Unhappy Birthday
August 10, 2008 8:16 PM   Subscribe

I had a shitty birthday today that seemed to confirm all my suspicions about my friendships, and my life in general, and now I'm not sure how to rebound.

Here's the deal - as my questions in the past would seem to indicate, it's been a long, hard journey for me to get past the emotionally abusive household I grew up in, and the number of terrible incidents I dealt with in my adolescent and teen years, to become a person who does not consider himself depressed, or socially awkward. In the past two years, I feel like I've started to have friends, to really like myself as a person, to like the direction my life was going in personally and professionally - and, despite some awful relationship experiences, things've seemed to be continuing in that fashion.

But then, I turned 24 today, and for some reason the way that my friends treated it has me questioning all of that.

I sent an online invite a week ago to all my friends - instead of having it for a big party, it was for a bunch of small things I'd be doing in the NYC area, where I live, on Saturday and Sunday - going to improv shows, having dinner together, etc. Only a few friends RSVPed, but that was fine. Then, of the three things I had penciled in for today (Coney Island, movie, dinner), the first two had to be canceled for weather and reservations respectively - fine, no one was going with me to either anyway. Despite sending it out to 100 friends, just one good friend said she'd go to dinner with me tonight. I was really looking forward to it, even if it was just me and one other person, partially b/c the only proper celebration of my birthday had been going to the movies on Saturday evening with two old friends. Before dinner at 9pm, I spent most of the day sleeping off the fact I spent all night alone, watching a local improv marathon at a favorite spot.

I got an e-mail from her at 6pm, saying she was hung over from seeing an old college friend the previous night, and couldn't make it out, but maybe we could hang out in a week or two.

For some reason, I got so depressed that I just stayed inside. I literally did nothing during my birthday.

It was really just a visceral emotional punch, but the more I think about it the more I feel like I understand why it was so potent for me: the fear that I might have no real friends. About 30 people said "Happy Birthday!" on my facebook wall. By contrast, six people bothered to let me know if they wanted to spend time, yes or no, on my birthday weekend, four people total spent any time with me on Friday or Saturday, even if just 15 minutes in their neighborhood, and this one friend I really considered close decided to let me know off-minute that our birthday dinner was off b/c she got drunk the previous night.

I feel off-keel somehow. Has anyone dealt with something like this? Like they fundamentally question not just their friendships, but any so-called progress they've made as a person?
posted by Ash3000 to Human Relations (67 answers total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
100 friends? How many of them are friends and how many are acquaintances? Many of them might have turned you down for fear you'd be expecting a gift, even if you wouldn't have.

I had two friends acknowledge my birthday this year without prompting. One sent me an e-card. (Which is fine, she's an internet friend anyways). The other took me out to dinner and got me a gift.

Almost nobody is courteous enough to RSVP anymore, so that's no big surprise.

Question: Do you always, without fail, remember their birthdays and do something with them?
posted by IndigoRain at 8:22 PM on August 10, 2008

About 30 people said "Happy Birthday!" on my facebook wall. By contrast, six people bothered to let me know if they wanted to spend time, yes or no, on my birthday weekend, four people total spent any time with me on Friday or Saturday, even if just 15 minutes in their neighborhood, and this one friend I really considered close decided to let me know off-minute that our birthday dinner was off b/c she got drunk the previous night.

If you continue to analyze the percentages and quantities of interactions you have with other people, all you'll do is prop up your terror that you have no real friends, because every statistic you can invent will reinforce that notion.

There are lots of things in this world that can be broken down via quantitative analysis in order to derive logically sound conclusions. Friendship and the quality of same isn't one of them.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 8:28 PM on August 10, 2008 [12 favorites]

Whether or not people help you celebrate your birthday is not an ideal measure of how much they care. It is not a measure of you as a person, or how much you've grown. I understand it hurts, it used to hurt me too, when my family member forgot my birthday as an adult. It hurt me when only two people turned up to my 21st. However, that was a lot more to do with who I'd asked (acquaintances in many cases) and how I'd asked (casually - a written invitation would have engendered a gift and most likely a larger turn-out).

Eventually, it got so it didn't matter. I know that if I ring someone and ask for help, they'll be there if they can. I know if I want to chat with somebody, I've got someone who will listen. I know that in myself, I can rely on my integrity and discretion and compassion, and I bet you know that about you too. What is a birthday, anyhow? We all have them, like bellybuttons, and they're not much use for anything. They're a literary device, for sure, but that doesn't make them any more real or necessary. Be good, do what you know is right, and maybe you won't need to count up how much you're worth by whether people are interested in your casually distributed invitations.
posted by b33j at 8:32 PM on August 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

I hate to say it, but never, ever expect anything good to happen on Birthdays or New Year's eve.

You will always be disappointed.

