Things to do alone on your birthday
April 18, 2017 11:50 AM   Subscribe

Just that - if you've had a particularly pleasurable solitary birthday, what made it so?

In recent years, I decided that I would only go to the trouble of organizing a social event for my birthday every other year, and in honor of my introverted-ness, do something restorative/relaxing by myself on the off year. Well, I've arranged successful birthday parties the last two years, and this year am overdue for a true solitary birthday celebration.

My birthday this year is on a work day, and I'll probably be too busy to take the day off or anything of that nature (though could probably arrange things to leave a bit early), but would still like to do something to mark the occasion. So far, my main ideas have been scheduling a massage, and indulging in a chocolate chip scone for breakfast.

Just thought I'd crowd source it on here to try to get any other suggestions. Have you had a good solitary birthday? What made it so good?

In Portland, Oregon, if helpful.
posted by knownfossils to Grab Bag (58 answers total) 64 users marked this as a favorite
I would go solo for a terrific omakase meal. For some reason that style of dining feels very luxurious and celebratory to me.
posted by lalex at 11:56 AM on April 18, 2017 [6 favorites]

One of my favorite birthdays was spent sketching for hours in a cafe, then enjoying a nice dinner with my partner. If I couldn't take the day off work, I'd have a leisurely breakfast in a cafe with a good book. I'd do something fun during lunch too - it would depend what is close to your office, but I might sneak into a local museum for 20 minutes and then eat something quick on a sunny park bench. I like the idea of a post-work massage and a nice dinner. A leisurely bath with some nice bath products, a candle, and your favorite music is nice too.
posted by beyond_pink at 12:03 PM on April 18, 2017 [2 favorites]

Go to a movie that you might want to see but don't think any of your friends might want to see and smuggle in your favorite candies.

Make 20 sandwiches and buy 20 water bottles and give it away to people living on the streets.

Call your parents if they are still around and thank them for having you.
posted by HeyAllie at 12:03 PM on April 18, 2017 [6 favorites]

Good sushi with a split of nice champagne in a nice glass.
posted by vunder at 12:06 PM on April 18, 2017 [2 favorites]

I'm going to gently challenge you on being unable to take the day off. I do believe you about being busy, but as my former boss would say when I would claim to be too busy to use a vaca day, "we ain't saving babies here." Amazingly, she was right and the work was still there when I got back and the world didn't end and my stress was way reduced, making work easier to tackle.

I always take my birthday off (and my direct reports get their bdays off free of charge) so I just have to advocate for that. Solo bdays I have really enjoyed recently: took a day trip to the beach for a long walk, went to the movies and ate twizzlers and popcorn and watched some Melissa McCarthy comedy, got my hair done at a nicer place than my usual, took an overnight trip to a place I'd never been in a nice room with a tub and fireplace.

I used to dress up on my birthday as a kid, and have been thinking about doing that as an adult.
posted by kapers at 12:06 PM on April 18, 2017 [23 favorites]

My favorite birthday I spent by myself hitchhiking across Iceland. I'm not suggesting you have to do exactly that, but maybe try doing something new and something in nature.
posted by monologish at 12:09 PM on April 18, 2017

Took the day off from work, stayed in, and luxuriously did not have to interact with a single person all day.
posted by kindall at 12:12 PM on April 18, 2017 [16 favorites]

I spent my 25th birthday solo and celebrated with a massage and facial. I spent the rest of the day not talking to anyone else and it was magnificent.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 12:22 PM on April 18, 2017 [7 favorites]

I spend every birthday alone at the library, browsing and reading a big stack of books and taking myself out to lunch. It is LOVELY.
posted by hapaxes.legomenon at 12:23 PM on April 18, 2017 [25 favorites]

Take some time to write down a list of things you want to do, but haven't gotten around to doing for any number of reasons, and this could include reading particular books, listening to some albums, or watching certain movies. Then loosely schedule your day to do some of those things, or just one or two for an evening if you are working during the day.

