Restaurant Birthday Etiquette

I read with some surprise recently a Miss Manners entitled: “I can’t believe they did this on my birthday.” The person who wrote into the syndicated columnist was “appalled” by the restaurant offering him a “large dessert of the restaurant’s choosing with a showy sparkler stuck into it.”

He and his wife had gone to a restaurant on his birthday. “A sign at the door advertised a special reward when paying the bill if you were dining on your birthday.” He mentioned his birthday to the waitress and was then “hugely embarrassed” when she arrived at the table with a dessert he could not share with his wife (she didn’t like it). Plus, “now everybody in the restaurant knew it was my birthday.”

He wrote, “I didn’t want to hurt the feelings of the waitress, so I feigned delight and ate the dessert. I really wanted to share a dessert with my wife, but because of the actions of the waitress, I was cheated out of this opportunity and I’m not very happy about it.”

He wrote to Miss Manners wondering how he should have handled this better.

The Mannered Response

She suggests that the restaurant did not do a good job of tailoring its service to its customer need. She even argues, “A more astute wait-person would indeed have noticed that you had not ordered your dinner from the children’s menu, and may have been able to adjust the reward accordingly.” There’s also a joke about a free pony ride.

Still, unless you have never eaten out in a restaurant before, how could you not expect there would be a dessert and some sort of hoopla. At least it wasn’t one of the restaurants where all the waitstaff available are pressed into service serenading the guest.

This man asked for the “reward.” What else could he have been expecting? A discount would be my guess. Yet restaurant after restaurant has made a sparkler or candle in a slice of cake, often with a song, the go-to response to birthdays. The cake is free. That’s the discount. But the price you pay is not getting to choose the dessert they serve.

I also to share my umbrage that Miss Manners equates this birthday “reward” with the kid’s menu. If you don’t want to be feted in public, don’t tell the waitstaff of a public restaurant it’s your birthday. Otherwise, don’t infantilize those who enjoy a little birthday pomp and circumstance on their special day — regardless of their age.

One last thing, imagine how chagrined these correspondents would have been to get the birthday surprise at this restaurant near my house. It’s really a showy sparkler!

birthday sparkler


Answering Birthday Call to Duty

birthday party RSVP

There is little that makes me sadder than stories of a child having no one attend his or her birthday. I’ve written before about the need to be considerate and RSVP to party invitations. In today’s example, the parents were still hoping for the best even though they hadn’t heard back from anyone. But, even after they prepared pizza and cake for the friends they expected to show up regardless of their rude inability to say “yes” or “no,” no one turned up for their 8-year-old’s big day!

Apparently this wasn’t even the first time — the same thing happened on the child’s sixth birthday!

So, the mom went on social media to ask for people to join her son’s party:

“I think I’m posting this out of utter emotional distress … but I need to ask if anyone wants to come to an 8 yr old boys birthday party to show him that he’s loved and valued as a person…NO gifts are required other than the gift of friendship.”

When she didn’t get any responses immediately, she went to the local police station and asked if an officer might attend. Her son has always wanted to join the force. And that’s where this story takes its turn for the better.


Members of both the police and fire department showed up to fete Graham. Cruisers lined the street of his neigbourhood. Plus, others who had seen the social media also showed up to share their best wishes.

The Mom was tearful in describing her gratitude to the Dallas News: “Something like this, it literally guts you as a parent because you can’t fix it, at least in that moment…But the Hurst Police Department and the Hurst Fire Department, they went above and beyond and made his day.”

There are so many ways in which you can make someone’s day on their birthday. I hope this glimmer of kindness inspires you!

The No. 1 Tip for Birthday Social Media

Don’t text your Mom.

Or, more specifically, don’t only text your Mom. You can text her, sure. But this should not be the only means of communication with the woman who gave birth to you on her special day.



C’mon folks. I don’t care what age you are. It is simply not cool to only text YOUR MOTHER. Yeah, I know, all caps in a blog. That’s how serious I am about this!

And it’s not just because I am now a Mom, and I would probably lose my mind if I only got a text from my son (when he was old enough to have a phone that is). If he is not physically in my presence on the day of my birth he better be calling me on the phone to sing to me. If he knows what’s good for him that is. (Yes, husband, you can save this blog to remind him of this later).