And yeah, I get this. I get this a lot with writing, and I always go batshit, get depressed and do nothing to make myself feel better, which is kind of fun for about a week, but then you've got to get over it, or believe me, you'll start reversing any improvement you've made.
posted by OrangeDrink at 8:33 PM on August 10, 2008 [8 favorites]

A few things:

1.) It sounds like you really built your birthday up in your head to be this big deal. It happens. It's not something you should beat yourself up about.

2.) 100 friends? GTFO. If you're spreading yourself that thin it's no wonder you don't have any seriously tight people who would be there for your birthday. 100? Are you sure? You need more like 10. Or 5. Think quality, not quantity.

3.) 30 people wished you happy birthday? How many would it have taken to make you happy? 50? 100? 1,000? Most people don't even know 30 people.

4.) Four people total hung out with you for your birthday? You do realize that most people are lucky to spend their birthday with just one other person and usually then it's their s-o.

I think one of your problems is that you seem to be trying to cultivate and maintain friendships via email and Facebook when it actually takes real face-to-face experiences to build lasting connections. Friendships take work. It's a commitment.

Stop trying to commodify relationships. People aren't Pokemon. You don't have to have to catch them all. Focus on one or two people who you really feel a strong bond with and go from there. If out 100 people there is no one you feel genuinely close to, then you're doing it wrong.

I'm on Facebook. But I purposefully cull my "friends" when I realize that I'm never going to talk to certain people ever again... I keep about a dozen friends, I add people as they come along (usually from class) and I delete them when I don't have anything left to say to them. Maybe you should do the same?
posted by wfrgms at 8:34 PM on August 10, 2008 [43 favorites]

I think it's common once you get around this age for birthdays to be less of a big deal. Everybody knows a lot of people, if we all put 100% into birthdays for every friend and acquaintance, we wouldn't have time to do anything else. So, we pick and choose what fits in with all the rest of the stuff in our life- work, romantic relationships, rest, personal hobbies. I went to a party a few weeks ago where I was the only person there for the first hour. This is for a guy with a ton of friends, who I know has buckets of people who love him. You have friends who love you. They might not all be able to come out to a party on a Saturday, or remember your birthday, but they care about you. In the future, try to plan your celebrations with the ones who are good at celebrating. I think it's easier for people to turn down invitations that aren't tailored to them (I'm much more likely to turn down an invitation that went out to 100 than an invitation that went out to 10).
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:36 PM on August 10, 2008 [3 favorites]

You'll always be alone - once you accept this, things will begin to fall into place.

24 is so incredibly young, a time of wonderment, amazement, beauty.

Do things for yourself, and friendships will just happen.

Last bit - never expect anything from anyone. It will just lead to disappointment. IF you don't like someone, stop hanging out with them. Never expect anyone to change, or to be what you require them to be. You can really only change yourself, and your environment.

There are millions of people who would do anything to be 24 in New York City. Look around - you have it all and don't even know it.
posted by plexi at 8:39 PM on August 10, 2008 [20 favorites]

I suppose the first step is in realizing that the definition of your "selfhood" must not revolve around a relationship(s). There's that whole dependency theory that people in the psychology field can talk about, but I won't. The idea is that the only thing you can control is yourself, and happiness is strictly your own responsibility, no one else's. Yes, there will be events and relationships that alter this path a bit, but one's perspective on these greatly influence how strong your sense of self really is.

How did you meet these people--online, at work? See each other in-person at least a few times a week? I know from a lot of personal experience and observation that online-based "friendships" are easily made and just as easily broken or stretched over time to bare little threads. By the way, there are recent studies that basically say young people who define their "selves" and relationships by online networking will be socially stunted because the real world doesn't work like that. Hm, I should find that one particular study again...

There are many different levels and conceptions of what "friendship" means, and it turns out a lot of people will disagree as to the depth and responsibilities required for the label. It seems to me the vast majority of people these days actually have large sets of acquaintanceships, not friendships, and from your "100" comment, I think you have a lot of acquaintances, but not necessarily true friends. And that's common. There are cultural differences as well about "friends," but I won't go there.
posted by Ky at 8:45 PM on August 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

Me too, I would ignore/not bother to RSVP to an invitation that went out to 100 people. If it went out to 10, or 5, that would indicate that I was somehow special to the person. At worst it signals to the recipient vanity, but not necessarily so. Many of those 100 likely assumed some people would show for one or two of the many events you'd planned and there was no need to RSVP.

RSVP or no, I might still think you're a cool person I want to hang out with. You'll find each year as you get older, a larger percentage of those around you will probably care less and less about birthdays. The sooner you realize it's nothing personal, the sooner you'll have happier birthdays, perhaps.

And, before I forget, like I always do, Happy Birthday!
posted by vincele at 8:46 PM on August 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

Past the age of 21, you simply can't expect for your birthday to be a day (much less an entire weekend) of everyone you know celebrating your existence. If that's what you expect out of a birthday, every one will suck. In fact, most birthdays as an adult suck -- even if you have more realistic expectations.