You could:
- Make a recipe that sounds odd and complicated
- Try a restaurant that seems a bit too expensive for most days and/or is a bit of a trip to get there
- Visit a museum, state park, museum, or attend an event
- Curl up with a book that you've put off reading because you want some time to really delve into it
- Wander through book, music, and/or thrift stores, and buy one thing each place
- Pack a tasty lunch and go for a day hike
- Write letters to people you haven't talked to in too long
- Get informed about a local cause or causes as a first step to getting involved in local events/politics
- Hang out at an animal shelter and play with animals
- Go to a hobby shop and take up a hobby (painting, crafting, model-making, trains)
- Take a random adult education class to learn something new
posted by filthy light thief at 12:25 PM on April 18, 2017 [6 favorites]

Loooong walk with some good music.
posted by ferret branca at 12:31 PM on April 18, 2017 [2 favorites]

For most of my adult life I've spent my birthday alone and love it! I typically wake up super duper late (my birthday is new year's day, so it's a lazy day for all) and go to a local coffee place for breakfast, where I have some kind of delicious pastry and a big fancy latte with whole milk. I read a magazine or the paper or something that isn't digital and enjoy my coffee and pastry, and then I usually get out my knitting and work on that for awhile. I may move coffee shops and knit at another coffee shop at some point. I also usually take myself out for an afternoon movie. A nice bath and a delicious dinner of leftovers from my fancy NYE dinner, so there's very little kitchen-work, finishes off the day -- along with a huge bowl of ice cream. I also like to take some time during the day to reflect on the year that is past and the year that's ahead; not writing resolutions, exactly, but taking stock.
posted by sockermom at 12:32 PM on April 18, 2017 [5 favorites]

taking the day off is always my biggest gift to self, because the thing worth more to me than *anything* is a swath of luxuriously open time! time is the greatest luxury of all :)

my most recent birthday, i took the day off, went for a bacon sandwich, watched dogs in the park, took a specialized lesson in a sport i love, ate an ice cream, drank a beer in the park & watched more dogs, then got dressed up and took myself to dinner. FLAWLESS DAY!

mostly though, i just crave the luxury of time unemcumbered by plans or expectations. had i felt like watching netflix all day, that would have been a delight, too!
posted by crawfo at 12:36 PM on April 18, 2017 [4 favorites]

Going to a good restaurant (fancy but not too fancy) with a good book. Ordering a cocktail with dinner and reading at the table. Getting dessert and an espresso to follow.
posted by stoneandstar at 12:47 PM on April 18, 2017

Schedule a massage, go out to lunch or dinner with a friend you don't see often, work on a project that's on your list that you haven't made the time to focus on. (That's what I did last year)
posted by jillithd at 12:49 PM on April 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

go to the cinema. really.
posted by ouke at 12:56 PM on April 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

I've started going car camping by myself every year. Nothing fancy or particularly adventurous, just reserve a spot in a campground some place and bring the camping basics. I also bring a book, a stargazing telescope, and some watercolor stuff, but usually I wind up spending the whole time quietly eating cheeseburgers and staring at trees and worrying about pretty much nothing. It's great.
posted by Phobos the Space Potato at 12:57 PM on April 18, 2017 [13 favorites]

I've gotten yummy take-out the night before for the day, so I don't even have to order food on the day (but still have some treat foods on hand). Spend time journaling about my year behind and year ahead. Make sure that if I want to do something for self-care (meditation, a bath, exercise) I have prepared so I Could do those things. Maybe spend some time on the day reflecting on the things I'd like to do for myself that I don't get to do as often.
posted by ldthomps at 12:59 PM on April 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

(I guess I should mention that just kind of do that on the closest weekend to my birthday, not the exact day of. Shoulda read closer.)
posted by Phobos the Space Potato at 1:00 PM on April 18, 2017

I like a night in a Known Good hotel - my priorities are really good beds, really good showers, and a balcony that overlooks something relatively quiet and pleasant, plus something really good that delivers there (it's very rare that a hotel has a restaurant worth the price, or worth room service price) and a bottle of wine. I like to do a long shower with a good sugar scrub, hair mask, and face mask, then curl up in comfy lounge clothes and a notepad to doodle some goals for the year or come up with a motto or theme. Or I read a book.

