then take my time getting ready for a birthday dinner. I love getting my hair done or taking myself shopping. A “treat yourself” kind of day is always fun! But one year, I just ordered myself delivery and watched movies all day so it doesn’t have to be expensive but find something you like and do it!
It does suck that your friends forgot – Happy late birthday from me! I’m of the opinion some have already stated in that I wouldn’t bring it up in a heavy way, but maybe just mentioned off-hand (as long as too much time hasn’t gone by) what you did to celebrate in your next convo (along with other life details that you normally share). “Oh yeah, I finished that work project so it made my birthday week even more special!” “I ate at the most awesome pizza joint ever on my birthday – next time you’re in town we are going there!” or whatever to kinda remind them and also give them an easy way to send you some belated birthday love!
My sis makes her birthday into her ultimate self-care day. She goes to all her doctors for checkups, etc.
Oh LW, I have been in the same position and it SUCKS. I think if what you want is an apology (and for you friends to remember in future) then explaining to them that you are hurt is completely legitimate. Your friends know your birthday is important to you. When it comes to close friendship, you do have an obligation rooted in that friendship to be good to each other, and part of that is remembering important things. I don’t think forgetting someone’s birthday is a terrible thing, but it is still a let down.
I’m not sure that this is an issue of you needing to reach out more (though reaching out is generally a good idea) – especially as you say you speak to them at least once a week. I wouldn’t call that drifting. Sometimes friends let you down, even good friends who you talk to loads. (Because yeah, everyone is forgetful and sometimes life gets in way).
Also: ” I think the thing you want (for them to have remembered on their own and somehow sense how hurt you are and magically correct the error)”
I don’t really understand this reading. I get from this letter “I’m hurt and don’t know whether or not I should tell people” not, “I want people to magically fix the hurt”.
I’m sorry about that phrasing now that I re-read it through your eyes – I wasn’t using it as an accusation to the Letter Writer, more of a “on an emotional level what you want is for this to not have happened, and that’s not possible, sorry” than a “You have magical thinking about what is possible.”
I seriously get that FB makes things easier for some people, but in this day of Smart phones and calendars don’t people now use their Google Calendar, or their Outlook or their smartphone thing to also remind them of appointments and dates?
I have people I live with that are disabled like I am we have a metric tonne of medical appointments to keep an eye on because I’m the one who does all the driving so we only have one car. We can’t have conflicting stuff.
Everyone I knows birthday is on my calendar, yes my FB friends who are casual people I know online are on FB, but the people that matter are in my calendar. And if an FB friend goes to closer, they go on my calendar too. And calendars nowadays are very good at reminder pop ups if you set them. Some even remind you by voice.
And setting one of those reminders that go on forever annually is a five minute or less task depending on what programme you’re using to do it.
I think the bigger difference here, is that some people get to a certain age and think that it’s just not as important to count anymore. And there are people who feel differently.
But I think when we’re hurt sometimes we do actually want someone to go “oh heck I forgot their birthday, I should call and say sorry, or send one of those oops e-cards.” And that’s not an unreasonable thing, but at this point unless there’s something specific that jogs their memory that isn’t going to happen And it stinks. It’s not magical thinking, really, but if they’re not thinking about birthdays and anniversaries, they’re not going to remember they forgot one.
“I seriously get that FB makes things easier for some people, but in this day of Smart phones and calendars don’t people now use their Google Calendar, or their Outlook or their smartphone thing to also remind them of appointments and dates?”
Some do, some don’t. I still use a flip phone by preference and plan to do so as long as they’re available, and my calendar stuff goes on a physical paper calendar on the wall in the kitchen. That works for my husband and me, though of course part of the reason it works is that it’s just the two of us and we have two cars, so the coordinating isn’t that hard. I can totally see that you might need an electronic joint calendar in a more complex situation.
I have a more complex situation and honestly the idea of using my phone or computer to keep me organized makes me crazy!!!! If all of the cell phones were to stop working tomorrow and you could only use a land line there would be a lot of people out there who wouldn’t be able to call their loved ones because they don’t know the phone #’s. My husband would be one of those lost souls…he doesn’t even know his own phone #. I am all about the old fashioned paper calendar and address book. I still forget to wish my friends a Happy Birthday…but then, they forget about mine too so it’s all good.
IF all the cell phones stopped working tomorrow we’d have bigger problems on our hands than wishing relatives a happy birthday tho.
Like, some landlines still work in a power outage, but your priority in a power outage usually isn’t “wish friend a happy birthday”, its get the power back on and meanwhile stay warm/cold (depending on climate), make sure food in the fridge doesn’t go bad, find a light source, comfort frigtened kids/pets….
Not picking on you, this comment just hit a “hmm” switch.
If you’re someone with A Lot of Anxiety around organization, this is a whole other loaded and fraught topic. I am working on getting better, because it also causes me anxiety to know full well that my anxiety around forgetting things generally causes me to forget things and not do the things that make it easier to not forget things and I know that it is insane and counterproductive but also could someone tell my brain that when it does the avoidance dance of putting into the Date Reminder Things correctly? Because it does not listen to me at all.
Right?? I’ve had an old phone for years that did nothing but function as a phone and calendar. Since you were limited to calendar entries, I reserved it for appointments only. The screen started going out and they no longer make my phone and I refused to downgrade to a flip, so I finally bit the bullet and upgraded to a smart phone. OMG, they are so wonderful ! AND, you don’t have to use the calendar on google, or outlook, or any other email engine if you don’t want to. Right there, in the contacts, is the ability to add events like birthdays, anniversaries, etc. If you enter this data when you’re entering the contact info, the data is put on to your phone’s built in calendar, which then gives you a pop up reminder on the date. SO easy that it makes excuses for forgetting look self absorbed and stupid. I get that people are busy and life happens…but I also know when we start forgetting about the people that matter to us, it may be time to re-evaluate priorities.
I think it’s a bit loaded to connect forgetting birthdays “self absorbed”. I try to remember my close friends, but typically if they care they’re also having a party, so the effort matches. I keep my birthday on the DL for personal reasons, and seldom get texts. I don’t think my friends are forgetting me as a person- they’re just busy.
LW- it completely sucks,I’m so sorry. I hope you had a fab birthday anyway. YMMV, but one thing that might help is seperating in your head the idea that birthday love is a measure of how much your friends love you. Are they kind friends who contribute to the love in your friendship? No – the problem is a lack of reciprocity. Yes? What are some kind or loving things they *have* done for you?
I… feel neither self-absorbed nor stupid for not remembering peoples’ birthdays. I know my mom’s, my dad’s, and my best friend’s, and everyone else I generally have an idea of the week. And I’m perfectly okay with that.
I am neither self-absorbed nor am I stupid for not knowing every single birthday of every friend I have in various friend circles. I keep track of my parent’s, sister’s, brother-in-law’s, and niece and nephew’s birthdays. If I had an SO I would remember theirs. That’s enough for me. I don’t expect others to remember mine.
I get that this is important to other people but it’s really shitty to name call those of us who live/think differently.
Well, my priorities are definitely not ‘saying happy birthday to all my friends’.
Even when I know it’s someone’s birthday, I usually don’t say Happy Birthday unless either I happen to see them in person that week, or it’s a close family member.
And I definitely would not want my friends to ‘prioritise’ saying Happy Birthday to me. Getting a lot of ‘Happy Birthday’ messages from people who don’t talk to you all year just feels mildly depressing (and slightly stressful because I then start to wonder what the correct polite response is) and getting them from people who actually spend time and effort on a relationship with you all year is fine but superfluous.
So yeah, I’m going to continue to not prioritise them, other than for my immediate family.
Forgetting about a birthday is quite different from “forgetting about people” though. A birthday is just a date. I, for one, have to regularly remind myself of today’s date. It just doesn’t register. I don’t think it makes me stupid or self-absorbed.
Also, not everyone thinks birthdays are super-duper important.
Is it worth starting something with your friends? I’m one of those who doesn’t remember birthdays, unless people remind me. If they mention an upcoming birthday I have time to at least send a greeting. Mentioning it after the fact (how could you forget my birthday!) will just be a little irritating. Make it easy for your friends, sometime before your birthday mention that it is coming up.
I agree with your solution going forward, but swallowing something that really bothers you (general you) is easier said than done, and I think a lot of people (probably me included, if I were in the LW’s shoes) would “start something” whether they meant to or not by not feeling authentically happy to hear from those people when they do get in touch. I gotta come down on the side of not stewing about things, even if it has its own downsides.
I’ll be honest, ever since Facebook started reminding me when people’s birthdays were, I stopped making mental records of when my friends’ birthdays were. Friends and family members I’d known for a long time were sort of “grandfathered” in, and I make a point to remember the birthdays of people I’m romantically involved with.
I made one friend in high school, around the time Facebook became “a thing” with my friend group, and because she never posted her birthday Facebook I only vaguely understood that her birthday was sometime in October because that was when she had a big party. I still can’t tell you the exact date, but I remember the time of year it falls on even though we haven’t spoken in years.
So OP, unless someone records the dates of their friends’ birthdays on a calendar like people did before social media, they’re going to take their cues from you, and from others around you. If you really don’t want hollow “HBD” messages, and thus would rather not list it on social media, that’s fine, but then maybe put it on one friend to remind people, or connect with everyone a month before and mention planning something for your birthday.
Yep. There are a grand total of five birthdays I remember other than my own. Of those, the only one that takes effort to remember (as opposed to ‘hey, it’s Free Slurpee Day, time to wish Friend a happy birthday!’) is my mother’s, and she’s gotten to the age where she doesn’t care to make a fuss about it. I honestly stopped giving random Facebook friends “hollow HBDs” because they did feel hollow, like, if I would have forgotten their birthday without Facebook reminding me, are my well-wishes all that sincere?
I care about my own birthdays a lot, but that translates into me caring about making and discussing birthday plans a lot. So “August is my BIRTHDAY MONTH, plan accordingly beyotches” flows naturally from that.
“Yep. There are a grand total of five birthdays I remember other than my own.”
I’m one of those odd people who likely remembers every birthday that has ever been shared with me. Not because I regard birthdays as such a big deal. My brain just remembers stuff like that without effort. The majority of these birthdays belong to casual acquaintances whom I haven’t interacted with in decades. So when their day arrives, I’m not likely to do much more than mentally acknowledge, “yup, Joe’s birthday is today!” and go on with my life. Wherever Joe is today (assuming he’s still alive), I hope he had a great birthday.
“I make sure to send them birthday greetings. Which was all I wanted in return.” That does say something as well. You remember their birthdays because they matter to you and that’s a way you show it. But their birthdays may not matter to them as much as yours does to you. Their personalities might be such that remembering birthdays faithfully and without fail isn’t a way they feel cared for or show others they care.
And that “in return” is a problem. “I do this for you, so I want you to do it back” isn’t necessarily bad and wrong, but it IS something that needs to be said explicitly–ideally before any hurt/offended feelings due to expectations can happen. It’s totally okay to say, “This is my thing, my birthday means a lot to me, and it’d mean a lot to me if you’d set up a reminder so we can be in touch on my birthday every year. I miss you.”
Vicki’s script was great too. “This may seem minor but it matters to me…”
This is such a good point about the unconscious scripts we all have running in our heads.
This is so well said. In addition to people functioning with dates in very different ways – I also think that as we get older there’s a difference around “birthdays I celebrated with X” and “birthdays I acknowledge”. At a certain point – just after high school for many of us – we start to control how are birthdays are marked. Big party, getting dinner, trip, month of activities, nothing decided until the last minute, please no one pay any attention to me, etc. For most of us, we make the moves and then sometimes friends/family/SO’s will step in – but often we’re making sure things happen as we’d like.
Once friends become long distance pals – birthdays, especially without something like a Facebook reminder – it can be lots harder to own how it’s celebrated or not. This is why if getting an acknowledgement is very important – it will be incumbent on you to find a way to speak up. It becomes a lot harder to own “for my bday this year, x is the activity and I’ve love if you could join”.
OP – if after you think hard about this, what you want is a request for people to acknowledge your birthday – then there are ways to ask for it. But I also think the exercise may warrant what other kinds of “I miss you – let’s find a time to Skype/visit in the next year or so/etc.” When we have friends spread all over, I think it’s really easy for something like this to particularly sting – but maybe there are other points at play? While some of us are great at staying in touch over long distances – other friends just aren’t. And a long distance email/chat context just isn’t the best way to remain connected.
It’s hard not to expect the same level of affection/attention back that one puts forth. Sometimes darn near impossible. A friend of mine fell and banged up her face. She lived 1 1/2 hours away but was clearly upset over the incident. Even though we were headed out of state we picked up dinner and flowers for her, and took them to her so she would know she was loved. A few months later my husband was hospitalized for four days for a planned operation. I let her know the date. Not a call, card or visit. I was extremely hurt. I tried to gently let them know I was hurt, but there was no remorse expressed, or any kind of apology.
Perhaps this wouldn’t have bothered most people, but when I added it to other things I realized this relationship was too one-sided and we let it end. For me, not to acknowledge a hospitalized friend falls below the level of friendship. No one has to agree with me, of course.
“I make sure to send them birthday greetings. Which was all I wanted in return.”
This can create a different type of awkward situation if the person doing the greeting doesn’t have sufficient perspective to understand that not all social connections are equivalent. I’ve known very lonely people who will make a special effort to remember the birthdays of casual acquaintances, hoping those individuals will reciprocate and make an equivalent special effort. When no return birthday greetings are forthcoming, they either slip into a funk and/or rant about how the entire world has lost its manners. They don’t realize that their expectations of those at the periphery of their social circle are simply unrealistic.
Generally speaking, making friends, and then making closer friends, involves making overtures and hoping for returns. Sometimes you get returns, sometimes you don’t. Maybe “very lonely people” — is that a euphemism for something? — react strongly to the lack of reciprocation because the stakes feel a lot higher for them. Kind of like how losing $10 that you could have sworn was in your pockets two minutes ago is NBD when you’re making six figures and catastrophic when you’re below the poverty line.
I would also note that there are plenty of people on the periphery of my social circle who wish me happy birthday on FB. Every dang year, even if I haven’t seen them in half a decade. Birthdays are important to them, and they like to spread birthday cheer.
So IME, as adulthood progresses, the social radius is not an accurate predictor of who wishes whom a happy birthday. The value each individual places on birthdays is, to some degree. I think that’s partly what the OP is dealing with.
In this context, I suppose it’s a euphemism for people who don’t have meaningful friendships and thus have a lot of time on their hands to remember the birthdays of people who barely know they’re alive. I have no doubt that the stakes may feel high for them. While there is nothing wrong with extending birthday greetings to casual acquaintances, investing a lot of emotion and expecting those with a more active social life to reciprocate in kind just seems like the recipe for a self-inflicted wound.
I agree that the social radius is not an accurate predictor of who wishes whom a happy birthday. My comment was more about people who have unrealistic expectations of those with whom they may have only the most fleeting of connections.
