Happy birthday to me?
January 22, 2009 8:20 AM   Subscribe

Is it weird to invite acquaintances/coworkers out for drinks after work to celebrate your own birthday? Is it a fairly accepted, normal thing to do, or is it likely to set off the "she's strange and/or desperate!" alarm bells?

My birthday is coming up and I'd love to give myself the birthday present of getting together for drinks after work (it's a Friday) with a bunch of my coworkers. These are folks I really like spending time with and am hoping/trying to become friends with, who are currently various places along the spectrum between "friendly acquaintances" and "casual/new friends," although all except a couple are much closer to the former than the latter. (Due to shyness and fear of rejection I haven't tried to make new friends in years and am left with no real friends in town except my boyfriend; I'm trying hard to turn over a new leaf and actively try to build friendships with some of these coworkers, but I've only been trying for a couple months, despite working here for several years.)

However, I'm not sure whether/how to do it. This is what I'm wondering:

1) Is it weird to invite people out to celebrate my own birthday? I'm afraid it'd look like I'm trying to get people to buy me drinks or something. Or even if it's not weird to do in and of itself, does it make it weird if it's people who aren't close friends but are just friendly coworkers/acquaintance-level folks? I don't want to come off as too desperate and needy because I'm worried that'll turn people off from being friends with me. (If it's helpful to know, I don't think I've ever heard about a birthday happy hour for other people at work, but I don't know if that means there never are any or just that I'm never invited. We do have general happy hours about once a month or so that I and the crowd I'm interested in typically attend. However, my birthday's only one week after one of them, so that might make people less likely to to come to mine.)
2) If I do this, how many people should I invite? I've been advised to invite everyone at work to events rather than a selected group-- but that doesn't seem right to me in this situation because first of all wouldn't it come off as awkward and strange to invite people to celebrate your birthday who you barely know? And secondly, not only would I rather spend the time with the folks I know and like the most, but a big reason for doing this would be to help build friendships by communicating to these people that I like them specifically, and am very open to any further attempts at friendship on their part. (I think this is not always clear because I'm often so shy and quiet.) So what do you think is most likely to accomplish my goals (helping me make friends while not coming off as strange) as far as numbers? I could pick the 4-5 I know best and am almost/casually friends with, expand that anywhere up to 12 people that I'm pretty friendly with, add on another 5 to 7 if I want to push the definition of "friendly acquaintance" to its limit, or just make it a blanket invite to my whole department (about 30 people) if that's the best move.

(Sorry if this all sounds silly, it probably ought to be pretty obvious to me. It's just that I've spent so much time without pursuing friendships that I don't really know what I'm doing-- I'm rusty and socially inexperienced, and then shy and anxious on top of that-- so now I want to push through my anxiety but I don't want to come off as awkward and needy and put people off. So I can use all the help I can get in figuring out what's typically viewed as relatively normal vs "strange and desperate"...)
posted by EmilyClimbs to Human Relations (32 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I think you're overthinking this. It depends on the work culture, of course, but inviting people for drinks after work is perfectly acceptable way to celebrate a birthday at my job. I would probably send it specifically mention it to the 12 or so people you're pretty friendly with, but if you're whole department is friendly with each other, then go ahead and send it to the whole department - the people who don't want to come will ignore it.

I think the fact that people at work have happy hours already will make it more likely that people attend.
posted by muddgirl at 8:26 AM on January 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

I've done this on my birthday in the past. I think the big thing is to make it clear to these new friends that you're inviting them and would like to see them but they're not supposed to be your only date for the evening [that's the strange/desperate part to avoid] .

So you can do something like "Hey me and my boyfriend are meeting some people for drinks at the XYZ bar on Friday for my birthday around 6. I'd love it if you'd join us, feel free to bring your friends" That way if they don't go they don't feel like they're standing you up and if they want to bring someone else from the office who maybe wasn't as directly invited, then it's cool. A casual "let's meet at the bar" invite makes it pretty clear that you don't want them to bring presents or anything and I'd invite as many people as you'd like to see show up with the understanding that a casual invite will get fewer affirmative responses than "me and my boyfriend would love it if you would join us for dinner at ABC restaurant"

And then the big thing is to go, have a good time, enjoy the company of the people who do show up, don't read too much into the people who don't show up and find a way to connect with them for other future get togethers if it seems like you have stuff in common.
posted by jessamyn at 8:26 AM on January 22, 2009 [10 favorites]