I usually do this on a weekend night near my birthday, but there are often deals to be had on weeknights if you wanted to do that. You might also find deals on hotels with spa services in your area, so you can book a massage or treatment of some kind.

I agree that most of the time, you can and should make time for a day off, but sometimes that's impossible. Try to leave work around check-in time, at least.
posted by Lyn Never at 1:00 PM on April 18, 2017 [2 favorites]

I always take my birthday off work and spend it joyfully alone. I usually take myself to the pictures - in the day time! Followed by dinner somewhere glorious or to a museum or gallery for high tea and people watching. When I lived in rural parts I'd go for a long drive and a slap-up meal at a country pub, all followed by a bit of musing on the year, both past and to come. Bliss.
posted by freya_lamb at 1:02 PM on April 18, 2017 [3 favorites]

A big thing for me to "give" myself as a birthday present is a clean house and a clean car. I'll put in some extra hours in the days before my birthday and really tidy things up so that I can wake up in a nice environment with a nonexistent to-do list.

Back when I was poor and a student, I started celebrating my springtime birthday by picking up a tasty beverage (generally some kind of fancy iced coffee) and going to a park with a blanket and just kind of lounging around, reading and looking up at the canopy of new leaves. If there's money to spare, I like to get my nails done or go for a massage, or buy myself a new pair of shoes and something frivolous like a necklace.

PS: Happy (early) birthday and thank you for posting this delightful question. All of these responses are great ideas for future use, and they make me so happy to envision you all enjoying!!
posted by witchen at 1:07 PM on April 18, 2017 [6 favorites]

Do whatever you want. That list of things you think 'oh I should do that some weekend' but never do? Do those. Go to a museum, nap in the park, get a massage, take yourself out to a nice dinner and movie.
posted by greta simone at 1:07 PM on April 18, 2017 [2 favorites]

Rent a luxury car you'd like to drive. Drive about an hour out of where you live to someplace that has a great restaurant and a nice hotel or B&B. Eat a meal, get a massage. Sleep well.
posted by Everydayville at 1:08 PM on April 18, 2017 [4 favorites]

If you can't take a day off could you take a half day? For my birthday I actually prefer to take a half day off and then get to work really early so I can leave really early because if I take a full day off I just sort of laze in bed for a while and waste a bunch of it but if can leave work at like eleven then I feel so excited to go home and relax.

I have had very enjoyable birthdays picking up hot wings, eating them while I watch a couple episodes of Law & Order, and then spending the rest of the afternoon in a hammock with some lemonade and vodka, chips and French onion dip, and a copy of the Hunger Games trilogy. Paradise.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 1:16 PM on April 18, 2017 [4 favorites]

I picked up two huge steaks, took the day off work, had one friend over and we grilled, drank beers, and played video games. It was exactly what I wanted.

Do exactly what you want with zero guilt.
posted by Diskeater at 1:23 PM on April 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

I went to Disneyland and spent the whole day there. Being a single rider allows you to jump ahead in the line on a lot of attractions, so that was especially enjoyable. I ate whatever I wanted, did whatever I wanted, and got prime seating for nearly every show and event. Periodically I'd let it slip that it was my birthday and that I didn't want a huge fuss and cast members were so kind and sweet about the fact that I was just happy to be at the park period. No pity, no weird "poor you" stuff. Just extra treats and many heartfelt well wishes. I'll do it again next year (unless my best friend wants to come -- she's the only person I enjoy celebrating my birthday with now).
posted by Hermione Granger at 1:31 PM on April 18, 2017 [3 favorites]

The first thing I think of here is BATHTUB (I mean, if you have one). What I would be doing is loading up on goo and weird smelling stuff and

- making sure my bathroom was clean
- lighting candles and maybe some incense
- having clean towels and maybe a robe to get into
- having ice cubes so I could have some ice water at the ready
- playing the music that I like and having a real-paper book to read
- having my clean-sheeted bed all ready for me to get into and maybe a movie or a book or something for afterwards.