Perhaps the scenario came to mind because I’ve recently encountered several socially-challenged adults ranting about how the entire world is rude just because a near stranger failed to reciprocate their overtures of friendship. The problem isn’t those other people who have lives of their own. It’s the entitled perspective of the person doing the ranting.
I completely agree with the Captain on this. I long ago accepted that A) everyone does birthdays differently when they’re older and B) there is no way I’m ever going to remember what everyone else’s birthdays are, let alone everyone’s individual birthday preferences, nor is it fair to expect my friends to do so unless we tell each other what we want.
FB makes it easier for people to find out when your bday is, and makes it easier for someone to get in touch and give you birthday greetings, and for that I’m grateful. For closer friends/family, it gives me the heads up I need to send them a text (or even to just check and make sure their birthday is when I think it is, so I can get a card out in time). I tend to assume if someone doesn’t have their birthday listed, that they don’t want any birthday wishes, so it’s possible some of LW’s friends, upon realizing at some point that LW doesn’t have a bday listed, thought that’s what LW prefers–just because LW wished her friends a HB doesn’t mean they’re going to automagically know she wants the same thing.
Once you get past the age of having classes with your friends, it’s basically incumbent upon you to take care of your birthday wishes/plans, whatever they are. At the very least, you’re in charge of reminding people who aren’t your parents/SO that your birthday is coming up. It’s not the most fun thing ever, but at the same time, it does mean you get to decide how to deal with it. And I LOVE my birthday. I personally always take the day off work and treat myself to something fun, like a massage or a matinee or just sleeping in and wearing pjs all day. When I lived closer to my friends, I would call them up and invite them to have lunch with me for my birthday. You have to use your words to let people know your bday is important to you, especially if they’re people you don’t see as often.
This is totally my approach as well: I celebrate my birthday for me. I take the day off work and go the spa or do something I’ve been wanting to do — such as seeing a movie or going to a new restaurant or taking a long walk or sleeping all day, whatever.
Maybe I’m just unsentimental, but I think of a birthday like a wedding anniversary, in that it’s only a memorable date to the people involved. I don’t expect my friends — even my besties — to remember my wedding anniversary, and I don’t expect them to mark my birthday either, unless I’ve told them I want to do something.
If I want to go out with friends, I contact them and say “would you like to join me for a birthday dinner?” One year for a milestone birthday I thought it would be fun to do something splashy so I said “friends, would you like to go to this foreign destination with me? I’d love to spend my birthday there” and those who were able to go came with and it was delightful.
In past years my parents and my husband have forgotten my birthday. They didn’t forget AT me, like out of spite. They were busy, and the date slipped past them. And they felt terrible, more terrible that I did really.
So I think it’s a kindness and a courtesy to let the people I love know if I want to involve them (or even just remind them) about my birthday, whether that’s actual in-person plans or on facebook or whatever.
Ugh, LW, I feel you. I had a milestone birthday last year, and my husband’s present was late, bc he waited till the last minute, my mom also forgot and gave me an item of clothing that she bought for herself and forgot to return, and my oldest teenage kid picked _that day_ to tell me he wanted to move in with his dad. It took me months before I could think about my birthday without crying angry tears.
It still hurts, even when it’s unintentional, and not personal. What I have decided to do, and something you may consider, is to make my birthday “Treat myself” day from now on. I will buy myself nice things and fill my day with what I want to do, independent of what anyone else does or doesn’t do. It would be nice if our loved ones were always unfailingly thoughtful, but sometimes you gotta be the change you want to see in the world.
I have a birthday that falls less than a week after a major national tragedy. In 2001 no one acknowledged my birthday at all. In 2002, my at-the-time husband remembered to tell me happy birthday. By 2005, I generally was getting happy birthday messages again, but I suspect I’m not the only adult whose birthday ended up not being celebrated for several years–after which your friends are out of the habit, and the only thing that turned my birthday back into something people would acknowledge was moving countries and making new friends.
I’m so sorry that happened to you. It’s awful that your birthday was taken over by Horrible Thing.
It was a bummer that first year, especially because my husband had had a stroke a few months before and I could have used some acknowledgement that I was a human being with my own happy stuff going on, but totally understandable.
I will say this–that whole experience made me a lot more proactive about telling people that my birthday is coming up. I’m still awful at planning my own celebrations (it’s just not my gift), but if I want birthday wishes it helps if I indicate that I appreciate them!
Oh, I’m so sorry that happened. I can’t imagine how uncomfortable that must have been at the time. I’m glad you have a proper birthday again, even if you had to expatriate to do so.
Cheers, that’s sweet of you to say. 🙂 It was awkward but I learned some important lessons about letting people know when stuff is important to me.
not the same, but…my birthday is the day before valentines day. Do you know how hard it is to plan, even for yourself, a birthday-related event on the nearest weekend night when (a) everyone on earth is trying to be couple-y and romantic and half the restaurants in NYC have special “couples only” prix fixe menus or (b) it’s actually presidents’ day weekend and everyone is out of town?
Or even better, when you find out that historically, the night before valentines day is known around town as the night men take their mistresses out to dinner, which makes it REALLY awkward after you learn that and your dad wants to take you to dinner?
(of course, I have solved all of this by picking a profession where the absolute busiest time of year is around my birthday. So I basically never do anything anymore, which I am happy with)
I do have one friend who solves the “friends forgetting his birthday” conundrum by sending around an email the day BEFORE with a (very funny) literal cut and paste birthday greeting (complete with the little hash marks that denote “cut here”) that you can email back to him. He sends it every year, and I like it because it turns into a really nice way to reconnect if we haven’t caught up in a while.
If anyone makes nasty insinuations about your dad taking you out to dinner, you have my permission to throw something at them.
The really weird thing is that, except for the fact that he has a beard, I LOOK JUST LIKE MY DAD. In an almost creepy way.
Oh–that’s awful! So much sympathy.
Speaking of holidays, my sister’s birthday is right before Christmas. For years I sent her carefully curated boxes of gifts, with each one individually wrapped in either birthday or Christmas paper depending on whether it was a birthday or a Christmas gift. She was deeply enraged if she only got one present. She’s pretty much gotten over that by necessity, because most people give her one present and call it good. She now calls all of December “Birthmas”.
Ach, that must be terrible. My sympathies.
My sister’s is the exact opposite – day AFTER V-Day – and she’s had more than a few sads over the fact people find it acceptable to shove leftover Valentine’s goodies in her face instead of a proper birthday present or cake (or muffins, or cupcakes, or…etc.) I think she put it like this: “It makes me feel like they don’t care about me specifically, but they think they HAVE to give me something and they just happen to have their leftovers on hand.” Quite a lightbulb moment, tbh.
Mine is the day before yours. I fucking hate fucking Valentines Day.
I’ve explained to people why it’s just THE WORST. At least if you’re stuck with another holiday like July 4th (or yes, even Christmas), those are holidays around which people often want to spend time with ALL of their family and friends. Valentine’s Day is the only holiday on which your friends (and even your family) explicitly do not want to spend time with you, unless it’s your spouse.
Also, if you ARE dating someone, they always think they can get away with a combined gift, and if you’re not, it’s a one-two punch of being lonely.
But I will still never forget the time my parents made dinner reservations for THREE a month ahead of time for my birthday dinner (which had to happen on v day because of schedules) at a new trendy restaurant in our neighborhood, and when we got there that night, the ONLY menu was a special “couples only” menu where everything was for two people to share. We walked out.
I did not know that! I often go out night before my Valentine’s birthday to avoid set menu hell. My best year a friend and I got gussied up in black tie to go eat fast food. You cant go away cheaply either sadly. But I feel the two-fer gift versus separate gifts from dates and boyfriend’s is an excellent method to sort the wheat from the chaff.p
To be fair, it might be an only in NYC thing.
My FIL’s birthday is ON that day. I can’t remember how we handled it for a few years. Maybe we shifted it by 6 months? But like with you, everything is back to normal-ish now.
(But wait, it gets better! On the fateful day, he and my MIL were supposed to return from a visit to Europe. Their flight was one of the first ones cancelled, actually. And then we were all on tenterhooks wondering when they’d make it home. Which was pretty quick, because they also boarded one of the first flights allowed out. But still.)
Oh man–that’s super rough. 😦
My birthday is 9/12. Definitely didn’t get any birthday action 2001-2003/ish.
That sounds like a pretty painful day for you. Jedi hugs if they’ll help even a little.
My 50th birthday really sucked. At the time I was attending the University of Washington to finally get a degree (an hour by bus each way), writing three times a week for MSN Money’s Smart Spending blog, and managing an apartment building and doing other odd jobs in an attempt to ramp up payment of divorce-related debt. In other words, very very busy — and the day before my birthday, the building was partly flooded by a freak storm.
I should have been attending classes and studying for finals and maybe, just maybe, doing something nice for myself. Instead, I spent the day trying to get cars out of the parking garage before they were inundated, and dealing with firefighters and utility workers and emergency management officials, and being yelled at by various tenants who wanted to know what the hell I was going to do about what had just happened. Who was going to pay for the cars that got flooded? Your insurance company, I replied. “Why should MY insurance company pay? It was YOUR BUILDING that caused this!” Actually, it was the freak rains and sewer backups that caused it. “Still, it happened in YOUR GARAGE! You should pay!” (They kept forgetting that I was a lowly employee, not the building’s owner. Since I was handy, they took out their fear and rage on me.)
The kicker: We were told to evacuate for the night because the power would be shut off due to the water-fouled electrical system. Some tenants said they had nowhere to go; when I told them about the Red Cross shelter they shouted that they weren’t going to sleep on a cot in a school gym. When I said, “There’s always a hotel,” they shouted that they couldn’t AFFORD a hotel and that the building’s owners should pay for it. (This time they didn’t say that *I* should pay for it. But did I mention that raised voices ramps my PTSD up a thousand percent?)
When we left it wasn’t clear whether the water would rise up to the first floor and ruin all my stuff, but I was afraid it would. I was also afraid that some residents would sneak back in and stay there, despite the fire marshal’s order, and that they’d set the place on fire by using candles for light. By the time I made sure the building was evacuated I had the shakes and also the worst headache of my life. Thank goodness I had an emergency fund (as a personal finance writer, I walked my talk) and could spend the night in a blessedly silent hotel room.
The next day the water has receded but I couldn’t celebrate my natal day. Instead, I dealt with tenants, caught up on my homework, studied for finals and ate about half the cake I’d baked two days earlier. Also provided a pot of very strong coffee and the rest of the cake to one of the building’s owners and his assistant, who were shoveling mud out of the parking garage and removing ruined items from the storeroom. Happy birthday to me. At least my stuff didn’t get wet.
LW, you don’t say whether you are single/un-partnered or not, so forgive me for potentially overstepping here, but as a very peripatetic, unmarried person who is constantly moving away from family and friends for work, it can feel especially hard to be ‘forgotten’ on special occasions. So I empathize! (Even though I never enjoyed celebrating my birthday, even as a child.)
For me, it’s the feeling of not having a ‘default’ person with whom to celebrate good days or important milestones, knowing that I will need to rely on my friends and family of origin to have enough room in their busy lives to remember me. *And* it’s also the feeling of being reflexively defensive about my life in the process (as in, of course I’m not entitled enough to expect that my lovely new friend with the lovely new baby will have time to wish me luck in my new job – and just because it would be nice to have the big questions about my personal life answered, and to come first in someone else’s life, that doesn’t mean I am not proud of my life and the good work that I do.)
This is exactly how I feel too! I am unattached, and my sisters (and my parents) are absorbed by their partners and their children. Last year (my 40th) my parents barely remembered my birthday, but I got a run-down on all that was going on with the grandkids. One sister sent flowers, the other sent a note on FB. It hurts to think of a milestone rushing past with so little recognition – and for further context, I live 4 hours by plane from all of them.
I agree with a comment someone else made – self-love seems to be the best answer. Making the day about yourself can help, since it’s good to treat yourself well. But at the end of the day, being the only one treating you well can be lonely. Hugs to us all!
I can so relate to this. I am a young widow and for a variety of reasons have chosen to delay seeking a new relationship. I also withdrew from a special interest community in which I invested decades of my life. I guess you could say that I outgrew what it had to offer me, and this reality was brought into sharp relief after my husband passed. Since all of my local friends were an integral part of that community, I pretty much need to start over and create a whole new local social network of friends and acquaintances. I have a lot of quality friendships in other states and other countries with whom I connect regularly, yet no one local at this time. While I am enjoying my mostly solitary life, there are times when I become acutely aware of just how on-my-own I am. It really hit home when I realized that I didn’t have anyone whom I could ask to provide transportation after a major surgical procedure. For sound reasons, the facility would not discharge me to a taxi or uber. The hoops I had to jump through in order to make that ride happen are a story in itself.
So yeah, I get it. Other people are absorbed with their own stuff, and it’s easy to fall through the cracks when your own personal milestones need celebrating. Self-love is indeed the answer here, as is reaching out to create your own fun. A sense of perspective is equally important in realizing that you have plenty of good company, and that other people are just living their lives, not abandoning you with intent. Maintaining perspective really does help to keep those “nobody cares about my birthday!” feelings at bay.
I’m sorry you were disappointed that people didn’t remember your birthday, LW. If your friends use Google calendars, you could create an annual “event” and share/invite them. It will show up every year on their calendar.
This really is a hard one, LW. Especially since, folks often change how they -themselves- view birthdays as time goes by, and can have nothing to do with you.
For myself, I don’t necessarily care either way if friends remember mine. I mean, it’s nice and all!, but I don’t necessarily -expect- anything. And two years ago on my 50th, the guy I am seeing (who has never done much more than an ‘HBD!’ email for the last eight years) actually wrote me a very sweet and loving essay. Shocker!
THAT said, I LOVE other people’s birthdays and I make a deal out of finding the perfect gift and writing something really thoughtful. Now, I can’t manage it every year (sometimes the gift does not present itself) but there is always a card. But that’s me.
If you want B-day somethings, ask. I tend to say Hey it’s my Birthday Month, let’s get a drink/dinner/visit at some point! I mean, my friends (like yours) are All. Over. The. World. Literally! So Birthday Month is really just an excuse to reconnect. No one can hang out on my actual BIRTHDAY, just not feasible!
I dunno. I guess I’m saying, take the long view. Give as suits you, and ask for what you -really- need. And I wouldn’t even factor in the Facebook. UGH with the Facebook…. Talk to your friends, give, and ask.
Hi LW, not trying to one-up you but my MOTHER forgot my birthday one year. And I’m an only child! She’s also forgotten her only two grandchildrens’ birthdays more than once. She is more than a bit attachment-disordered because of how she was raised and I’ve learned to be very direct about wishes and expectations. She is healthy enough that when she knows, she does try. I hope your next birthday goes differently!
