Dear Miss Manners: Was it tacky of me to throw my own birthday party?
I wanted to use my birthday as an excuse to have a fun party, so I invited friends, who all agreed in advance to share the cost of pizza, and I provided cake and cookies. (A plain cake – I did not write “Happy Birthday, Me!” on it, which I do think would have been tacky.)
Some friends remarked that they thought it was strange for me to “celebrate myself” in this way – getting my own cake, etc. But these friends certainly weren’t about to throw a party for me – nor did I expect them to – and this seemed like the best way to throw the party that I wanted for myself.
Is there established etiquette for throwing a party for oneself, and did I breach it?
Gentle Reader: Children give their own birthday parties, with the help of their parents, in the hope that it will teach them how to be gracious hosts.
But many of them must have flunked, because the adult birthday party, in which the host’s interest is in honoring himself, often at the expense of the so-called guests, has become common.
Do not expect Miss Manners to reassure you that this is a charming thing to do. As you heard, your own friends were not charmed, although it was unkind of them to say so.
It was, as you put it, “the party that I wanted for myself.” Where were your thoughts for your guests – other than that they should pay for the pizza? How can they help noticing that you are prodding them to honor you?
It is not that mean old Miss Manners expects you to spend your birthday sulking along. But there is a subtle – and nevertheless crucial – difference between wanting to celebrate with your friends, and instructing your friends to celebrate you.
By all means, throw a party, if that is what you wish, but then behave like a host. That means planning it for the enjoyment of the guests, not just the fulfillment of your own preferences. It also means paying for the refreshments.
A particularly gracious touch would be refraining from calling it a birthday party, so that guests do not feel obliged to bring presents. But perhaps that is too much to expect, on top of your having to pay for the pizza.
Dear Miss Manners: Is it appropriate to give a widower my phone number? His wife died three months ago after being terminally ill for several years. We are in our 60s and belong to the same club, but rarely have the opportunity to talk. I would like to get to know him better, and if things go well, spend some time together when appropriate.
Gentle Reader: You and all the other single ladies he knows, some of whom are probably ahead of you in line. You may be sure that he and his friends would snicker about this tasteless and unsubtle way of saying, “Now that she’s finally gone, what about me?” Miss Manners suggests that instead, you try to make friends with this gentleman in the normal way. When you see him at your club, start a conversation. If it or you seems to interest him, you are both free to suggest continuing it later.