A lot of this isn't rocket science but what would make it a present for me is having all the stars aligning so that I had all the parts already in place on my birthday. I take a lot of baths but I'm often out of ice, have less-clean sheets, can't find my lighter or my bathroom is a little grottier than usual. Even thinking about this is making me go "Hmm I should get that bathtub shelf I have always wanted since my birthday isn't until September."
posted by jessamyn at 1:36 PM on April 18, 2017 [3 favorites]

Fancy / fun part of town, restaurant cake + coffee + glass of wine, heading to the enormous and unique book store a little buzzed on sugar, caffeine, and wine. :)
posted by salvia at 1:40 PM on April 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

A few years ago I took the day off on my birthday and treated myself to a pedicure, then took off on a long, leisurely bike ride for the rest of the day. I didn't have to check on anyone else's safety, plan the route against anyone else's desires, worry about anyone else getting too tired/overheated to continue, etc.. I rode wherever the wind blew me, went down streets and alleys and trails I'd never explored, and wound up at a gourmet cupcake shop where I bought all the flavors that looked good.
posted by anderjen at 1:43 PM on April 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

I love being alone on my birthday. Last time I had the ability to have a day off ON my birthday I baked cookies, built an obstacle course for my dog to run inside (December in Chicago), read some, watched a movie, and played video games. This is what I'd do any day if given the option, so it's extra nice to do it when it's just me. I may have eaten the cookies for both lunch and dinner. Go, me!
posted by phunniemee at 1:43 PM on April 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

My birthday is Christmas Eve, so no one's ever free. One year my family were in another country, and I had the entire day to myself. It snowed. I lit some candles, poured a glass of port and listened to the old BBC Radio Lord of the Rings. It was the best day.
posted by Pallas Athena at 1:45 PM on April 18, 2017 [7 favorites]

Pre-work: go out for yummy indulgent breakfast (waffles!, pancakes! eggs and pancakes!), read paper, take extra time to get dressed, wear something you really love.
Post-work: browse in favorite thrift/stores, buy something fancy or shiny for yourself, go out for dinner or buy takeout and eat it somewhere beautiful.
posted by lafemma at 1:51 PM on April 18, 2017

Every birthday I've had as a grownup with a grownup job, my only consistent ritual is spending a few minutes donating significantly to an organization that is very personal and meaningful to my life - in my case Planned Parenthood, which saved me when I was young and scared and alone in New York nearly two decades ago and which allowed me to have the life and choices I do today. I like the symbolism of it, balanced with all the other luxurious pampering things one does for one's bday.
posted by sestaaak at 2:28 PM on April 18, 2017 [16 favorites]

I'm not one for mass birthday celebrations as it's a bit of a crapiversary for me. Some stuff I've done in the run up to my birthday before: made a donation to charity, posted something to my grandparents, bought my mum a bunch of flowers, sent little care packages to pals I haven't seen in a while.
posted by the cat's pyjamas at 2:39 PM on April 18, 2017

I sometimes make scone dough the night before then bake myself birthday scones with earl grey on my birthday and IT IS GLORIOUS.

I also love to be in museums with no expectation or itinerary. But ask your inner 5 year old what they want for their birthday. That's what you should do.
posted by athirstforsalt at 2:55 PM on April 18, 2017 [3 favorites]

Two years ago I did this. Took the day off work, had a chill day at home, went to an early dinner at my favorite restaurant with a book and had a couple cocktails, then took a long walk through my favorite park around sunset, then went to a late-night comedy club. Best birthday ever.

(For other NYCers- Pok Pok, Brooklyn Bridge Park, Comedy Cellar)
posted by showbiz_liz at 3:03 PM on April 18, 2017 [2 favorites]

I have gone to the local farmers market, told the butcher than it was my birthday and I wanted steak and asked what he'd reccomended. I went home with a marvelous steak, picked up some fresh veggies from the market to go with it and fancy things from the bakery. It was a lovely dinner.
posted by platypus of the universe at 3:07 PM on April 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

Get a massage at The Spa at River's Edge, which includes access to their spa area with showers, hot tub, steam room, & sauna*. You can also reserve a private tub soak as an add-on.

My partner booked a couple's massage and a private tub with champagne for our anniversary, and it was wonderful. I would have no problem going alone as well.