Editing my comment for punctuation. I think that should be “grandchildren’s,” not “grandchildrens’ “
There’s a saying that comes up from time to time on here: “They didn’t [do thing] AT you”. I think this applies here. Your friends didn’t forget your birthday AT you. They forgot your birthday because… I’m guessing it was because forgetting is pretty much the default state for most people. It honestly isn’t out of any kind of not-caringness, but because of the natural gap between “Must remember important date coming up in X months” and the level of self-knowledge and organisation it takes to work through the additional steps of “Realistically, will I remember it? You know what, probably not when it comes to the point. Better set up a reminder that’s going to work. OK, followed through on that, reminder done.” An awful lot of people are not going to work through that series of steps. It’s not malicious or uncaring. It’s a genuine mental glitch.
It sucks that you wanted this and it didn’t happen. Even amidst the suckiness, though, it’s worth thinking about what it is that upsets you. There’s a difference between being disappointed that something didn’t go the way you wanted it to, and being disappointed in other people for not making it go that way. It’s 100% OK to be upset and wish things had gone differently. You feel what you feel. But when you find that translating into “My friends should have known….” or “My friends should have done…” it’s worth stopping and thinking about where those ‘shoulds’ come from and whether they’re valid.
And sometimes they are! Sometimes the issue absolutely is that someone has done something to you (not just omitted something, but actively done something) that is Not OK, or even that they’ve omitted to do stuff that quite genuinely should have happened. I do not mean to discount that or to have you come away from this primed to put up with crappy treatment in your life because I convinced you that ‘Person should do X’ is never valid. But… sometimes it is worth rethinking the ‘shoulds’ and letting them go.
If what you want is to have your friends remember your birthday, I think you’re going to need to give them some kind of reminder next time around. If what you want is to have your friends remember your birthday unprompted, then unfortunately that one’s probably going to be a case of ‘yeah, would be nice, but isn’t going to happen so need to accept that and work forwards’. If what you want is to have your friends know that you’re bothered by this, I would keep it as light-hearted as possible – kind of jokey indignation rather than a huge You Hurt Me heart-to-heart – or else you’re likely to cause more hurt and fallout than is actually worth it, without really fixing the problem.
Also, happy belated birthday.
Birthdays are so hard because they mean completely different things to different people. I’m a “barely remember my own birthday, definitely don’t remember anyone else’s” person. Birthdays just don’t take up much space in my brain. For the couple of people I know who do care about their birthdays a lot, I make a point to set calendar reminders to mail a card or at least send a nice email… but if you haven’t explicitly told me that you want that, I don’t know, and birthday communication is not my default.
That said, if a friend was bummed that I didn’t say anything on their birthday, I wouldn’t be opposed to a message along the lines of “hey, no hard feelings, but I would love it if you would text me on my birthday next year.” As long as the message is firmly in the spirit of “this is my own quirk that I care about this a lot” and not “if you loved me you would have remembered,” I think it would be ok. If you have any doubt about your ability to tactfully walk that line, though, I’d err on the side of not saying anything about this year and mentioning it before the birthday next year.
Agreed. I miss birthdays as often as not, I’m also in a different timezone to a lot of my friends so Facebook is usually a day late with its reminder. If I didn’t receive a message from anyone I don’t think I’d notice – I always plan what I want to do, whether it’s a big party or a quiet dinner out.
LW, maybe you could book a skype call with some or all your friends for your birthday next year? It’s no different, really, than organizing a party. You’re saying “this event is happening and I’d like to celebrate with you”. Plus, no one will forget about it 😉
That’s a great idea!
THIS. For my spouse, b’day = I Am A Person and I Matter Day. For me, b’day = Boatload of Failure Feelings and Bonus Spiraling About Mortality Day.
It’s a lot of things to a lot of people. Make no assumptions.
**If you have any doubt about your ability to tactfully walk that line, though, I’d err on the side of not saying anything**
YES. And this applies to so many things. I used to think of birthdays as I’m A Person and I Matter days, but then after getting disappointed over and over I just kinda let it go. I would take it upon myself to plan birthday get-togethers and get hurt by the no-shows. It’s hard to get people out to celebrate a January birthday when it’s 10 below zero outside, plus maybe people just weren’t as good of friends as I thought.
I stopped planning get-togethers and now that I have a boyfriend and he heard me bitch about it (heh), he’ll take it upon himself to organize get-togethers for my birthday, which is greatly appreciated. Incidentally, I feel like nowadays I take that “if you have any doubt” approach to people, too. Unreliable people will simply no longer be relied on rather than our relationship analyzed to death – that kind of thing. Expect nothing and celebrate any positives, no matter how small they may seem.
I forgot my own husband’s birthday this year until he reminded me. I’m lucky if I remember what month it is, nevermind the day.
I’m also that person who has been historically overlooked on her birthday, ESPECIALLY milestone ones. This really upsets me, so I have decided to be proactive this time: I’m turning 30 in a couple months, so I sat my husband down and said, “Milestone birthdays are really important to me, but historically they’ve been a huge letdown. How can we make sure this doesn’t happen to me again?” We laid out several options together. Point being: I don’t want to be disappointed again, so *I* am taking steps to communicate to others that I don’t want to be disappointed and how we can make that happen.
Am I the only one that’s kind of fond of those “shallow” Facebook reminder induced birthday wishes? People who are closer to me will generally write/do something more than just the basics, but even they need a reminder sometimes. As for everyone else? I kind of like having a socially approved occasion to send a quick “I know we’re not close, but I wish you well and hope you’re having a great day!” to people that I ordinarily wouldn’t send anything to. It’s not supposed to be deep, it can still be quick and nice. I find they’re only “shallow” when the relationship itself is “shallow” – which is perfectly fine for some relationships to be. I understand others feel differently, and that’s fine. And I don’t have an opinion on anyone not putting their birthday up for whatever reason they damn well please. But when I hear some of the vehement declarations against sending/getting “easy” Facebook birthday messages my mind always reads it like someone disliking casuals nods/waves to acquaintances on the street because that’s not a deep and meaningful conversation.
Regardless of that, it sucks when your close friends forget. If you want to remind them without reminding them, maybe try mentioning during your regular communications a week or so prior to it that you’re planning something on your birthday next week/trying to figure out what sort of cake you want to get yourself etc.
I’ve also found it helpful to remind myself as I get older that even if I dutifully do things for others that I want them to do for me, others place a different priority on certain types of actions. So even if I hate making my own priorities explicit I need to articulate what’s important to me, and understand that the things I do for others might not be the kinds of things they value particularly and hence put any weight on. I wish there were more socially approved scripts for “Hello fellow adult who I like and who has given indications of liking me, here are the things that are meaningful and important to me, please keep this in mind as we interact. I will also take it as a sign of goodwill if you tell what is meaningful and important to you, and I will do my best to incorporate that into our relationship!”. It’s easy even in long term close relationships to not have an up-to-date and roughly accurate idea of what these things are for another person.
“Am I the only one that’s kind of fond of those “shallow” Facebook reminder induced birthday wishes? People who are closer to me will generally write/do something more than just the basics, but even they need a reminder sometimes. As for everyone else? I kind of like having a socially approved occasion to send a quick “I know we’re not close, but I wish you well and hope you’re having a great day!” to people that I ordinarily wouldn’t send anything to.”
You’re not the only one; I’m exactly the same way! My Facebook friends are only people I have actually met, so I have at least some connection to everyone. I love getting the birthday greetings and this year (i.e. since my last birthday), I’m making a particular effort to send something to everyone who has their birthday show up and allows posts on their timeline. That said, I don’t really remember who does and doesn’t post in any given year, and I certainly don’t take offense if anyone doesn’t post. Maybe 1/4 of my Facebook contacts do, and that’s fine 🙂
I like them too! It’s nice to know someone was thinking of me for a moment, even if we’re not close at all. And occasionally it will prompt a longer catch-up conversation with someone I haven’t talked to in awhile which is nice! I have a hard time understanding why some people seem to dislike them so much.
You’re not the only one. I love them.
Nope, you’re not the only one at all! One of my favourite things to do at the end of the day on my birthday is to go through all the lovely FB posts and Like each one.
I really like them.
I love them too. I never participate because I’m a dirty hypocrite (“we don’t talk, what does a generic “HBD” from me really mean to them? Probably nothing”) but I get so happy and pleased seeing–literally– “hbd” written on my wall from an ex-coworker from two jobs and ten years ago. They took the half second of time to wish me well! How sweet!
I have mixed feelings. I used to like them until “HBD” with literally nothing else caught on (at least among my FB friends, I obviously can’t speak to anyone else’s) and then they started to really bother me. It’s not totally rational – “HBD” isn’t necessarily any more perfunctory than “happy birthday” but it feels like an extra special level of just going through the motions.
I really love them! And they don’t feel shallow to me: I’ve moved around a lot in my life, and it’s important to me to stay in touch with people in a low-key way, and so I really, really enjoy going through my birthday greetings like “hey, person I was at primary school with! Hey, person I met at that wedding and whom I really hit it off with! Hey, person I met on the Trans-Siberian who now lives in Ukraine!” etc. etc.
I’ve also started my own little Facebook birthday tradition for myself whereby every year I announce it’s my birthday and ask my friends to recommend me the best book they’ve read over the previous year or so, in lieu of a present or card. I always end up with a fantastic thread of diverse recommendations which then populates my reading list for the next year. Other people seem to enjoy reading the recommendations too!
You’re not the only one–I have many friends who are like this! I’m the opposite–I don’t much care for birthdays personally, and I shut the Facebook around that down in part because the many low-level acquaintances saying happy birthday feels a bit like they creat a mild burden of performing gratitude for well wishes I didn’t ask for and am not actually grateful for, and my family history of You Should Be Grateful I Did This Unsolicited Thing.
I also shut it down because I actually DON’T want my friends to acknowledge my birthday on their own, because I don’t want presents and a lot of them will get me presents if they remember it’s my birthday, or ask me about any great plans, etc etc etc. I have no idea how common it is for people who keep their birthday private to be doing that because they only want it acknowledged by their close friends v. don’t want it acknowledged at all, but if I were aware that one of *my* friends had no visible birthday on social media, I would take that as a cue that they don’t like birthday stuff generally. And not send them a message even if I didn’t forget it.
It sounds like that hasn’t historically been what LW has done with these friends, so maybe they should know LW well enough to not assume that their shutdown of the fb birthday function indicates they don’t want their birthday marked (absent a direct statement to the contrary). But I have enough friends that felt sad about their birthdays for a few years after a death, or a trauma, or a thing that I’d still err on the side of taking lack of public birthday as a signal that I shouldn’t make a thing out of the birthday, unless I was specifically aware that they were still celebrating it. I have no idea whether I’m in the extreme minority of how I interpret Facebook birthday silence, but I’m probably not the *only* person who would make this default assumption until proven otherwise.
So this is another vote that LW should speak up non-accusatorily, because their friends may have said nothing out of a mistaken interpretation of the Facebook thing.
I like the Facebook happy birthday reminders. I used to not read my FB wall on my birthday precisely because I didn’t want to overanalyze why certain people didn’t say much or didn’t say anything, etc. Silly, I guess, but it was Taking Care of Me.
Does anyone else feel weird about the Facebook “celebrate your friendship with so-and-so” videos? Some of my FB friends are just people I know from FB groups who might not actually be able to pick me out in a lineup in the light of day. And I’m fine with that, I guess I treat some FB “friends” as more of a piece of a reading list than a “friend.” So it weirds me out to see these videos with the balloons like they’ve been my best friend since first grade or something. (You can choose to share the videos or not, and I just don’t share).
Yeah, I feel weird about those too. Even my FB friends who I know in meatspace are mostly more acquaintances than friends, so I don’t have anything to “celebrate” about our “friendship.”
I’m so glad to see all these people saying they like those! I’ve stopped wishing my friends happy birthday in some small part because I didn’t want to become part of the “flood of empty comments” that people complain about. And reading this thread and the LW’s feelings I’m realizing that wasn’t a good reaction. It’s better to reach out kindly, at least to people who are real friends and not just contacts, in the hope they’ll be warmed by the message.
But I had basically figured “birthday wishes that don’t require forethought = token nothing” and it hadn’t occurred to me that some people might really value them.
I really enjoy the random Facebook wishes I get from people I haven’t heard from in awhile.
Count me in, I like them and make an effort to say well-wish people on their day. Every one of my FB friends is someone with whom I have interacted with in a meaningful way (even if it’s just loving their knitting projects and chatting about yarn), so I don’t feel that it’s shallow. HOWEVER–I’m not big on sharing my own personally identifiable information in a public forum so I keep my birthday hidden (and yet some people post on my wall anyway..).
Agree that shallow is fine!
I have a friend who is usually super good at remembering and making a fuss about birthdays… until a couple of years ago, when she completely and totally forgot mine. She had a lot on her mind that month, as I recall, so I wasn’t upset at her, just kinda disappointed.
Since I happened to physically see her on the day, it ended up being brought up in conversation and she was mortified for forgetting – and ended up throwing me a mini ‘make-up birthday party’ the next week, with pass the parcel and cake and lots of silliness, which was pretty fantastic. So in that case, a gentle reminder that she’d missed it was a good idea – she would have felt horrible when she realised it had come and gone, and we got to have a fun time, and no one placed any blame anywhere.
So I guess what I’m saying is, you know your friends, and what kind of people they are, and you can probably judge pretty well how they’ll react to a reminder. Will they just feel guilty and horrible? Then don’t say anything, making them feel guilty isn’t what you want. But if they’ll understand your feelings aren’t a blame game, and maybe do something to remind you they care – not because you guilted them into it, but because they want to make the gesture – then that might be good for everyone involved. An excuse to do something fun and feel better about your sad feelings, without making it into a big deal.
But it really depends on your friends’ personalities. I know people I would never bring it up with, not because they love me less, but because they have brains that love to tell them how horrible they are when they get things ‘wrong’.
I am one of the worst missing-birthday offenders, and have to periodically check in with friends and in-laws, in the vein of “Is someone’s birthday imminent? How imminent?…yesterday? Well, hell, thanks.” I have sent many, many belated birthday cards, many belated gifts, and told a lot of people “I love you, I appreciate you, and I hope that a hug and a gift and all my best wishes NOW will in some way make up for their not being available THEN.” I agree with the others who have suggested just being gently honest that your birthday is X date, that birthday wishes mean a lot to you, and you would appreciate them on/around the day. They are your friends and they love you, the fact that they may need a nudge from across the miles to remember to openly state this fact does not negate the friendship.
Happy belated birthday! *honks kazoo*
From my perspective: I’m in the “why would any adult care about birthdays?” camp. I don’t dislike birthdays, it’s just that they don’t matter to me. I don’t acknowledge friend or family birthdays without some sort of prompting and I certainly do nothing to celebrate my own. To me, they are celebrations for kids. However, I have a friend who moved to another continent away from all old friends and family and is in a future time zone to all the rest of us. He gets really unhappy when no one remembers his birthday on FB or whatever, but he also does nothing to send reminders – doesn’t even have it on FB so we don’t get those alerts. And he posts snarky little vague complaints when we forget to acknowledge that he is officially a year older, with the added special flavour of pointing out that we missed his birthday in *both* time zones. They seem like a toddler’s tantrums to those of us who don’t care about birthdays. His old friends now make a point of sending him birthday greetings (he shares a birthday with my dad so at least the date is in my head, but I don’t do anything for dad’s birthday either), but we do it to placate him so that he doesn’t get all whiny again.