Be Nice to Mom on Her Birthday

This blog came about after I saw a woman write a newspaper advice columnist for input on “What should I do about my adult children’s birthdays?” She points out that her own birthday was acknowledged only by a text this year. “I was very hurt,” she writes.

She mentions that her birthday is Jan. 1 and that “their father’s birthday is later in the year, and they will buy him a gift plus a card.” To me it seems she is trying to give them a little leeway since her birthday is near the holidays. But the columnist, Annie, is correct in saying to “Birthday Blues,” “Shame on your children. The least they could have done was send a card.”

The columnist goes on to note the children are taking Mom for granted.

Do you want your Mom to feel as if you are taking her for granted? On her birthday? Do you?!

Send a card. Send flowers. Buy a gift. Go visit. Take her to lunch. Use your phone to voice call her. Skype. FaceTime.

Remember, your Mama raised you better than to only text your Mother on her birthday. If you love the woman (and here I acknowledge some families have difficult relationships that might, perhaps, justify a mere text), show it by saying “Happy Birthday” in the voice your Mama gave you!

What to write in a birthday card

card fir blog.png

Looking on the Hallmark site recently in the hopes of finding some of its archived treasures available for view online, I came across a blog on what to write in a birthday card.

I’m a writer. That’s what I do for a living. Yet, even I’ll admit to struggling sometimes to come up with the personal statement to add in the birthday cards I still love to send (in the mail — as opposed to relying on social media posts).

In putting together their guide, Hallmark’s writers acknowledge a few aspects of writing in a card that make the added personal message more difficult: “the card has already said it all” or you are trying “to keep things short and sweet.”

They go on to offer some interesting tips:

  • Pick the card carefully so that it suits the birthday person in particular, then you can let the printed message and design do the talking for you.
  • Kids love to see their age; so even if the card doesn’t have the exact number write the years old in your personal message.
  • Writing your private nickname for the card recipient instantly personalizes it.

Suggested Personalizations

Nevertheless, some of the examples they offered for what to write did seem laughably obvious:

  • “Happy, happy birthday, [name]!” — because ah, yes, that added “happy” makes all the difference. 
  • “Hope you make your [25th] a birthday to remember!”
  • “[Year] never looked so great!”
  • “Happy Birthday…a little late!”
  • “Happy Birthday, [Mom]. We love you so much!”
  • “Let the b-day fun begin!”
  • “Here’s to you!”
  • “Here’s to a great birthday!”

Hallmark also reminds us that “a warm closing before you signature is like the bow on top of the birthday gift.”

How about a warm closing on a blog…what would that be considered?

With blogging affection…. me.


Birthday etiquette in the office

office birthday

Photo credit: Cord Woodruff via / CC BY-NC-ND

Miss Manners was recently asked a question about office birthdays, and I have some things to say about the answer.

The prompt read: “Dear Miss Manners: What is your stance on people who bring treats to work on their birthdays? Is it an attention-getting mechanism or a nice gesture?”

Miss Manners answered, “This feels like a riddle. How would they have known that it was your birthday had you not brought in food? And because sometimes your colleagues bring in food when it’s not their birthdays, does that mean people wouldn’t assume it was your birthday since you brought in food?

Miss Manners has lost track of the problem. Is it, perhaps, that you want people to remember your birthday without being prompted? Or that you do not want to appear as if you are prompting them?

She suspects the latter. But as long as your treats are not accompanied by a self-congratulatory parade with a bullhorn, she permits you to continue enjoying your birthday however you wish — and accepting the well wishes of your colleagues at face value.”

My first question regarding this office etiquette issue is why on earth the person has to bring in their own birthday treats. What kind of trolls does he/she work with? No one does anything nice for this person — taking them out to lunch? Offering coffee? Bringing in donuts? Making or buying a cake? Of course, I have discussed previously employee birthday benefits.

I also wonder about the response. What’s wrong with a self-congratulatory parade really? I too would question the bullhorn, but there are few times in our adult lives we actually stand up and say, “Yeah Me!” the birthday is one of these. Why must we quash that spirit?

Of course, I the person who once threw a “department” party — with streamers and candy at my cubicle — to highlight the non-existence of a department once it was downloaded to just me. So, clearly I am not someone to shy away from making a public spectacle of myself.

Still, that’s what I love about birthdays — the Yeah Me component — and why I love helping others to feel that joy. Happy Birthday one and all!