Birthday Courtesy…heck, any day courtesy.


Sarah Parrott via BY-NC-ND

Basic Birthday Courtesy

This is me blogging angry. ANGRY. I just read an article about a 9-year-old who started this year in public school and was excited to celebrate his first birthday party with classmates. After being homeschooled for years, he and his mother planned a Diary of A Wimpy Kid party to enjoy his big day. Invitations were sent. Party favors purchased. Cake bought or made. Games set up. NO ONE CAME.

The child’s Charlie Brown party is sad. What makes me so angry? NO ONE RSVPed. Simply responding to the invitation with a “can’t make it” text or call would have avoided this upset.

In a post related to this birthday disaster, the mother pointed out that although she hadn’t heard from anyone, she assumed some kids would still attend. After all, several of the children that attended her daughter’s birthday hadn’t responded in advance. But this time, not a soul came to the party, and the parents were totally unprepared.

AWFUL. Let’s consider again just how easy it is to send a text. I probably could have sent six in the time it took you to read that last sentence alone.

It’s So Easy to RSVP

Personally, I don’t understand how any parent who has hosted a birthday party can’t respond. You know the cost that goes into hosting a birthday party. You know the child’s emotional investment. You know how much easier it is to plan when you have some idea of numbers of people to expect.

This is about courtesy and a basic level of respect for the people around us who are inviting us to share in an important moment in their lives. Argh. It makes me so angry to think of that poor boy’s disappointment. And how easily it could have been avoided if we weren’t becoming this society of people who are letting basic etiquette slide in favor of swiping to the right and adding a thumbs up or thumbs down to a social post.

RSVP! Whatever the occasion — birthday, wedding, retirement party…even pet playdate! Say yes. Say no. But say something. It’s a small thing you can do to make someone’s big day that much better.

Birthday Monster

MTV published a list recently of nine birthday behaviors that make you a monster. Apparently now “birthdayzillas” is a thing.


Here are the nine no-no’s:

  1. Not calling your parents (or answering their call)
  2. Caring too much about who does and doesn’t come to your party
  3. Not saying thank you
  4. Turning your birthday into a multi-day celebration
  5. Repeating that it’s your birthday over and over again
  6. Wearing accessories meant for royalty
  7. Drinking too much
  8. Expecting presents
  9. Thinking no one else can have the same birthday

I’m going to say it again: BOOOOOOOOOO

Birthday Crown

Photo credit: Francine Clouden / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

Certainly I agree with the premise of a birthday not being a day on which you can forget your manners and lord it over others in an awful way. But I’ve done too many of the things on this list in my lifetime (and, yes, I’m admitting that this will even have been after I became an adult) to accept they’re all full monster behavior.

Some we can’t control. Or, in the case of #7, realize only the morning after that we should have better controlled…

But what if we get a tiara as a present (#6)? That would make it rude not to wear it (see #3). Or maybe our birthday is spreading out over several days because one group of friends wants to take us for dinner and then a friend from work wants to get together the next day and then a gift arrives late and, before you know it, it’s been a birthday week.

Let’s not go around making a list of NO’s connected to the birthday. There are so many NO’s already every other day of the year. Your birthday is a day of YES! That’s one big reason it’s so great.

Birthday Wishes in the Digital Age

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TIME magazine weighed in on birthdays last month with its 6 Rules for ‘Happy Birthday’ Etiquette in the Age of Facebook. Karol Markowicz claims “Facebook has changed the whole birthday game.” She notes remembering the day is no hardship since you’ll get an alert and a follow-up from Facebook. You know you’ll probably see several other friends posting about the birthday on your newsfeed too.

She says “social media should be complementary to other kinds of interaction, not in place of it.” Her advice? Say something at midnight to someone really special. If you’re a sibling you might also call at midnight. Call friends and family on the day. Prefer a call, but texting is OK, for new friends. Posting on Facebook is TIME approved only for old acquaintances with whom you only keep up via social media.

Personally I can’t believe any etiquette involves calling someone at midnight. I love my birthday more than most, but I don’t need calls in the wee hours. Sleep is my first birthday present to myself!

She also makes no mention of sending an actual birthday card. You remember those? They’re paper with folds and often have a funny sentiment inside. You stamp an envelope that goes in the mail (snail mail even!).

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We get so little mail that matters these days. Spend the few bucks to send a birthday card to someone who makes you smile.

BTW, you can even order paper greeting cards online these days. Or rely on e-cards if you really must. Michael Bolton is not the only answer.