Is that what you want your friends to think about it? Honestly, if your birthday is important to you, do good things for you on that day. Have a little celebration, invite your friends and family if you like or have a “just for me” day if that’s what you like. Your friends still care for you and haven’t forgotten you, but time goes more swiftly every year, and ageing is something that happens to everyone regularly. It’s not a particular accomplishment and busy people are busy.
For the record, I’m also a terrible person who thinks holiday, birthday, and thank you cards are a waste of everyone’s time and resources and are outdated chores that all-too-regularly fall on women’s shoulders. We live in a time of instant communication; can we stop with the greeting card industry already?
This seems like an unnecessarily harsh stance. If you know something is important to your friend, it would be kind to make an effort to accommodate that, even if it’s not something you particularly care about.
I have a friend who is really into her birthday and isn’t on FB, so I spent 2 seconds setting up a reoccurring reminder in Google Calendar to wish her a happy birthday, and then every year I spend approximately 5 minutes calling her to wish her one, because I know it’s particularly important to her. On a similar note, I hate Christmas, but my husband loves it, so I do my best to find little things I can do to participate in my own way, like baking some red and white cookies or whatever. In return, he tries to do most of his Christmasing elsewhere (like listening to Christmas music only when I’m not home).
It goes both ways. If something is important to you – like birthdays to the LW – you should communicate that to those close to you. And if someone close to you communicates that something is important to them, doing your best to honor that (even if you don’t really get it) is what being a good friend is all about.
I don’t know, I get it – I don’t think the problem is that he cares about his birthday, but rather hist passive-aggressive vaguebooking. I tend to avoid responding to those (either in words or by changing my actions) because I don’t really want that to be a pattern in my friendships.
I like celebrating birthdays, whether mine or someone else’s. It’s a reason to get/give presents and have parties and special outings. For the record, I’m 43.
I had been looking forward to most recent birthday (42) since reading Hitchhiker’s Guide as a teen. And I had a really rough 40th and 41st due to personal reasons that made me not feel like celebrating. So this one felt like, “Hey, everybody, I made it through the muck of a couple of difficult years– come hang out and eat snacks with me!”
Also, as a person who is not doing a lot of the adult scripts that have celebration time built in (marriage, child-having), but whose friends are, I kind of feel the need to celebrate an occasional milestone of my own, even if it is totally arbitrary.
I do care about birthdays, but boy we’re on the same page on all that labor falling on women. For that reason alone I try to celebrate my own self b/c any other celebrating of my birthday that happens, happens because a woman somewhere did extra work. But that’s another topic for another column. I just wanted to shout out my solidarity on the genderedness of birthday labor. (Don’t @ me with exceptions and edge cases! ha)
” [aging] is not a particular accomplishment ”
For some of us, it actually is, and “yes, made it another year!” is a great reason to celebrate a birthday.
I don’t look at a birthday as a celebration of aging. I see it as an opportunity to say, again, “I’m glad you got born in the first place.”
Yes! This! Exactly this!
Yep. I was lucky to be raised by people who really, really wanted me, so I love celebrating my parents’s and brother’s birthdays. These are the days we became a family! Not the most functional family alive, but a family nonetheless! It’s kind of a no-brainer way to look at it, but it’s also a way to celebrate WITH them, and one of the few excuses we still have to get proper soppy and revisit good memories.
My parents grew up in a culture that didn’t do birthdays at all, even for children. The closest equivalent thing they had was your Name day, which is the feast day of the saint you were named after.
They accepted that birthdays are a thing when they moved to Canada, but I still don’t think they ever had the kind of emotional importance to them that you’re describing… and I guess a bit of that rubbed off on me and my sisters too. It’s a bigger deal to us than it is to them, but nothing like what you describe.
Come to think of it, one thing that’s cool about Name-days is that they don’t require memorization or even the person telling you in the first place. You just need their first name and a calendar of saints.
I think things are changing even in cultures where that used to be a big thing, though, with more people in those places giving their kids non-saint names, and with the concept of birthdays being imported from other countries.
HECK yeah. Surviving a jerkbrain? Surviving poverty and/or racism? I will celebrate that with you, with great joy.
We appear to be in the vast minority, but don’t worry, I have your back on all of this.
Your birthday-pouting friend’s behavior strikes me as obnoxious, undeserved attention-seeking, and, on a global scale, I have quite a bit of contempt for the practice of selfishly demanding deference or even gifts (!) merely because an arbitrary calendar date rolls around.
For non-birthday-caring people, this kind of thing is an *imposition,* and I use it as a litmus test: If someone cares overmuch about other people proactively acknowledging their birthday, that’s a person with a worldview and sense of entitlement that is incompatible with my own.
Though note: I do admire people who care about celebrating their birthday but in doing so turn that energy outward. “I’m having a birthday party for myself, I want you there, but please, no gifts!,” or quietly paying the check at a restaurant, are classy ways to share and celebrate oneself without imposing on one’s guests.
I am the worst at birthdays, which is terrible because my family is the BEST at birthdays. My Aunts and Uncles all still send me stuff, I am 35. For reals.
So my new years resolution this year is to send actual presents to my actual family like an actual adult member of said family. A few years ago I stopped facebook HBD and now i just send text messages to people I care about. But I still rely on facebook for the reminder, sorry even best friend whose birthday i know is sometime in early december? Unless it’s on the same day as a member of my family or a major holiday I will probably not remember.
My suggestion for the LW is to make sure you ARE doing something to commemorate your birthday, even if it is just with you. Sure, social acknowledgement of your birthday is nice, but it’s also a great day for a spa day, skydiving lesson, carriage ride through the park, ax throwing session, pin up photo shoot so on and so forth. These are things you can do with friends, or you can do by yourself and have an amazing time!
Underlying this is the idea that yes, it is nice to have other people celebrate your birth and existence, but it is more important that YOU celebrate your life and yourself.
My personal opinion is that as an adult you’re responsible for planning your own birthday celebrations.
Can I suggest a birthday skype date next year? If your birthday is important to you, maybe even set aside the whole day: invite your friends to join you on this skype date, schedule a different time zone time for each country, buy yourself a cupcake / fancy tea / party hat / thing that makes you feel festive, and then share this feeling of festivity with your friends. Here’s a script, since I love when they show up here:
Date: XX of January, time TBD
I’m coming in for a landing on my XXth trip around the sun. [alternate: I’m planning myself a deconstructed birthday party, coming to you across space and time-zones] It would mean a lot to me if I could spend the day celebrating with the people I care about around the world.
Join me for a skype birthday party! I’ll be celebrating at [time appropriate to timezone A], [time appropriate to timezones B&C], and [time appropriate to timezone D]. We’ll be [singing karaoke / watching that movie I wanted to see / drinking wine and reminiscing on the year past / bring dinner and we’ll share a meal together / wearing silly hats and drinking tea / playing that online game we like to play together].
I hope you can make it!
I also think you could do the same thing this year, if it’s still within a week of your birthday. When you send it you say, ‘I finally got around to planning myself some birthday festivities. If you’re available this upcoming Saturday, I’d love to get together.’
I’d say the normal social expectation has shifted from the expectation to remember to the expectation to be invited to participate. I suspect you’re hurt because you’re afraid this means your friends don’t care about you, but very likely they just aren’t following the same expectations.
I like this idea! Could be an especially nice thing for LW’s particular group of friends since they are so spread out. What a nice opportunity to catch up as a group!
I have the hurt feelings in common with LW. In my case because some part of me thought adult birthdays would be like my childhood birthdays where someone else was in charge of remembering it and throwing a party for me. I still do a little pity party in the privacy of my head: “This sucks. I wish someone would make a fuss and do a birthday for me.” I don’t stomp on my inner child’s birthday feelings (anymore). I have the pity party and then I do as so many others here have advised–I do something really special for myself. Something so special and amazing that I feel good at the end of the day. Because IT’S MY BIRTHDAY and that matters. But nobody else is my mother anymore.
LW may be thinking very differently about this, but in case we have any commonalities, that’s my experience, for what it’s worth. You deserve an awesome birthday. I can promise you that your friends love you and care about you and it sounds like they just don’t know how important your birthday is. It’s easy to set a reminder and it sounds like they’d happily do that to bring you joy.
When I graduated from college and considered I’d become an adult, I used to keep a list of everybody’s birthdays–family, friends, everybody. I always sent cards, lots of presents and phone calls. Time passed, a lot of people didn’t reciprocate, I learned some more, and it became helpful that not everyone reciprocated. Who wants to do all that extra work? I didn’t. I stopped doing birthdays for those who didn’t do them for me, NOT out of revenge, but just because our relationship didn’t need that. I’d give them a call within a couple weeks of their birthday (realizing I’d missed it) and we’d have a fun conversation around how great our friendship is and how much less stressful when we didn’t need to worry about birthdays. LW doesn’t feel that way, but as workloads increase it might become a real relief! Treasure those friends too!
This might not be helpful to you at all. Use whatever’s useful. It does sound like there’s a lot of love swirling around you and I’m happy you have your friends and your friends have you.
Yes. I think for some of us it’s an echo from childhood. That was something that was pretty cool about being a kid, if you scored people who did that for you: your own personal Christmas. It’s OK to miss it.
So this is a sucky thing, and I totally understand that it’s a bit of a “I have been ABANDONED by my friend on MY SPECIAL DAY” feeling. The good news is, now you know what level of shitty feelings it induces, and that in the future you have to do things a bit differently to avoid said shitty feelings.
I’d suggest two things: first, remind people a few days/weeks before, and ask them to do something with you — a phone or Skype date for the far-flung pals, or a visit for those who are nearer. You invite them. “Hey, it’s my birthday next Thursday, let’s set up a hang session!” Secondly, do something for yourself that day, independent of anyone else’s well-wishes or plans. Take yourself to a movie or a concert, take a half-day off work and go to the always-slammed-on-the-weekend brunch place, buy a birthday pastry, whatever. Whatever it is that will reaffirm that you deserve a special time, even if you have to create it for yourself. If you have friends around who want to join—great! Invite ’em. But you are still special, and your birthday is still important, even if you’re the one who has to work to make it that way.
Two stories. One, a while ago, in college, a good friend of mine took the initiative and put her birthday on my google calendar repeating annually forever. Since I’m still using the same email, it still shows up. And i *still* forget to text her, because birthdays just don’t register in my brain as very important dates. Facebook birthday notices were very helpful for a while there when they were more prominent. Nevertheless, sending your friends a google calendar invite that repeats annually might help them remember that it’s your birthday and it’s something important to you, since you took the time to make the calendar notice.
Two, last year, my uncle took me to the theater as a late winter holiday present, on the week of his birthday (which he planned purposely), and reminded me to get him a card. I remembered up until that day at work, when I was going to pick up a card during my lunch break, and promptly forgot. I felt really bad about it. The restaurant we went to before the show had paper tablecloths and crayons, so I drew him a birthday card from the tablecloth.
I do remember my closest friends birthdays. What I don’t always remember is what day it currently is! Multiple times in the past year I almost forgot to text/call to say happy birthday until I was reminded by my mother and sister that it was x day. In fact one year I forgot it was my moms birthday until I had a missed call during a movie.
I do sympathize about your feelings. One of those friends who’s birthday I know by heart didn’t acknowledge my birthday one year and it really bummed me out. But it is completely possible (and even likely) that them forgetting has nothing to do with you and everything to do with their own timekeeping/calendaring/brain-organizing.
My birthday is on FB, and a day or so before it I relax my rules and let people write on my wall.
This way I’ll get the real and the meaningless greetings. Because my friends and I are like the Captain and we no Ionger have paper calendars to mark with events.
And here’s the thing, I remember most people’s birthdays anyway. My mind works that way. It’s a fluke. Most of my acquaintance doesn’t have this glitch. So I let Facebook remind them.
Happy belated birthday dear LW.
I think the sadness you’re feeling likely has to do with feeling like they aren’t thinking of you and you aren’t as close as you’d like. While you can’t fix this birthday, you can start reaching out more and instigating the things that make you feel closer. Or even skip over the whole birthday thing, and go with “hey, I miss you, and I love you, and it would mean a lot to me if you reached out more.” Or, you know what, I think it’d be totally reasonable to address the birthday. “oh, I had a great time, but I was kinda sad not to hear from you”
For next year, I think you gotta help out leaky memories and differing birthday traditions and just remind people. “oh, I’m really excited for my birthday next month!” or “Check out this recipe i’mma make for my BURFDAY CAKE” will signal 1. that your birthday is coming up and 2. that it’s important to you.
As a general bit of advice, when you secretly make it harder for people to do things for you because you want them to mean it more, it usually backfires. If you want your birthday remembered, put it on the facebook. Make a banner! Shout it from the rooftops! Maybe you’ll get a few of those dreaded, dull, ‘not-as-good’ ‘hbd’ posts, but so what? Is that really so bad? Is it worth losing good birthday attention over?
I, for instance, love scotch. I have gotten way more scotch as a present since I’ve made that clear. Yes, now it’s no longer a special sacred sign of Knowing My Innermost Secrets, but on the bright side, I have more scotch. (same goes for what you like sexy-wise and what sort of projects you want at work)
This is such a good insight. There’s really nothing wrong with telling people about what you need or want!
This is absolutely bang-on.
I hate it when people play “You Should Read My Mind And Know What I Want.” I am not a telepath. Hello, that’s what wish lists are for!
“I am not a telepath.”
“…and finding out any other way would probably require extensive stalking, including electronic surveillance and going through your trash – so how’s about you just tell me? Ankle bracelets make me look like I have cankles.”
I tend to assume that the people who don’t make the information easily-accessible and aren’t clear what they want, don’t WANT a big fuss to be made on their birthday. Either because they are very introverted or have painful history there, or whatever reason it is, and I don’t want to make them uncomfortable.
This is also my assumption. I have a few friends in the “birthdays are capitalist bourgeoise nonsense” camp, and one who was raised by JWs. Celebration of birthdays is by no means universal!
Yes! If you deliberately keep your birthday off Facebook, how do you expect your friends to know that that is because you want an extra special thoughtful birthday greeting and not because you don’t want people to acknowledge your birthday? I have only a few friends who don’t have their birthday on Facebook and I assume it’s because they don’t want people to acknowledge their birthday. Also, if people make the effort to write a “happy birthday” or “HBD” or anything for your birthday, it still means that they saw the Facebook notification and cared enough to make that effort. I have over 1000 “friends” on Facebook and get maybe 80 birthday greetings on a given year, so most of those “friends” didn’t even care enough about it to make that effort. I don’t think Facebook happy birthdays are quite as shallow and meaningless as you are accusing them of being.