Forgot to add: some people are prone to ignoring mass emails, so it wouldn't hurt to send the email, say, right after the department happy hour a week before your birthday, then go around asking your closest acquantances if they are planning on coming (even add, "bring your spouse/S.O.").
posted by muddgirl at 8:27 AM on January 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

Although admittedly I work in smaller companies where the vibe is different, I'd see nothing weird with this. Probably more along the lines of 'I'm going to Generic's Pub to celebrate my birthday, you should come along!'
posted by Lemurrhea at 8:28 AM on January 22, 2009

I think it's a nice thing to do, and I'd bet your coworkers would be happy to celebrate with you. Why don't you start with those you know best and, if there's an opportunity, mention to others that you're all going out for drinks? It's definitely not weird at all. Happy birthday!
posted by miriam at 8:28 AM on January 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

It's perfectly fine and not weird at all. Just don't make a big deal about it.

"Hey it's my birthday on Friday, come drink with me!"
posted by rokusan at 8:31 AM on January 22, 2009

I would invite people out for drinks without telling people it's your birthday, or maybe just tell the one or two people you're closest to, in a "by the way, Friday is my birthday" kind of way. They can choose to announce it AT the gathering.

Just send an email out that says "Hey let's go out after work! I found this new place and I think you'll really like it!" You mention Facebook in your previous question so also set up an event there and invite people. (But don't forget the email to cover the non-FB users and non-active ones.) Also, invite everyone. The more the merrier, and since you're not making it specifically about your birthday, it doesn't matter if you don't know them well. I don't think anyone will think you're weird or desperate. Just project confidence. You're coming out of your shell.

Other option: who is the organizer for the general monthly happy hour? can you have someone approach them and suggest delaying it a week? that person can then send out an email (or however they normally inform/remind people) saying Hey, the date has changed and we're celebrating Emily's birthday!

Forgive me if this is scattered, I'm pre-coffee.
posted by desjardins at 8:32 AM on January 22, 2009

I changed my mind based on the previous answers. I agree with rokusan's and Lemurrhea's approaches.
posted by desjardins at 8:34 AM on January 22, 2009

pick the ~10 people you like best. shoot 'em an email saying "hey, my birthday's friday and i was wondering if you wanted to go out for drinks after work to celebrate with me. no presents necessary, just the company!"

you don't have to invite everyone to this, especially since you want to make friends. people get this.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 8:42 AM on January 22, 2009

Totally normal! And only invite the people you like, not a mass email, this way people know that they're actually invited. Keep it light - say you'd like for them to come, suggest a time, tell them they can bring anyone they want. If it's a type of place where you'd want to call ahead to reserve a table to sit at, then add "let me know if you can make it so I can call the place." Then the day of your birthday send a reminder email saying "I'll be there at around this time, I hope to see you all!"

Or, if you have just one friend who you're closer with, just mention that you want to have drinks and ask them to send out an email - my friends at work do this all the time and we say it too - "hey I don't want to send out my own birthday lunch email, can you do it?"

But really, that's not necessary, you're overthinking it, just invite whoever you want to come have drinks with you!
posted by KateHasQuestions at 8:48 AM on January 22, 2009 [2 favorites]

They buy because it's your birthday- so it's a bit off-putting if you suggest going out.
posted by Zambrano at 8:52 AM on January 22, 2009

I wouldn't find it strange or desperate at all, and I'd feel good that someone invited me to celebrate their birthday with them.
posted by SpacemanStix at 8:57 AM on January 22, 2009

Thanks, everyone, I'm feeling much better about this (and yes, I am a terrible over-thinker.) Keep the feedback coming though!

They buy because it's your birthday- so it's a bit off-putting if you suggest going out.

See, that's one of the things that was worrying me. But everyone else is near-unanimous that it's fine to do an invite like this. Is there any way that I can make it clear that I don't want/expect people to buy me drinks? (Or is that already implied by the fact that I'm doing the inviting myself?)
posted by EmilyClimbs at 8:59 AM on January 22, 2009

I agree with the advice to meet your boyfriend for drinks, and invite coworkers/potential friends to join you. Then you don't have to worry about getting stood up because people were busy, and people don't have to worry about standing you up if they're busy. It just generally makes the whole interaction smoother and more comfortable for everyone. Plus, if there's any question about who's buying you drinks, people will probably figure your boyfriend is picking up your tab.