*I was a little surprised that most of the women in the shared spa area wore swimsuits, but I checked at the desk and they said a swimsuit is not required.
posted by homodachi at 3:28 PM on April 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

Massage. Maaassaaaaage. Massage.
Weather permitting, either a nice walk under the stars or at sunset by water, or finding someplace with an indoor swimming pool. With a hot tub.
Don't forget the massage.
posted by TrishaU at 3:32 PM on April 18, 2017

Heh. I just did this very thing … yesterday. It was glorious. Here's some things I did, feel free to copy…

I stayed in and caught up on several TV shows while organising photos on my hard drive for, like, hours. Emptied my email inboxes. Threw away a bunch of shit. Ate wonderfully horribly and didn't feel a damn bit guilty about it. Left a whole bunch of crap for future, older me to do too … mainly, dishes. But also taking out the garbage because who does that on their birthday? I also drank a bottle of wine and took a 2-hour bath while listening to my favourite podcasts about the TV episodes I'd seen earlier. I video chatted with exactly one person … the rest can wait until it was not-birthday and I felt like it.

Some, all or none of those things may be your thing(s), but the point being that you don't have to do anything grand … just do things that don't annoy you, bore you or needlessly tire you. And if faced with two things that qualify, do the one that is more joyful than practical and revisit the other one after. Or not, it's your day. Have a good one!
posted by iamkimiam at 3:38 PM on April 18, 2017 [4 favorites]

My brother's birthday falls two days after mine, so for years and years I was made to celebrate my birthday when I would rather not have done. I'm not creeped out about aging, I'd just rather stay in by myself. Now I get to do that! And I hope it stays that way.
posted by Samarium at 5:21 PM on April 18, 2017

posted by Bruce H. at 5:23 PM on April 18, 2017

Hot springs! Or, if you don't take the day off: soak at Kennedy School or Common Ground?
posted by dizziest at 6:29 PM on April 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

Indoor skydiving
posted by rhamphorhynchus at 6:54 PM on April 18, 2017

I like to go sit in hot water. Is there a Korean bath house near you? Get a scrub, soak, steam, sauna, massage etc. and come out feeling so so clean and renewed.
posted by BoscosMom at 7:25 PM on April 18, 2017 [3 favorites]

What I like to do on my birthday is let myself do exactly what I want, guilt and to do lists not allowed. Like, I ask myself, what do I want to do this very moment? So far the answer hasn't been "buy a one-way ticket to Fiji" or "do [something dangerous or illegal]" but more like "go out for breakfast" or "go back to bed and watch another episode of [show]" or "take a nap". Sometimes even "go for a run" or "clean up a bit". I find it incredibly relaxing to not think further ahead than the next moment, and doing exactly what I feel like is such an indulgence. Especially if I've prepared for the possibility that I might feel like having a sip of champagne.
posted by hannala at 2:28 AM on April 19, 2017 [3 favorites]

I'll be going through this quite soon. I get the day off work but my partner can't, so I've already made appointments with my hair stylist and dentist. I love the ideas above and will try to work in a massage before dinner!
posted by hellopanda at 3:49 AM on April 19, 2017

I volunteer at the children's hospital. But that's what I do every year on my Bday and many other days through out the year.
posted by james33 at 5:39 AM on April 19, 2017

I would do something that I have often done alone and which is important to me in some way. For me, this might be spending the day at Mystic Seaport. Obviously, it would be different for everyone.
posted by SemiSalt at 6:49 AM on April 19, 2017

Eat delicious food that you don't get to have often, work on art projects, maybe hit a museum if you feel like going out. Do some writing, play video games, indulge in your intoxicant of choice.
posted by bile and syntax at 8:45 AM on April 19, 2017

The birthday after my mom passed away, I went to the zoo. Animals cheer me up, and I can spend as long as I want looking at an animal with no one pushing me to move on.
posted by IndigoRain at 10:09 AM on April 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

I took the day off, went on a bike ride through the city, bought and borrowed some comic books, and got a massage.
posted by Jonathan Harford at 12:37 PM on April 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

Since people above have covered general things pretty well - here's some Portland, OR specific stuff! There's a lot of options for free things in Portland on your birthday. My favorite one is to go eat mini donuts for free at Pip's Original Donuts. If you show your ID and it's the date of your birthday, you will get a dozen mini donuts for free and they are goddamn fantastic. Secondly, if you sign up ahead of time for their club, you can get a free birthday waffle at the Waffle Window. There's a few options for free birthday ice cream, including my personal favorite in the city (I know I know everyone loves Salt and Straw but I just really loove this place), Cloud City Ice Cream.