I like my friends to remember me (to make a fuss over me, even) on my birthday. Reminding them in person is pretty easy – I invite them to something, or I mention that our regular get-together will be on my birthday next week, or if I’m going to be away or doing something amazing on the actual-day I talk about that. And I mention the mail I got from my sister and I reminisce about old birthdays and … it’s kinda hard to miss.
But for the far-away friends, I need to work a little harder at letting them know what’s all over my mind for the week or two ahead of the birthday. So if you’re talking to them once a week, you start bringing it up when you start making your plans, whether it’s a week ahead or a month ahead. In a way it’s easier with faraway friends, because it’s less likely to be taken as fishing for an invitation or gloating about a party they’re not invited to, if I talk about what I’m doing the weekend before, whether I’ve decided to take the day off work or not, what I’m looking forward to about hitting another prime number, and what happy memories I have of things we did together on my birthday and on your birthday in the past.
Oops, it got away from me. It’s my responsibility to make sure people know it’s my birthday and know what I wish for. Anyone who’s close enough to me that I’d be hurt if they didn’t acknowledge it is also close enough to hear my excitement ahead of time about my plans.
LW, I so completely understand where you’re coming from. Not that this exact thing has ever happened to me, but I think something that might be at play here is a mindset that I (and I think a lot of people) share on some level. I think birthdays are tricky because they feel like a sort of annual reflection of our life in general. Like, if your friends don’t text you on your birthday, that means that you don’t really have any friends or your friends don’t care etc.
Every single year, I get myself into a panic because if I don’t have something I really want to do on my birthday, with at least one person I love, that must mean that I am a deeply sad and friendless person with a terrible life. Because our culture has drummed it into us that there is nothing sadder than being Alone On Your Birthday, or having a sub-par birthday party, or generally things not being perfect (see also: weddings, Christmas).
And so inevitably you are disappointed in one way or another, because birthdays are just days. They still have all the small crappy things in them every other day has, except the small crappy things feel 1000% worse because I didn’t just stub my toe, I stubbed my toe ON MY BIRTHDAY. I don’t mean to detract from your very legitimate feelings of hurt about this by using that silly example, I just want to point out the way that the pressure to have an awesome birthday time leads to everything feeling exponentially worse.
I also wanted to say that all of your friends not texting you sucks, but it’s also almost certainly a coincidence. I’m pointing this out because in the same situation, I would 100% be incapable of believing that. I recently had a run of what seemed to me to be astonishingly bad luck. I know, intellectually, that all of these things were not orchestrated by some cackling cosmic deity deliberately shitting on me, but I have not yet succeeded in getting that message through to my brain. So I apologise if I’m projecting, but I’m guessing this feels like a big neon sign that says ‘YOUR FRIENDS DON’T CARE ABOUT YOU’.
Seven people independently forgetting to wish you a happy birthday is really bad luck, but that’s all it is. I don’t have a very good grasp of probability, but I do know that if most of these people don’t know each other, whether one of those people remembers or forgets does not make it any more or less likely that another one of them will remember or forget. Your brain wants to make these things into part of a story, and the story it wants to tell is that your friends don’t care, because that’s a simpler story than the truth- that Friend A was having a bad day because his cat was sick and Friend B was rushed off their feet at work and so on all the way to Friend G. It’s a natural human impulse to ascribe meaning to circumstances like this, but in this case, it’s not a helpful one.
Yeah, you made a similar point to the one I wanted to make, which is that LW said they are hurt about not having received even ONE birthday greeting… which, logically, no one individual of these seven friends is responsible for the others not having gotten in touch. I’m not sure how to phrase it, but, the full level of hurt they’re experiencing can’t be laid at anyone’s door in particular. So it might not be helpful to express the full level of hurt as “I was really hurt that you, Friend A, forgot my birthday,” but rather, “Friend A, it would have been really nice for me to receive birthday greetings from you, because honestly, no one remembered and I felt really hurt about it.”
I think that’s what makes dealing with this so tricky. It might be easier if the seven friends were all a cohesive friend group, because then you could maybe send a group message expressing hurt that no-one remembered, but if the people don’t know each other, then it’s no-one’s individual fault that everyone forgot. They had no way to know that nobody else sent a message either- all each of these people did on an individual level is forget to send one birthday message. I like your phrasing a lot though, it makes it clear that the overall hurt of nobody remembering isn’t the fault of this one individual.
I think the fact that they don’t all know each other probably would get you fewer happy birthdays even in the best case. When a group of people all know each other, it only actually takes one person to remember and mention it to everyone else or at least several others.
OP, I’m sorry that you’re feeling hurt. However, when you’re an adult, things like birthdays can become less important to people. If that’s not the case for you, then the onus really does fall on you to clearly express your wishes and then remind people. I generally don’t celebrate my birthday. One year I wanted to do something, and I made it VERY clear to my friends that I wanted to do X and I wanted people do it with me. Not all my friends were able to make it, but enough were and I had a very good time. But I initiated it.
I used to feel similarly to LW about Facebook reminders. At some point, my perspective on it shifted. It occurred to me that the people who were prompted by FB to say something to me got that prompt and had an impulse to take 5 seconds out of their day to say something nice to me. It is a small thing, but it is also kind. I decided to focus on the kindness of the gesture, rather than the smallness of it.
Coming to this point of view required me to untangle my feelings about my FB-friends’ birthday wishes from my feelings about Facebook prompting the interaction. I still really dislike how much Facebook prompts me to interact with other people and companies and groups and brands in dozens of subtle ways. In fact, when Facebook tells me I should wish someone ‘Happy Birthday’, if I’m inclined to do it, I will often pull out my phone and send a text message instead of using Facebook’s forms. Later, Facebook will say, “It’s not too late to wish So-and-So a happy birthday!” and I feel like I got the better of Facebook by doing it outside their view.
So, yeah. I understand it’s a complicated thing and not something so straightforward. And I get why LW or anyone else might not appreciate Facebook friends birthday wishes, and why they might want to opt out of it. But since this stuff affects us through shared culture anyway, I thought I’d offer a perspective that has helped me. I think the individuals really are hoping to add a small bit of brightness to your day.
Important: I’m not trying to tell anyone how they should feel about it. You might think an automated reminder is a hollow thing because it didn’t take any effort on the part of the people who got it. Or you might think you’re not very close to all those Facebook people, and it’s weird that they’d say ‘Happy birthday’ to you at all. Or maybe it just rubs you the wrong way. There are tons of reasons you might not appreciate the torrent of alerts that come your way when you make your date of birth publicly known on Facebook. My post above was just sympathizing, and then saying why I felt that way, and then sharing a perspective that made me feel better about my Facebook friends that I felt was more kind than my previous stance of “whatever you hardly know me!” That is true, too, but I found I like myself better when I focus on the kindness of their gesture. In case that would help anyone else, I wanted to share.
When I was on Facebook, I put a fake birthdate on my profile for security reasons. Cue a wave of birthday greetings on the random day I had chosen and me going “Huh?”
This is why my “birthday” is private on Facebook–a few friends would think “that’s not right” and some other people might start thinking my birthday was on this other day and be confused if I said something when the actual day rolled around.
Birthdays vary wildly in significance from person to person. (I barely celebrate mine, for example, since it’s in December and I got sick of people being like “HOLIDAY PARTY oh wait this one’s your birthday uh HAPPY BIRTHDAYMAS you don’t mind a combined gift right”. It barely feels like a separate event, just part of the holiday season, and it’s already such a busy time of year that I don’t see the point in adding extra to it?) And I think most people tend to extrapolate their own level of caring to others, unless the other person specifically states a preference. Unless you’ve specifically said that you really want these messages, your friends might not even realize this is important to you.
Also, it’s normal for people to need a reminder that someone else’s birthday is coming up. It’s only intrinsically a big day for, like, the birthday haver and their parents (whose lives were fairly significantly changed by that day). For everyone else, it’s a day that’s important to their friend and therefore tangentially relevant for them, but it doesn’t have the same intrinsic importance; there’s a degree of separation, and while they only have one My Birthday date, they might have dozens of My Friends’ Birthdays dates to keep track of. Most people can’t reliably do that in their head, so some kind of reminder system is needed. For many people, social media has become the default system for tracking those kinds of secondary-importance dates.
You’ve opted out of that default system. Which isn’t a bad or wrong decision by any means! But it does mean you’ll need to actively set up a different system if it’s important to you that other people remember your birthday. Maybe that looks like you reminding them the week before your birthday that it’s coming up. Maybe it looks like you setting up a skype call (or whatever you use to stay in touch) each year around that time, basically gifting yourself with an opportunity to catch up with them. Maybe it looks like you explicitly telling them this is really important to you and specifically asking them to set up a reminder in whatever calendar system they use to keep track of their life. Maybe it looks like you telling them about your birthday plans (thereby giving them an opportunity to be like OH YEAH AND YOUR BIRTHDAY IS COMING UP RIGHT HAPPY BIRTHDAY) (nb: I’ve usually found that direct communication works more consistently than this kind of hint, but hey, this is your friend group, you know them best–do what works for you guys).
Basically, if you let your friends know this is important to you, and work out some kind of system (whatever works for you guys) for reminding them of it, then hopefully they will follow through and do it! But those are really important steps for actually getting birthday wishes from people.
Wow. Birthdays are a loaded subject. Mine is four days after Christmas and the last birthday party I had was when I was three. My Aunt made me a cake and there were party hats and everything! My brother, who is nine years younger than me, was born the day after Christmas. We joked for a long time about moving our birthday’s to June, lol!
Now, I’m going to admit that I’m the world’s worst at remembering dates. I have absolutely no sense of the passage of time whatsoever. I got a wall calendar and wrote down all of my important people’s Important Dates. I was usually still a day late and a dollar short so to speak because for a calendar to work you have to remember to actually LOOK AT IT on a semi daily basis. Sometimes it would be August and my calendar was still on March. But I’ve gotten much better as I’ve gotten older and since the invention of texting. But I can’t tell how many “Belated Happy Event” cards I sent and calls I made in years gone by. For some years now I’ve been on the money with the Important Dates of my Important People. Quite proud of myself because of the difficulty I have with keeping track of the passage of time!
This year on my birthday only my son and daughter remembered. My husband of 38 years even forgot. When, around 2 in the afternoon, I burst out with “Hey! It IS my birthday and I don’t want to clean the garage on MY BIRTHDAY!”…….well, he almost cried because he was on vacation and had lost track of the day of the week. But noone else remembered……even the cousin across the street whose birthday is a couple of days before mine and whom I’d called to wish her a HB on her birthday. It made me very sad. I can totally understand LW feelings. But after so many years of being the forgetful one, I can say with absolute certainty that it’s not because people don’t love you or don’t care. There’s just stuff happening and life going on and even with wall calendars and reminder apps, well, people’s brains slip a gear and then the good and thoughtful intention has disappeared.
My husband’s grandmother was not one to celebrate every occasion in her life but her birthday was important to her. It was Her day. You could forget all other occasions and holidays and not call or send a card and she didn’t care. But her birthday? Totally different matter! For her, acknowledging her birthday was acknowledging her existence. Maybe that’s why we felt so sad LW? Perhaps, like my husband’s grandmother, we simply felt like people we care about kind of forgot we exist? I spent too many years of my childhood not having my birthday acknowledged. I don’t need cards or presents or parties…..just a quick text is enough to make me smile and feel good!
No solutions here, just comraderie and understanding. Happy Belated Birthday!
You’re probably more cognizant of needing to keep track of birthdays outside of Facebook because you know your birthday isn’t on there.
Yep. Also, I’ve got to say that my baseline assumption is that people who don’t have their birthdays on FB are people for whom birthdays are either really not a big deal, or people who’d actively prefer to ignore them. While I do understand the LW’s reasoning, it is something I’d need to be specifically told. (And people’s attitudes to their birthdays change as they get older – I know people who were gung-ho celebrators in their early twenties who’d now prefer not to mark it at all now we’re in our late thirties / early forties. So I wouldn’t necessarily assume that your friends should know that your birthday’s a big deal to you now because it was in the past!)
Personally, I hardly keep track of my own birthday, or today’s date – so even on the off chance that I do remember a friend’s birthday; the risk is high that I’ll still forget to congratulate them on the day. At times, I have remembered a friend’s birthday vaguely, only to go check on Facebook and when I haven’t seen a reminder have second-guessed my own memory to the point that I’ve ignored sending a birthday message on the off-chance that I’m remembering wrong. Traditions re: birthdays vary so greatly, and without a reminder it might be easy to assume that the person doesn’t want to be reminded of their birthday, or congratulated.
I wouldn’t assume that your friends are being neglectful, but do remind them and give them a chance to wish you a belated happy birthday rather than stew in the resentment for too long. I’d say it’s very possible that your friends don’t realize how big of a deal this is to you.
I think it would be reasonable to gently say you’re hurt LW. If my friend said to me, ‘hey, nobody remembered my birthday this year, and although I know people are busy it did make me rather sad,’ I’d apologise, put it in the calendar for next year, and be happy that my friend had told me what they want from me.
I absolutely agree. It is not about blaming anybody, it is about telling friends how you feel.
Also, I totally get the reasoning behind all those comments that suggest making sure people remember your birthday, and I do that kind of things for stuff I know nobody will remember (hey, it is my 15th anniversary at this job next week! I am expecting balloons, chocolate and a 25% raise!), but well. I have three kids and a 50 hour workweek (including commute), and while my husband totally pulls his weight, in my daily life it often feels like nothing is ever about me. So when it is my birthday, I don’t want to have to adult. I don’t need anything impressive, but I do want to feel people I hold close to remember and value me without being prompted. I could not care less if casual friends or colleagues remember, but people who have been close friends for 20 years and are capable of keeping their dentist appointments don’t need to be reminded of my birthday – or, at least, not by me. That said, if you expect people to do something specific for you, letting them know about it is the way to go.
Hi! Long time lurker just popping up to share my experience with birthdays and forgetful friends…. Let me just state up front that birthdays are fraught for me due to some parental neglect issues.
So, when I was younger (in my twenties), I would plan parties for my birthday and invite people and buy ALL THE PARTY SUPPLIES and then not have anyone show up. Or show up and give presents to other attendees. That sucked pond rocks.
I spent some years agonizing about why no one loved me or even had the courtesy to decline my invitations. I was sad and self-destructive around my birthdays during my thirties and forties. It took me years to get to the point that I wasn’t doing something really stupid around my birthday.
However, with years came some insight. I designed my current plan for birthdays about fifteen years ago or so — I send out an email invitation to everyone who means anything to me who’s even partially local to come to *dinner location* on or around my birthday (depending on what day it is, and what my spouse’s schedule is). Even if no one else shows, I have a nice dinner with spouse and family. If people show, then YAY! I am very clear that I have “birthday depression” and that this is important to me, though I will be understanding if I get refusals, since my birthday is very near a holiday that often means folks have plans for travel. I also make sure that people who are not local get a heads up from me that “hey, this date is my birthday!” It seems like I am being demanding sometimes, but then I tell myself that (a) people won’t know that it’s important to me if I don’t remind them and (b) I get really depressed with extra brain weasels if I don’t do something proactive, and I need to manage that. (And, yes, I do make it known that presents are eagerly appreciated, though I don’t care if they are ten cent candies from the dollar store, as long as there is something to open.)