If you do invite a select group of coworkers instead of everybody (which, by the way, I think is fine), make sure they know that that's what you're doing. Something in the invite email or conversation like "I wanted to get a handful of people together" or "I wanted to celebrate with a couple friends" will make it clear that it's not an all-office happy hour, and will prevent any uncomfortable moments where an invitee asks a non-invitee whether they're going out for the celebration.
posted by vytae at 9:01 AM on January 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

Is there any way that I can make it clear that I don't want/expect people to buy me drinks? (Or is that already implied by the fact that I'm doing the inviting myself?)

I wouldn't worry about this. If someone offers you a drink you can graciously accept it, but if they don't, you're not going to care or even notice because you never expected it in the first place. No matter what you say, people will bring their own baggage to any given social situation. Some people will buy you drinks regardless of what you say, others won't.
posted by slimepuppy at 9:10 AM on January 22, 2009

Not weird at all.

As everyone is sitting down, say "thanks so much for coming out -- the first round is on me". The rest of the evening will take care of itself.
posted by the bricabrac man at 9:10 AM on January 22, 2009 [2 favorites]

I think it is normal and that you should go ahead and do it. Make sure to ask people in advance, though. I did this once when I was alone in a strange town and the only people I knew were coworkers. I asked them out the day of because I woke up that morning mortified at the thought of spending my birthday alone. Out of the twelve or so people I invited, only one showed up. I found out later that everyone else had plans or errands that day and just assumed that I'd have a good-size party even if they weren't able to come. Sigh.
posted by bristolcat at 9:18 AM on January 22, 2009

pick the ~10 people you like best. shoot 'em an email saying "hey, my birthday's friday and i was wondering if you wanted to go out for drinks after work to celebrate with me. no presents necessary, just the company!"

you don't have to invite everyone to this, especially since you want to make friends. people get this.

Quoted for "do this." You can add something like "sorry if I skipped anyone -- please forward to any of our coworkers who'd like to join us!"
posted by desuetude at 9:24 AM on January 22, 2009

I do this (or something similar) pretty much every year. Otherwise my birthday sucks. Don't worry about the buying drinks thing -- you and whoever shows can go back and forth on the first round-- "No, no, it's your birthday," versus "Oh, no, I invited you." It's all good. After that no one will be thinking about it.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 9:29 AM on January 22, 2009

People like buying people's birthday drinks, and if they like you (which they do, if they're showing up) then they'd want to buy you a drink anyway, it wouldn't be a big deal. But definitely insist on paying at least once instead of just saying "OK, get me this"
posted by KateHasQuestions at 9:46 AM on January 22, 2009

Hey I'd suggest making an invitation on evite, because that way it appears as if you're just having a bday party (normal), inviting a bunch of people (normal), and you just so happen to add your coworkers on the invite list (normal).

Everyone does that here and it's cool cause it's not as personal as an email. Sending email invites adds a little more pressure that the person "has to go" and I think being a little more innocuous like this takes that pressure off
posted by In Heaven at 9:58 AM on January 22, 2009

The way to make this not desperate is to make it clear that YOU are doing this, and that there's gonna be a party regardless of whether or not they can make it. If one of your new work pals has other plans, be, like, hey, that's cool, you'll get the next one. We'll miss you.

Oh, and Zambrono's kinda the automated fail-bot of AskMe social relations, so don't worry. Anyone who's not going to show up because they're afraid of having to (GASP) buy you a drink isn't anyone who's gonna be cool to hang out with in general, so don't sweat it.
posted by klangklangston at 10:59 AM on January 22, 2009 [3 favorites]

Don't be worried about people feeling like you're trying to pressure them into buying drinks. People for whom finances are a problem will stop by and say hello, oh, they can't stay but wanted to wish you well, or will find you in the office and felicitate you and say something about other plans. People who do show up will be there because they think you're swell. If someone takes out their wallet and wants to buy you a drink, please let them.
posted by micawber at 11:22 AM on January 22, 2009

I think you're putting too much emphasis on the approach.

If you invite 30 people, not all of them are going to come; this is just a fact. Naturally, the people you're closer to (if you let it be known it's your birthday) will be more likely attend and you will be more likely to chat with them at the event. They will get the message that you like THEM in particular if you talk to THEM in particular. However, work politics can be tricky and if it's going to get around that you're all going out together, you may want to cover your ass and invite everyone.