If you want more free things, there's this Portland birthday perks website that you can click through that lists out various things you can get for free or discounted on your birthday in Portland. I spent one year doing this, trying to get as much free stuff as possible and it was actually quite fun. Take the day off and go find fun things to eat and do! And, Happy Birthday!!!
posted by FireFountain at 1:10 PM on April 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

Just stopping in to say that I've found this thread incredibly comforting!
I work with a group of people who I enjoy, but they feel very strongly that birthdays should be a big public deal and I ... don't. I don't dread my birthday at all, but I'm just not into big group celebrations. I LOVE reading all of these private, personal ways of celebrating and knowing that a lot of other folks besides myself like to mark their birthdays in private, personal ways. Thanks everybody!
posted by bookmammal at 4:22 PM on April 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

I love having spa days on my birthday. I generally like a massage, a scalp treatment and a pedicure, but whatever services you like - that's a great day to get them. Plus, I told them that it was my birthday, and they kept finding little ways to spoil me, like sneaking me a square of dark chocolate after my massage.
posted by dancing_angel at 4:45 PM on April 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

Given my bday timing (very close to christmas) and the weather near me (could be 70, often it's a blizzard, travel obviously super crowded) I tend to not want to travel even if that's what I'd really like. So staycate is the way I have done it.

When I am feeling low, it can be as simple as normal day, good work out, nice dinner, even if it's not even breaking the bank. Maybe it's just breaking the caloric bank or having a large ice cream after a healthy dinner. I also like pedicures and things like that are wonderful, usually only take an hour or so, and leave you feeling relaxed and energized.

When I am feeling good, museums, walking around, hitting up sample sales, movie or show or even drinks with friends if the timing is such that people haven't begun their annual holiday nonsense and left town. I like to buy myself a gift or two, usually well under $100 total, that is something I normally wouldn't buy (another record, a nice coffee table book even if I don't have a coffee table, a $60 shirt, $20 lip gloss). I like to dress up "nice" for me which just means my fave outfit at the time most of the time, sometimes a not dressy dress or similar. Something flattering, spend an extra five on the face and body moisturization routine, try to make the hair look good in a way that won't be ruined by hats or rain or etc.

If you imbibe, have a high quality version of whatever your sin of choice is, be it cigar, cocktail, or even just a crappy hard to find beer.

I read regularly and often but sometimes save a "good one" for around my bday. Also like to reread old fave series (mostly read science fiction) around this time of year.

Omakase is a wonderful suggestion and if you don't dine alone I would highly recommend doing so; there is nothing weird about it and you don't have to deal with boring conversations and nobody will judge you if you go for that third drink, third sandwich, third whatever.
posted by love2potato at 7:47 PM on April 19, 2017

I bookmarked this question a week ago, for yesterday was my birthday.

I've had a rough time so far in 2017.

I made a proposal to the Devil today, but didn't get a response. I called him many times today, as I anguished in bed from 7am to 7pm. I cried a lot today. Haven't known a birthday where I was in so much pain.

But a friend of mine, who has been by my side this entire year was trying to reach me all day. And I finally picked up my phone. She wanted to celebrate, bless her soul.

She hadn't eaten yet so I suggested dinner. I asked where she wanted to go.

So I put on a nice shirt for the first time this year and picked her up and then drove Downtown.

I had ravioli and she ordered something similar. We both had wine.

When the bill came I abruptly took it. She asked why I did that as it was my birthday. I told her I wanted to as I'd be moving cities in a couple months, and therefore wouldn't have the opportunity to treat her on her birthday. I told her that is why I asked where she wanted to dine earlier.
posted by heliosanthus at 2:45 AM on April 25, 2017

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