So, I get feeling depressed and sad that folks did not remember. It feels as if you don’t matter to them. But it’s more that life is full of things and it’s easy to drop the ball if you don’t get a reminder.
First of all, happy belated birthday from a random stranger! Jedi cake and candles if you want them.
I agree, it sucks when ALL seven of your friends went radio silence on a day you hold important. Not gonna try to talk you out of feeling bad, cuz we feel what we feel.
Moving forward, I personally would just note what I had done on my birthday, and they will likely be sad they forgot, or it crept up on them, or whatever.
Oh, LW, I really feel sympathy. I also have a great birthday sadness in my past. I love birthdays, and I also love Halloween and any excuse to wear a costume, so I’d throw myself a costume party. I’d pick usually pick a theme and announce it about a month or more in advance so folks had time to prepare, but I would also make it clear that the theme could be interpreted broadly or casually, and that I’d have make-up/costume pieces on hand for anyone who wanted them. I thought I was making it easy for people, I really did. Anyway, the last time I did this, I was turning an age greater than 30. It was a rainy night and a lot of guests backed out at the last minute; not a soul arrived sooner than an hour late. Which meant that I spent an hour sitting alone in my apartment, wearing a costume I’d spent two months creating, wondering if anyone would show up, feeling very foolish and lonely.
Now, you might think that it’s perfectly obvious that I was asking a lot of my guests; you might even think my idea of a good birthday was silly, and that it has nothing to do with your very reasonable request that people remember and acknowledge your birthday. But I feel that the lessons are the same, and it’s pretty much what the Captain said. Your disappointment and sadness is valid (and I sympathize, and send you jedi hugs if you want them). Nonetheless, sometimes you have to teach people to be the kind of friend you want them to be–at least in regard to things like birthdays or anniversaries or other customs that vary widely by individual. You also have to make it doable for them. For me, this meant no more costumes; it also meant a smaller group of closer friends rather than a large noisy party.
For you, options may include putting the date it on FB or Google calendar or whatever you all share. You might reach out to individuals a little bit in advance and make a plan: “hey, friend, my birthday’s coming up and I’d love to schedule a phone chat with you! What’s a good time?” You might throw yourself a “party” on some kind of group chat, so you’ve got it in their calendars even if they’re in a weird time zone and can’t show up. I hope you find something that works for you. You might even say, “friend, last year my birthday was really lonely. Could you drop a postcard in the mail or send me a silly text on the day this year?” but you’re the best judge of how that will land with which friends. I wish you luck!
I’m both amazed and highly entertained at the amount that people vary on this.
For what it’s worth, I expect exactly three people to remember my birthday: my mom, my dad, and my partner. My dad forgot once when I was at uni (which I decided to find hilarious), and my partner has forgotten the past two years running (which I’m…a bit annoyed about, to be honest, because I gave her lots of very direct hints like “my birthday’s next Tuesday, so I’m baking a cake to bring into work” and “my birthday’s next Tuesday, so can we go out for dinner on Sunday?”). There are maybe two dozen or so birthdays I actively remember, but, eh, that’s me. I don’t expect everyone to remember the things I remember.
If you’re hurt, LW, I see nothing wrong with gently but directly bringing it up with a close friend or two. If someone special to me said something like “hey, birthdays are really important to me, but I was a little sad when nobody wished me a happy birthday this year”, I would apologise and pop it in my calendar as an annual reminder asap. Adult birthdays are so inherently awkward — like, are we doing presents? Are we not doing presents? Cards? What *am* I supposed to do if I forget and realise that I forgot several months later? — and I think most people would appreciate some gentle direction.
Also–these are friends, and the idea is that we turn to our friends for emotional support, to help us work through emotional issues, etc.
Make this the conversation–bring up the idea of feeling separated from them, and how that played in even more. That you miss them, and want to make an effort to keep the friendship close.
And share YOUR sadness and YOUR fears, and YOUR wishes of having a day that people acknowledge your existence and say they’re glad to know you. 4
I know a lot of people have already mentioned this, but yes, to some people birthdays aren’t a measure of friendship because they aren’t seen as important, i.e., these people likely don’t remember most people’s birthdays, if they’re like me we forget our own half the time. I do think if celebrating birthdays was always really important in your circle, and you’re feeling like the fact that they didn’t remember yours *is* a sign of lessening closeness you can talk about that, but I’d avoid specifically focusing on the birthday thing, personally. So I’d figure out if it’s “I want a fun awesome birthday” or “I feel like my friends are drifting away from me.”
Another thing that jumped out at me is you mentioned this only bothered you enough to write in because none of your friends remembered – if one person had, that would’ve changed things. But, each one person still committed the same offense – not remembering your birthday — regardless of circumstances, so if it wouldn’t bother you if Sarah hadn’t remembered to text if Lucy had, then it seems like it’s more about the overall day itself feeling disappointing rather than specifically about Sarah.
I kind of liken it to parties. If I throw a big party and nobody comes, this *sucks*. It is terrible. I have had these things happen where I try to arrange something and one by one, everyone bails. It feels absolutely awful. But each person isn’t doing anything wrong individually by having a family issue/illness etc. come up, and even the more “sketchy” reasons would probably just be a blip if it hadn’t been literally everyone. But it is so so hard to separate emotionally “did this person do anything very hurtful” from “a whole lot of minor little things combined to make this experience really hurtful.” I don’t even have a solution to this nor have I always been able to be cool when it happened to me!
Dear LW, I understand well the hurt you are feeling – I have been there, too; though for me it was not so much for forgetting birthdays but the overall lack of staying in touch which has made me sad in the past. I believe the source of hurt is the same: feeling neglected and not remembered.
Remembering people’s birthdays (and even strange obsucre details about them) has always been my strong suit so it took me a long time to fully understand that that was not the case for most people. I wonder if we are alike, since your letter does not tell this: I have always loved organizing events and if I am not the one organizing a birthday party for myself, I have noticed that some people tend to forget the whole thing. In my culture women are especially raised to take care of events like that – although being absent minded, busy or in a stressful life situation happens to all genders.
So, previously most of your friends have remembered your birthday and you have stayed in touch regularly with your friends, like you told. Since your friends do not all know each other I suppose that nothing unpleasant has happened in those relationships. It does sound like an unhappy coincidence and I bet that makes one feel lonely and forgotten; at least that is what I would feel.
Could there be some other kind of explanation? How recently did you stop celebrating Holidays? Have you been open about this to these friends? I have understood that in some religions birthdays are not celebrated so I cannot help but wonder whether this is a case of caution gone too far. I mean, if I knew that one of my friends was going through a process involving her religious life (or lack of thereof) I would not pry (because I would feel that that would be unpolite) but if the person in quesiton would not tell me herself, I might have been left in a state where I was not sure whether she still celebrates her birthday. Due to being raised to always be polite and to never pry, a person like myself might have been left in a state of confusion, not being sure whether it could be considered polite or not to offer their congratulations. Also, human mind tends to be slippery in confusing or unsure matters resulting in me possibly remembering the birthday occasionally and feeling somewhat anxious of whether or not to congratulate my friend or whether I could ask if congratulating would be considered polite – or whether even asking such a thing would be considred rude.
So, let’s assume that your friends care deeply of you, dear LW. They have stayed in touch with you for years. I am quite sure they have not abandoned you, but it may be so that they simply do not know to politely acknowledge your new wishes and customs on celebrating. Just like many people here have suggested I would let this lapse slip (unless the friends are very, very close and based in direct honesty) and concentrate to get what you want: to take good care of the friendships and to making sure they do not forget next year.
As I told you, I love organizing events and I am good at remembering birthdays – but my husband is the direct opposite of me. If he has to organize something he gets anxious and he tends to forget about birthdays and presents. He does know that I love to celebrate my birthday but still, he cannot help his nature. I know that it says nothing about his love for me if he forgets my birthday so I compromize: I organize my own birthday celebration, make sure that he remembers it, tell him directly what I would love to get and he is just happy to tag along. During our years together his absent-mindedness is the only quality in him I do not particularly love and I have found I can easily live with that. So, some people are just like that, they do not mean anything by it.
When it comes to finding new friends I believe that is always a good thing to do. People change, their situation in life changes: babies are born, closed ones pass away, they find new passions to devote their time to… Even though people still care for their friends more often than not the relationship just slowly fades away. So, dear LW, go on, make new friends with whom to organize new events.
Oh, and happy belated birthday to you!
One year, not even my family contacted me about my birthday, until about a month after. Didn’t bother me a bit. I consider birthdays to be things for children. And possibly those in their late-teens, early 20’s, if they want to organize them for themselves.
Then again, I don’t really tend to look at dates on calendars. My work, and deadlines, are more of the today/tomorrow/Thursday/Next-Monday sort of schedule. Most months, I could not tell you what the date is because it matters that it’s Monday, not that it’s the 23rd.
My birthday happens around Tax season, and Easter, and Spring Break, here in the US. So folks are doing a million other things. I have friends’ whose birthdays are around New Years, summer vacation, Wedding Season, Halloween, Christmas, Winter Break, Spring Break, Memorial Day, Easter… the list goes on. All year long, there are things that require logistics and travel and family-first sort of scheduling, where birthdays for grown-ups outside the family would tend to fall by the wayside.
Sounds like you happen to be friends with people to whom birthdays aren’t all that important. If you talk to them fairly often, or e-mail, or text, it might just be simplest to say, a week or two before, when they ask you what’s up, to say, “My birthday’s in a couple of weeks, and since it’s on a Friday this year, any my age has a “0” in it, I’m going to make a weekend of it.” Set them up to win. And try not to resent that you have to.
When I go to get my hair cut, and I want my husband to say something nice about it, I’ll lead with “Boy, I really need a haircut,” a week or so before. Then “I better schedule that haircut.” Then “Haircut tomorrow!” Then “I’m on my way to my haircut.” And then, “I’m back from my haircut!” And then, he says something nice. If I just went and got one, and waited around for him to come out with a compliment, I’d be on my 27th haircut before he said a word. Haircuts don’t matter to him. Actually, he’d rather I grew it down to my butt – not that my hair would cooperate. But if a compliment after a haircut is important to me, then it would be better to set myself up to get one, than get mad after the fact because I didn’t.
LW, I feel you – one year all three of my siblings forgot my birthday and most of my friends tend to forget it, too. Since birthdays are important to me, here’s what I did to ensure that I’d hear from at least a few special people:
1) I list my birthday on Facebook. It’s restricted it to a small custom friends group called “IRL friends,” but it’s visible. I decided that the handful of sort-of-meaningless “HBD” posts was worth it to have one or two good friends see it and reach out with texts or emails.
2) I realized I have close enough relationships with my siblings to get humorously bossy about the situation, and now I text them cheerfully as a group at the beginning of my birthday month to say: “Hey! My birthday’s coming up! This is your annual reminder to at least send me a text, and also p.s. I really love the occasional card.” It’s gone over pretty well – they generally remember now, and I don’t think any of them resent it, since they usually *mean* to wish me a happy birthday. (That is, I’m not forcing any of them to do something they wouldn’t otherwise do if they remembered, which sounds like it’s also the case with your closest friends.)
3) For very close friends who perpetually forget my birthday, I do one of two things: I let it go because I know that person is very forgetful and I love and accept them for who they are, OR, I tell them honestly that birthdays mean a lot to me and ask if there’s a way they can note it on a physical or electronic calendar in a way that will remind them to acknowledge it. (I’ve only done this with one or two people, but they are stalwart birthday-texters now, and both told me it was helpful to know that it was important to me.)
In summary, you’re probably going to have to be a little vulnerable and tell some folks that birthdays mean a lot to you, and that one of the ways they can love and support you as a friend is to remember and reach out. But once you’ve done that, it makes a huge difference.
Also, belated happy birthday! I hope the next one is full of friend-love.
That really sucks, I’m sorry LW 😦
I have to admit I’m the same as the Captain, apart from my parents, aunts and two closest friends, I don’t remember most people’s birthdays without Facebook reminders. (And even then, I think I only remember the aunts because they’re the same week as mine, and the friends because each is one month and one day either side of mine. And I even sometimes forget to message on the actual day, because of being so focused on daily life stuff.)
Hope you can reconnect with your friends soon. Xx
Oh! Forgot to mention. I do enjoy my own birthday, in that if it’s on a Saturday I jealously guard the chance to take myself to dim sum and a movie, or a bookstore. Having to blow it off, myself, entirely, because someone else wants me to go to some work even would make me cranky. But I wouldn’t expect anyone else to care about my birthday. I get to. They don’t have to.
Birthdays can be so tricky – it’s hard to Use Your Words when what you really want is for your friends to think of you off their own back.
I did the “take your birthday off Facebook” thing for a while, but ultimately the lack of messages bummed me out, so I turned it back on and reframed how I thought of it. Yes, you get the empty messages but for closer friends that’s going to prompt nice texts/IMs too – and the fact that they needed reminding doesn’t make it less special… As the Captain says, keeping track of birthdays is not as much of a thing as it used to be.
Yes! That’s precisely it – friends needed the reminder, but they were happy to get it!
I suggest that you take a fun, upbeat picture of whatever it was you did to celebrate your birthday and post it on FB. This will cue many good people to send belated-type greetings, and it will remind your old pals about your special day.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY! ❤
I'm not on Facebook. The first year I was off of it, and loads of people 'forgot', I was kinda hurt. But I planned a party to make sure I got some presents and good wishes even if not on the exact date! Then when the next birthday came around, I was less bothered. I don't remember people's birthdays, except a small number much like the Captain. I have been known to forget my own grandma's birthday. You will probably be able to relativize this in the future, when the (totally understandable) hurt has subdued. It doesn't mean they love you any less, dear LW. It's just hard for people to remember about things like these when loved ones live far away.
Give yourself an extra-nice present and know that in your future there will be people who remember! Or at least remember on the same week. Xxx
As someone who is terrible at acknowledging birthdays (for many reasons, not least is I don’t really care about my own), I love people to tell me it’s their birthday because it tells me it is important to them.
I am a big believer in throwing yourself a party if your birthday is special to you. I learned from my friend group that it’s okay to ask to be celebrated and the fact that you planned the celebration doesn’t have to diminish your enjoyment of it.
The years that I’ve needed hoopla for my bday, I’ve either had a party or taken a group of friends out to dinner, and it was wonderful to have all my buddies paying attention to ME!
If it’s important to you that others remember and do something without prompting, I think that’s a different issue than wanting people to acknowledge your birthday.
I realized that in my circle you know if someone’s birthday is important to them because they don’t just tell you their birthday is coming up, they tell you what the plan is.
It feels to me rather passive-aggressive to just remind someone your birthday is coming up and then expect them to pick it up from there and do what you want them to do to make your birthday feel right.*
Saying “I’m excited about my birthday because I’m treating myself to a spa day” is just a statement of information and you’re still expecting them to do emotional work of figuring out your true message.