I would also, per recommendations above, set up some seperate outtings that you could invite 1-5 "special" people along to. For example, I asked some work-friends to attend a film festival with me... we had the chatting time during the walk to the theatre and before/after the show and the movies gave us lots to talk about. This kind of thing helps you avoid the pressure to spend hours and hours talking face-to-face.

This might be scattered, I hoep it helps. You seem like a nice person - I'm sure they'll see that.
posted by cranberrymonger at 11:49 AM on January 22, 2009

I would make it a bit of an open invitation so you don't snub anyone at work. You can specifically invite x number of people, and then tell them to pass it on, and let others know that they are more than welcome. That way, if there are some shy people at work, who really would like to get to know you better as well, or would like something to do that night, will feel welcome and not excluded.

When I have parties. I send out invites to however many people I feel like emailing. I have done it long enough (birthdays included) that people know it is casual, and know to pass on the information as an answer to 'so, what's going on tonight?"
posted by Vaike at 11:57 AM on January 22, 2009

Not weird at all. Do it! You have some great suggestions above.
posted by xammerboy at 1:49 PM on January 22, 2009

When I've done this for my birthday, I've either paid for the first round (for approx. 30 people) or the entire night (dinner and drinks for four). Some people do the "pay for your own dinner/drinks and split the birthday person's tab", but as the non-birthday person I've always found this messy and gauche: most people forget the tax and tip, and I and a few friends inevitably end up digging into our pockets to bring the group tip up to a decent (20-25%) level.
posted by orthogonality at 3:22 PM on January 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

If it makes you feel any better, I throw birthday parties for myself every year. I always include in the invitation not to bring gifts.
posted by All.star at 5:34 PM on January 22, 2009

This year was the first year I enthusiastically celebrated MY birthday. All the other years, I hemmed and hawed over making plans and somehow kept thinking/wishing someone would plan a party for me or ... something like that.

My point is that it's YOUR day, you get to do whatever you want, and you can feel really good about it! Hey! It´s your personal anniversary for existing... !

I would personally face-to-face invite the co-workers I most want to hang out with, a week before hand, or a few days, and on that day, send them a quick email with the directions to the place, or your cell phone, or something just to "remind" the people...

And in conversations with the select group you invited, mention that they are free to invite other co-workers/friends, so you are covering the "invite everyone" recommendation.

NO ONE will think you are trying to get them to buy you drinks - they will think "How fun!!! It's her birthday and everyone's going...!!! "
posted by Locochona at 7:26 PM on January 22, 2009 [2 favorites]

Not weird. One of my very best birthday celebrations was just such an occasion. I tried to cast a wide net with my email, including lots of people I barely knew but wanted to know better. People came that I didn't expect and it turned out to be a wonderful group, and there was no awkwardness about who was paying for what at the end of the night. Go for it, and have fun! Tell us how it turns out if you can.
posted by olecranon at 11:32 PM on January 22, 2009

Could you ask your boyfriend to pick-up the tab for your drinks, and tell the co-workers, "hey, my boyfriend is taking me out for birthday drinks on friday. It'd be great if you all could stop by for a drink or two." or something like that so they know your tab is taken care of and they are on their own. One friend's husband paid our table minimum and then we we're on our own after that - v.cool - but not every couple can afford that option.
If you want to keep it just work people- than just be flat out honest, tell people you want to celebrate with a drink and you'd love if they could stop by and join you for one, but def. get one or two people to commit so you have a plan.
Also, i always liked word of mouth rather than email so i didn't have to specifically exclude/include anyone like you would have to through email...just tell people to feel free to pass the word along. Plus on the "day of", when it gets to be about quitting time, you can casually walk around the office and remind people you're heading over to ABC Bar and see if anyone wants/needs to ride with you.
As an aside, our HH group never did friday's b/c that was usually personal time/date night/family time/etc. and no drink specials, but YMMV.
It'll be a great birthday - no worries.
posted by MuckWeh at 8:52 AM on January 23, 2009

Thanks everyone for your advice and reassurance! I did it and had a lot of fun. I invited a dozen people and about half came. People did insist on buying me drinks but I think they could tell that I wasn't expecting it and was a little embarrassed by it-- and we agreed that I would take them out for drinks on their birthdays to reciprocate (a nice side benefit!) So yes, I had fun, I think they had fun, and hopefully it's something to build on moving forward as far as becoming friends-- thanks again!
posted by EmilyClimbs at 6:50 PM on February 19, 2009

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