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.