Unless you say “my birthday is coming up and [this is what I want from you]” it’s expecting someone else to read your mind about your emotional state.
And there are those of us, who even if we figure out what the hint means, a hint isn’t enough to fix it in our brains properly. A hint goes into the “shit I need to remember to do” mental file with the rest of Life And The Universe, and chances are it won’t make it into the “stuff I will do” queue.
What you want can be as simple as “I’d love to hear from you on my birthday”. It can be “let’s plan something” or “let’s go out for drinks” or “I’m having a party.” But you have to let the other person know what you want from them.
In the Captain immortal words: use your words.
BigDogLittleCat, I completely agree with you: using words ahead is quite important in order to get what you want.
Also, if you happen to desire something and you know it is reasonable, mentioning that in Facebook with a link or a picture might do the trick. Some people LOVE to hunt for suitable presents, but many people do not – they become anxious if they have to choose something. The latter type is very common in this busy world and for them creating a list or verbalizing a few reasonable wishes is a service which frees them from feeling anxiety. Also having something you particularly love – in my case, cats – helps people choose a suitable card for you. Everybody who know me even a little know that I love cats so when my birthday comes, I often receive cat-related cards and items. They make me very happy but I also believe that knowing that I have this particular love makes it easier for my friends to choose cards and presents. I believe that usually people want to please each other and knowing ahead of time that the chosen present or card is going to do the trick can help.
Convallaria majalis, you anticipate obstacles to getting your needs met very well, I must say. I also try to make it easy for people to do the Facebook birthday thing. I don’t want them to become anxious and just bail on the whole idea. Those that follow my page are well aware of the things I like. If they are not inclined to browse image galleries for hours in search of the perfect photo to accompany their birthday greetings, they know that they can always default to posting an image of Marc Bolan. That always works. I get at least a few hundred of these every year on my birthday. They trickle in during the year too. It’s always wonderful, and the quickest way for my Facebook network to get my attention and a fast reply.
In the last few years, I’ve gotten into the habit of “advertising”” my birthday to friends starting a month or two before the day rolls around. Usually what happens is then friends get excited with me, someone usually opens the question of how I want to celebrate the day, and everyone has plenty of time and notice to celebrate with me then in whatever way.
Getting some sort of event into their calendars has helped me too – like “hey can we go to my favorite places together” or in your case, maybe “hey can we plan a video chat on my birthday?” Then their schedules can carry some of the effort to remind people too.
Happy Belated Birthday, LW!
I’m afraid sometimes the best way to get what you want is to ask for it….
I recently had a milestone birthday. My mother drove a fair distance to see me but then decided to clean her house instead. Luckily I wasn’t relying on her & had made my own plans which she wouldn’t join in!
I’m not a birthday celebrator, but I like to make my children’s days special. Other than that, if I’m made aware, I’ll be an enthusiastic supporter, or else I’ll completely miss it.
It’s your day, so don’t be afraid to celebrate you, even if you have to remind people. Have a great year. 😊
I’ve found it helpful to mention my birthday in conversation before it happens. Like, “What have you been up to?” “Trying to figure out what to do for my birthday this year – I don’t know if I want to try and organise a catch up, or just buy myself a gift and have a party of one”.
There’s no easy solution here. I’ve made it a tradition to throw one crazy birthday party for myself every year and invite all my friends, so they’re kind of forced to acknowledge it. That’s definitely not a great solution when your friends are scattered around the globe, but it could be plan a get together of sorts with some of your physically closer friends for your birthday. You can all go to your favorite restaurant, or watch your favorite movie together, or even just hang out and have a couple drinks at home. I’m all for friend dates on any occasion, but especially when there’s something specific to celebrate. I think it’s perfectly fine to plan your own birthday celebrations, because then you know you’re getting exactly what you want. The element of surprise or the notion that people are thinking of you before you remind them is romantic to think about but honestly it’s most fun just to see people you care about and have a good time together. And when you straight up tell someone “It’s my birthday!!” they legally have to say happy birthday, it’s just a fact.
“August is my BIRTHDAY MONTH, plan accordingly beyotches”
YAS. This is literally me. I highly recommend it. And yet, I totally understand the LW’s feels, indeed it’s at least partly because of my understanding. *internet hugs*
The thing about this is that a lot of people *don’t* remember someone’s birthday off the top of their head. In the Olden Days we used to write everyone’s birthday down in our diaries or address books, or even special Birthday Books made just for this purpose. These days most of us use Facebook to remind us instead. For the people I don’t have on Facebook (like my grandparents) I put them in my phone calendar, but it wouldn’t usually occur to me to do this for friends I have on fb. We have a commonly-used birthday reminder system, and of course you can opt out of it if you want, but people forgetting your birthday is a natural consequence of that.
Opting in does lead to the occasional “hollow” birthday wish, but how much does that really matter? People say things like “how are you” and “have a nice day” all the time, even though they don’t especially want an update on your wellbeing or care all that much about how good your day is. We understand that this is just how living in a society works, and we know how to separate these niceties from genuine enquiries or well-wishes from the people we’re close to. (Also…I think it’s nice that out of the 300 people who got a notification about my birthday, randoms X Y and Z decided to drop me a quick message even though we haven’t seen each other in years and they could just as well have ignored it.)
It sucks but I doubt it’s fixable. As I get older I start thinking family ties are a lot stronger than any friendship. Again, this really sucks. I’d prefer my friends to be more like family and struggle to deal with this.
If they are your friends and if you are hurt you tell them so. No question it will make them feel bad about missing it but it is ok to feel bad when we overlook something and it hurts a friend.
Eldest had a sad when I forgot to call him on his birthday. He would not have said anything if I had not told him a month later that I had just gotten him something for his birthday and as we were talking suddenly realized I was on the wrong month. Criminy! I was there! Getting old is sometimes inconvenient.
I think this question lives at the intersection of two conflicts: Reciprocity Avenue and the Boulevard of What-[Holiday]-Should-Be-Like.
Captain A and the commenters have explored the Boulevard of What-[Holiday]-Should-Be-Like very well, but I’ve got a few words about Reciprocity.
On Reciprocity Avenue, you’re wondering why your friends aren’t doing for you what you’ve done for them (reach out with Happy Birthdays). Aside from birthdays, who’s doing the reaching out? Is it always you? Are you investing more energy in these friends than they are in you? If yes, this may be why you’re feeling disappointed and neglected.
I believe you that these are strong friendships, and that this doesn’t indicate a major break. But friendships are like pokemon–they evolve. Changes in age, location, circumstances, anything, can change what you need and what you’re able to offer. Dynamics change. Old traditions fade, new traditions are made.
“August is my BIRTHDAY MONTH, plan accordingly beyotches”
Ha! August ~is~ actually my birthday month…
I’m one of those who’s terrible at remembering birthdays. If you aren’t my immediate family I probably don’t remember. For this reason I find Facebook’s notifications extremely handy – but at the same time, I know how annoying it can be to just get that weak “oh hbd” and feel like no one’s actually putting any effort into it. Have had a few of those myself (so I try to at least say something a little personal, because really, who needs to feel half-forgotten on their own birthday?) and they aren’t great. At all.
That said, I do think putting your birthday Out There, and if that means Facebooking it and suffering a few of those weak wishes then so be it, is a very good idea. We humans are fickle and forgetful creatures who have to be reminded on occasion what our fellow humans want. Remind your fellow humans!
Nobody regularly remembers my birthday without prompting except my immediate family. When far-flung friends forget, I don’t worry about it, because these things are hard for me to remember too. For everybody else, I shamelessly prompt them. My boyfriend and I do sushi on the actual day. A week or two after that, I invite everyone I know in town to a sushi place. (Sushi is awesome.) I get what I want, and I don’t have to base my sense of self-worth on how many people remembered.
Loving the vibrant discussion in the comments section today. It feels like we have hit another vein in the Mine of Individual Differences: adult-birthday-ers and non-adult-birthday-ers.
On my birthday I like to go around carrying my knowledge that it is a Good Day close inside, like a special secret that I can mention or not, as the whim strikes. The people at the cupcake shop are always happy to oblige with a “happy birthday!” if I decide to disclose. I do have a spouse that always remembers, though, and I’m sure that makes a difference – I expect the secret would just feel lonely and sad if nobody knew.
I also remember one year my dad forgot, when I still lived with my folks, and that was pretty hurtful.
I’m a parent now, and for the last two years I’ve actually been at a kiddie birthday party on my own birthday. Free cake!
My Mum rang me on 20 December to wish me a happy birthday one year. And I said, ‘it was yesterday. The DAY AFTER MY BIRTHDAY IS NOT MY BIRTHDAY!’ TM Flight of the Conchords. And THEN she said something like, Oh well, how am I supposed to remember…’ and I said BECAUSE YOU WERE THERE WHEN I WAS BORN.’
Yep, still bitter. I know how it is.
But really – I think unless its a year when your age ends in a zero you have to let it go. Believe it or not, the time comes when you forget how old you even are. That’s why you have kids because when you forget they remind you. ‘YOUR 43 MUM!! YOU ARE SOOOOO OLD.’
Around my early 30’s I think is when I started forgetting my own age 🙂
I always want the important people in my life to remember my birthday which is why I give them lots of advance notice every year. They shouldn’t be expected to remember on their own– their lives are full and busy and complex, and there’s no way I’ll remember their birthdays. I usually start referencing the fact my birthday is coming up a couple of weeks in advance, mention it again the week before, double down the day before, and if people forget on the day (happens to the best of us), I just say “Hey, it’s my birthday!” It works every time.
The thing with birthdays is when you’re a kid and all kids and friend together, you see each other every day. So you’re around for the build up and your friend mentioned what they want for their birthday, as you banter about how old and wrinkly they’ll be, as they party plan.
Fast forward to being adults (esp adults who live apart and see one another rarely) and you just don’t have that build up. The month long countdown to the birthday has been replaced to month down countdowns to “that payroll deadline “ and “oh I need to book the car in for it’s MOT” or “oh I must get that war medicine for my dog”. Adults have a lot of stuff happening, we all know that, so prompts are great.
Hence book of face.
Nowadays if book of face doesn’t tell me of a birthday I don’t remember it until I get prompted somehow, simple as that. Because I have more friends and aquintences and a lot more crap of my calendar I’m WORRYING about. I’ll feel awful if I forget a birthday but, considering we meet up so rarely and tend to exchange belated b-day presents etc when we do, for my group of friends at least it’s not the worst thing in the world if it’s late so long as you acknowledge it later.
Now to Xmas.
Xmas is widely celebrated by people who aren’t religious etc etc because it’s basically treated as the world’s birthday. Here’s a convenient and happy date that you spend to tell everyone you love how much they mean to you. You have a month long run up or more and you have time to think and remember and plan. Which is why often if you don’t celebrate it people will give you a gift anyway or wish you well anyway and why they might get upset f you refuse this gift. Because to many people it’s your second birthday basically, it’s not religious or commercial at all -for them-.for them they want to jump on an opportunity to sag they love you.
You do you in how you want to treat all of this. If your friends know you don’t celebrate Xmas and it upsets you if they thrhust presents at you then their first priority should be respecting that.
BUT if they’rw Making an effort to acknowledge you through at Xmas and you’re happy to allow it it may be worth reframing it in your mind as them giving you second birthday presents and cards? So if the first set of birthday is forgotten maybe it will sting less, because they’re still saying they love you in a more easy to remember date?
To answer your question I don’t think there’s any way of making them remember your birthday without being passive aggressive. So I’d say either rely on the book of face (since that’s the cultural norm and expectation now£, or go back to being a kid in mentality. Get openly excited for your run up to your birthday with them and plan something FOR your birthday, so they have that solid date in their calendar planned way in advance that twigs their memory that they have to actually DO something for and organise.
I hear you.
My birthdays are usually crap personally, as they come at the end of the winter depression, but it is not warm enough to just go and sit in a park. Because i am perennially single there is no default person with who to share a happy day.
I try to make the best of it every year and not expect much apart from facebook oneliners but it still sucks. I used to put so much effort in other people’s birthdays but i stopped last year after it was particularly crap.
Hear my tale of woo, because i had to shut up and and suck it up and now is my turn to air my grievances. Last year i teamed up with a male friend to have a birthday party together. We have the same circle of friends so it would have not been weird. Plus we really only wanted to drinks at the pub. But at the time he was dating a girl who i thought at the time as my best friend. She nixed the idea and organised for him a surprise birthday party at the same pub we had planned, something that he vehemently did not want, but smiled thru anyway.
I had to suck it up because “if i felt so strongly about it i could have organised something else” and “girlfriends come first”, despite the fact she was planning to leave him and did by the end of the month.
I was invited out for a drink with an other friend on a later date, the only one who noticed i had been snubbed. Not that i am still bitter or anything (sarcasm)
Do they for sure know that your birthday is a big thing to you? If you stopped celebrating other big holidays that could also be read as “I don’t celebrate stuff”. I was one of the “What’s the deal with those birthdays/holidays/etc, we are all grown ups here…” people. I can love people dearly and still not realize their birthdays etc. Didn’t help that some friends pulled some “the good friends will remind it themselves so don’t remind them as I want to see who is a good friend” stuff in high school.
It took me really long to understand that certain people in my life (e.g. my mother) care a lot about birthdays, and nowadays I have them in the calendar and make a note to call themsend a cart/do something nice for them because I know there care about it, a lot – but that doesn’t mean I didn’t care about them before, just that I didn’t understand that people didn’t think like me before.
This past year my mom called me on her birthday and told me she was calling so I could wish her a happy birthday. I had completely spaced on it the day of, and was sooo grateful and delighted that she called so I didn’t miss it. I can’t quite put my finger on what was so great about that unexpected call, but it has me thinking that asking for what you need can sometimes be a gift to the people who care about you.
I’m a friend who lives on the othersise of the wirld to a lot of school, college, old work, hobby friends who i like very much and are very dear to me, but I can’t remember all their birthday’s every year. It’s a lot of work without the fb reminder. Honestly it sounds like you are expecting too much from your far away friends. Before i left my home country 8 years ago, apart from family and a very few people i had a celebrating routine with, i was reminded by: weather, proximity to public holidays, other people’s birthday, other people reminding me, but most often the birthday haver telling me “it’s my birthday on Monday, do you want to come for a drink/to my party/have a day /out/get cake?”.
All of those are missing in a different country, except the birthday haver telling me.
I like Facebook birthday reminders. I often put in a LOT of time finding a video I know will make the birthday person smile. Sometimes people do the same for me. Yay! Sure, there are lots of generic greetings from people from high school, but I like that too, since personally, I don’t bother to write “happy birthday” to everyone.
As for me, I am an older Mom of 3 & generally my birthday energies go towards my younglings. But for my 50th, boy howdy, I wanted a party. I told my husband he was going to get together with some of my friends and throw me a surprise party. He’s not the world’s most reliable person in following through on “I want X” requests (or alternately, communicating that he can’t/won’t meet a need), so I told my sister & my close neighbor too, and it happened. It was fun. Four year olds threw tantrums when it was time to leave – because they were having SO MUCH fun. I felt special. Of course it wasn’t really a surprise, but who cares? It was joyous.
I’ve heard people – even people my age – talk about how it doesn’t count if you throw yourself a party. I disagree. You could reach out to your friends and tell them you are throwing yourself a little birthday party and you’d love to hear from them before X hour, when you eat cake & watch a movie (or whatever). Maybe you could all Facetime and watch a movie “together” from your separate locations or something. People who get snooty about this, instead of thinking “YAY, fun!” might not be the best folks to be relying on for support anyway.
Good luck to you! And happy belated birthday.
I have a terrible memory, and while I am learning to use electronic calendars, I forget to enter things often enough that I can’t really trust them. My best friend of over 20 years has a birthday in July, but every year, I have to ask which day it’s on. One year, I called to say hi, not realizing it was her birthday, and HUNG UP WITHOUT SAYING ANYTHING ABOUT IT. One year, I suddenly realized at a dinner party that it was my Dad’s birthday, so I excused myself to call him, got the answering machine, and halfway through my message, began to realize I might be a month off. In fact, his real birthday was the previous month. We had done a whole family dinner. I had bought him a gift. You know whose birthday I DO remember? A childhood friend-of-a-friend whom I barely knew, but for some reason, his birthday got stuck in my head. So every year, on the date, I’m like, “Oh, it’s so-and-so’s birthday.” Because my memory storage system doesn’t know how to prioritize. All this to say, even people who love you and have good intentions might forget, and it has nothing to do with how much they love you, or care about making you happy.
This seems like a love languages thing to me–the LW feels cared for when people remember their birthday, but it doesn’t necessarily follow that their friends don’t care because they don’t remember birthdays.
I grew up with birthdays seldom celebrated and if they were, only with close family. We moved in my preteens and I was puzzled the first year after by getting a couple of birthday presents from new friends. Birthday celebrations (except really big ones) still don’t make any sense to me, but I do try to remember which friends care about their own. Unfortunately, I tend to be one of those who end up all too often sending belated greetings. I do plan to have a big celebration on my 75th (all too soon), but it will be the first one in 25 years.
TL;DR Some of us were raised with this not mattering at all and it can be hard to figure out who cares and who doesn’t.
Hi Birthday Girl. Happy belated birthday! I’m here with practical advice – Fb privacy settings are growing ever more advanced and “Show people it’s my birthday!” is no longer simply an on/off function. If you’re willing to invest the time you could create a group of Birthday Friends, add your faraway besties, and set your birthday privacy controls so that only they will get the notification. I get the temptation to feel like they shouldn’t need reminding, but I think Cap is spot on that this is information most people just don’t keep mental track of anymore, because 99 time out of 100 they can rely on social media to prompt them.
Signed, a human with a photographic memory who dated a human with ADHD for several years, and had to learn over and over to decouple “doesn’t remember things about me” from “doesn’t love me”.
Hi, Birthday Girl – and Happy Belated Birthday! I thought I’d share a birthday well-wishing story of my own.
When my 40th birthday was coming up, I was overcome with dread. I had no idea what I wanted to do to mark the occasion, which felt supremely depressing. But I started writing personal e-mails to my good friends, letting them know that my 40th birthday was coming up – and that had caused me to reflect on each of my friendships, and what they meant to me.
And in each personal e-mail, I thanked each friend and remarked on specific memories, or something they had done that I had really treasured. There was no hidden agenda, no artifice – I just legitimately wanted to reconnect with people that I cared about.
The outpouring of well-wishes that I got *back* was amazing. My friends were touched that I had remembered them in such fashion, and replied in kind several times over.
You might consider doing something similar as each birthday approaches. It reminds your friends of your birthday, and affirms how much you care about them. And I find that people really love it when they’re greeted with a fond memory, which means that their wishes for you are more likely to be filled with an equal measure of love and care.
Oh, Frozen Northman, I love what you did! What an amazing thing to do! I hope it is ok to “borrow” your idea.
LW, I too love my birthday, and I too would be bummed if no one remembered it! I’m really sorry that happened to you.
From a technological standpoint, you can actually set your birthday on Facebook but only have it be visible to these select friends if you want! When you go to edit it, there’s a little button with some people heads, and that’s how you set the privacy on that individual piece of information. So that might be a good way to remind the friends you specifically want to hear from without inviting all the empty HBD posts you don’t care for.
Hello! It’s my first time commenting (long time reader), but I think I have some good advice for how to make LW feel a bit better.
I can really see myself in your situation, in that I spend a lot of time thinking about other people’s feelings and then find myself getting upset (and, in my case, judgemental) when they don’t do the same for me. It hurts! Here is my advice: first, envision yourself in their situation. Imagine you were sure that your friend’s birthday was May 31st and not March 31st, or you knew exactly when the birthday was, but you spent the whole day at the vet with your sick turtle and totally forgot to text or call. Imagine how awful you’d feel once you realized your mistake.
Then, remove all guilt tripping and, the next time they say “How are you,” respond with something like: “Pretty good, although I’ve been a little off since my birthday last week. You know how that one day a year can give you so much to think about?” Don’t make it about them, or about the number of birthday wishes you received, but make it about you – the way you feel about getting older, the way you’re evaluating your life at a milestone, etc.
Quite likely, they’ll chime in with a, “Oh my gosh, happy belated!” Or “Wow, I can’t believe I forgot the date, I’m the worst, I seriously just wrote ‘December’ on my last three checks.” And you get to kindly say, “Of course, don’t worry about it!” or, “Aw, thanks for the good wishes – the date doesn’t really matter,” and alleviate that guilt for them.
I think, in these kinds of situations, making someone else feel better is a good way to make yourself feel better. You get to rewrite your mental story from “I’m the sad, lonely friend who wishes for more attention on their birthday,” to, “I’m the gracious, understanding friend who forgave a mistake.”
TLDR: Imagine yourself in their shoes and apply the golden rule. I really do think you’ll feel better. And yes, definitely drop some hints next year. It’s not obnoxious; it’s thoughtful and festive! Happy late birthday to you!
making someone else feel better is a good way to make yourself feel better. You get to rewrite your mental story from “I’m the sad, lonely friend who wishes for more attention on their birthday,” to, “I’m the gracious, understanding friend who forgave a mistake.”
What a great way to deal with it. I believe the “sad, lonely person” narrative is a huge part of what holds people back in this kind of situation. I know it holds me back.
So my BFF has a summer birthday and in high school we were talking about how she felt like her birthday always got forgotten since we weren’t in school. What did I do that summer? I forgot her birthday.
The next day I got an email that said, “DUDE! We literally talked about this A MONTH AGO.”
I haven’t forgotten her birthday since.
But what I have realized is that she took an approach that (normally) works – setting expectations and letting me know her feelings in advance of her birthday. It might be too late for anything beyond mentioning that most people forgot your birthday and you’re kind of bummed, but maybe next year mentioning it in advance and getting it on their radar would help? It doesn’t solve this year’s issue, but it might help for the future.
Hugs, LW. I also keep my birthday FB private, but most of my friends are family members who usually did remember in Ye Olde Pre-Internet Times. (Admittedly, this was also when I was younger, which also falls under the Captain’s point of ‘many adults don’t see the point of fussing about another adult’s birthday’.) I usually get felicitations from my sister and *maybe* one other person. It does feel a little lonely, but again, see Cap’s advice.
I also try to consider that by hiding my birthday, I might be signaling to people than I *don’t* want to be contacted for it. In reality I’d love to hear from my family, but it’s not worth the amount of mental energy I’d have to devote to deciding how/whether to respond to individual wishes from loose acquaintances. Nor is it worth, to me, saying the words ‘Could you please wish me a happy birthday?’.
For the last several years, I’ve actually forgotten my OWN birthday until I saw the wave of Facebook posts. My phone can store birthdays with contact info and prompt me with alerts, so I’ve started using that feature for people close to me who I know care about birthdays. I have three other people’s birthdays memorized, and one of those is because it’s the day after mine.
I don’t have any advice for the LW on how to process or helpfully frame those feelings or approach friends, sadly, because I can’t relate to that kind of desire. The best I can do is offer an alternative, non-Facebook calendaring option to people who have friends/family like the LW who DO care so that you can remember without social media prompts.
Dear “Grace,” it’s hilarious when you try to tell people to grow up. You’re the one obsessively leaving snarky comments on a blog that banned you YEARS ago. I think I deleted…4? this week?
I hope you enjoyed this nugget of attention. That’s 2018 all settled.
Something I think is worth thinking about… culturally, there’s this idea that if people “just know”, if they do something of their own initiative without being asked or reminded, that’s somehow better and more special and means they love you more than if you asked them to do it. And just, that’s not always true, and not always the best way to think about it.
I can’t remember the article, but I read something by one lady who really liked getting flowers from the person she was dating. And she used to stress about wishing her new partner would think of it, or do it on his own. But finally she just asked him, explained that getting flowers regularly was something she really liked that reassured her of a partner’s affection and made her feel special. And he immediately started sending her flowers on a regular basis. And she realized that it’s not actually less special if she asks. Because the key thing here was not thinking of it as “I HAD to ask”, but “he did it JUST BECAUSE I asked.” Like, she told him that it was important to her, and he listened, and believed her, and did it.
You seem to feel like telling your friends that your birthday is coming up and letting them know you’d like to hear from them would make it less special and mean that they don’t care about you as much, because if they REALLY cared about you, they’d remember on their own. But I’ve had birthdays forgotten (and I’ve forgotten birthdays T_T), and honestly… it can be pretty special when people do something you ask for. One year I told an online friend that my birthday was tomorrow and I was gonna be stuck working, and could he please email me something to cheer me up? That boy spent the whole next day sending me jokes, riddles, puns, and brain teasers, every HOUR, just to make me smile. Just because I asked. I still remember that birthday.
Don’t be afraid to ask. And don’t put down the value of receiving something you ask for.
It is hurtful especially if you’ve remembered theirs. I think it’s reasonable to talk about expectations with your friend group-should we text? E-cards? Skype?
I don’t think I have a handle on how to move ahead once the birthday’s been forgotten. My husband forgot my birthday last year AND wasn’t listening to me when I told him it was my birthday that morning. Then when I finally reminded him again he bought me—wait for it—his favorite birthday cake. It does hurt even though I’m an adult. I spoke up and I wasn’t heard. Wish I had more wisdom than hurt feelings to share.
Ouch. In my house, he would be an ex-husband. Seriously, I think it’s reasonable to expect that an intimate partner make a special effort to remember important dates using whatever means works for them. It’s all part of being attentive to your partner and prioritizing those things that matter to them.
I once had a boyfriend who, despite reminders, remained equally clueless about little rituals that he knew were important to me. Perhaps it is more accurate to say that he was thoroughly self-focused. He was perfectly capable of remembering important dates related to his own hobbies and interests. Moreover, he suffered from white knight syndrome, making him especially attentive to the needs of casual acquaintances who might need his rescuing, then tell everyone how wonderful he is. (I had already told him that he was wonderful, so that block had already been checked.) After six years of feeling taken for granted, I traded him in for a wonderful man who didn’t need to be constantly reminded to prioritize all those little things that mattered to me.
Heyo. Chiming in here.
LW, I can SO RELATE to feeling rotten about being forgotten by your friends.
Which means I’m going to tell you some stories about myself and how I deal with these kinds of feelings.
First thing: I used to hate the cascade of “hbd” posts on my wall every year. They felt fake and like lip service and like “none of these people would be saying this if they weren’t all getting reminders flashed at them right now” and… I’ve kind of mellowed about that. Partly because people who actually don’t care about you are not going to leave even a three-letter “HBD” on your wall, no matter how many reminders flash by, and partly because I’ve become one of those “November is my birthday month” people who puts the “extra” in Birthday Extravaganza, and reading a whole bunch of “I thought of you for thirty seconds and took the time to wish you well” messages, the day after my actual birthday, started to make me feel really good once I stopped letting my jerk-brain tell me they were all horribly insincere.
Second thing (which 100% relates to the first thing): For a long time – like the better part of two decades – I treated birthdays basically like some sort of a test. Do the two or three Very Best Friends whose birthdays I make a point of remembering and celebrating also do the same for me?
I made a point of NOT reminding them when my birthday was, and then feeling really dejected about it when they invariably forgot (because, yeah, actually, people have a lot on their minds when their 15, 19, 27, etc). I thought that reminding people of my birthday was sort of equal parts obnoxious attention-grabbing, pathetic begging, AND letting people get away with “not really caring” about me. As in: I was consumed with self-loathing and was simultaneously ashamed of wanting to be cared about, resentful of not “being” cared about, AND convinced that if I *did* remind people of my birthday, I would still be let down and forgotten, so better to just bring that on myself, amirite?
In short, it was a pretty crappy place to be. Are you familiar with this particular plane of desolation? (If you’re not, fantastic. But if you are? You are so not alone).
In more recent years, I’ve kind of woken up to the facts that:
(1) People whose general behaviour reflects the reality that they like me? I don’t mind so much when they miss my birthday. I mean, I’m not dancing a jig or something, but it’s not horrible. People who SAY they like me, but kind of treat me like I’m disposable? When THEY forget my birthday, I’m freaking devastated, because it’s like that’s the one day of the year when I’m allowed to Have Expectations about mattering to them. So how much I’m personally effected by someone missing my birthday actually does have a lot to do with whether or not I feel cared for and close to and valued by them during the rest of the year. So what the Captain said about maybe checking in and getting some face-to-face time with the friends who are now scattered across the globe might be a good idea.
(2) It’s pretty-much on me to make Birthday Extravaganza happen. If what I want is a dozen people phoning me on the land-line to ask me about my plans and sing happy birthday? I have to email everybody and say “Here’s my number, I’ll be home all day”. If what I want is a dozen people wearing fancy outfits and drinking fancy cocktails, I need to send out the engraved invitations in a timely fashion.
It’s not obnoxious to remind people “Hey, My Special Day is coming up and I want you to be there for it”. It’s giving people the opportunity to pull out the stops for you, whatever you want that to look like. My cavalry doesn’t need to show up like the Riders of Rohan for me to feel cared for. I don’t feel forgotten when I put out the call and they come.
For many people, birthdays fall into the same category as “holiday-they-know-I-don’t-celebrate-anymore”. I don’t care AT ALL about my own birthday, and most of my close friends are the same way. So if someone who’s not in my closest inner circle wants extra love on their birthday it’s kind of like remembering that, oh right, Alice makes a big deal out of International Pancake Day. If Alice or Facebook reminds me, I’m happy to shower her with pancakes real or virtual, but it’s not going to organically come up in my mind, and it’s certainly not a litmus test of how I feel about her.
My thought on birthdays is that once you are an adult, it is your responsibility to remind people of it. I start reminding people about it about a month before (just bringing it up every so often). My friends who want birthday parties or birthday dinners plan them themselves.
Comments are closed.