Since you also seem to be asking a much broader question about the nature of friendships, I'll address that too. As most commenters will probably say, it was foolish to invite 100 people. The first problem is that someone receiving an invitation that also went to 99 others will not consider his attendance to be essential, or probably even all that important, to you. The second and more fundamental problem is what this says about how you treat your friends. Other people experience emotions just like you, and they like to feel special too. How do you think your friend feels about bearing sole responsible for showing you a good time on your birthday principally because she is the 1 in 100 who bit?

Might I suggest that you pick a smaller subset of people with whom you have a connection. Spend the next year being a friend to those people. Then, next year, it won't be weird when you ask two or three of those people to hang out with you on your birthday.

There's nothing wrong with feeling off keel when you need to right yourself. And you do. The good news is that this seems like a very easy fix. Just decide to spend some time trying to make others feel good about themselves -- you'll be amazed how quickly you'll be feeling good about yourself.
posted by lionelhutz5 at 8:48 PM on August 10, 2008 [5 favorites]

Not sure if this will help, but I refrain from telling others when my BD is. For me, the day becomes one of private reflection (even if I'm among others) and I don't wind up having any expectations to disappoint. My own PERSONAL opinion is that public birthdays are for kids. Be all that as it may, I don't begrudge others their celebrations however public, and, oh yeah, Happy Birthday!
posted by telstar at 8:48 PM on August 10, 2008 [3 favorites]

I have a friend who sends out a blanket invitation to all his friends, every year, to hang out with him on his birthday. He has a lot of friends. I always feel like it's not important for me personally to visit with him on his birthday because he has so many friends -- I'd just be an additional burden at worst, a number at best.

If you want people to really connect with you, connect with them. Take the time to send them an individual message, or call (sometime when you can really focus on them -- don't call while you're driving, or waiting for something, or eating; call when that's the only activity you'll be doing). Some people will not understand the significance of this, but some will, and even those that don't understand will feel a more personal connection with you, and a greater sense that you know them as an individual ("I'd love you to come because I want to hear your ______ story"), and that you care about and need them.
posted by amtho at 8:48 PM on August 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

There's this bizarre paradox I've found with events that the more people are invited, the more likely people think it won't matter if they come or not and the less likely people are to show up. If a casual friend invited me--and 100 other people--to dinner for their birthday, I probably wouldn't go, even if I liked them. If the same friend sent an email to only 10 people, I would make every effort to go because I'd feel like I was specifically being asked to attend rather than extended an invitation out of politeness (or desperation).

In general, I think you'll find that unless you're turning 21, 50, or 100, other people just aren't really that bothered with your birthday past the age of 13. And who can blame them, really? Your friend blowing you off for dinner is shitty, I'll concede, but I don't think you should leap to conclusions about your personal progress or your friendships based on other friends not dropping everything to hang out with you on your 24th "birthday weekend."
posted by cosmic osmo at 8:51 PM on August 10, 2008

My coping mechanism for dealing with birthdays is to make is a secret and celebrate it privately. That way it's up to you and you alone to make it worthwhile. I get a lot out of little things like treating myself to a fancy coffee at Starbucks, for example, or buying the too-expensive scarf I've been eyeing for weeks. Why not go to that movie by yourself?

Your birthday is a way bigger deal to YOU than it is to anyone else. When was the last time you went out of your way to make sure that a friend's birthday was super-awesome? I bet it's hard to do for all 100 people you invited. I don't know many people who make a big deal out of their birthdays past age 21. I wonder if you set up a get-together to celebrate your friendship with these people (in other words, "just because"), more people might be inclined to show up than for a party that revolves around you.

Also, whenever I'm invited to a facebook event that has 100 people, I assume that it's a "select all" situation and I don't feel bad about hitting "ignore," whereas if it's an event where I seem to have been specifically selected to attend, I'm more inclined to actually read the invitation. Maybe next time you could take a less casual approach and contact a more intimate group to let them know how important this is to you.
posted by jschu at 8:52 PM on August 10, 2008

P.S. Happy birthday!
posted by cosmic osmo at 8:52 PM on August 10, 2008 [2 favorites]

Yes, I've had a birthday like this. My SO was in New Orleans helping with the Katrina aftermath and my family doesn't live anywhere near me. None of my "friends" even remembered that it was my birthday and I spent the day pretty much alone and in a funk. My realization was that I didn't really have any friends, at least not the kind of friends I wanted to have. But I also had to admit that in my case it was at least partially my fault because I had done little to cultivate those types of friendships.

I wish I had some sage advice, but I am still struggling with this 3 years later. I do think it might be good for you to realize that your self-worth should not be tied up in how many friends you have (or any other artificial yardstick).
posted by cabingirl at 8:53 PM on August 10, 2008

Happy birthday!
On the positive side: if you sent out an invitation to 100 people, odds are that eight or nine of them will be having their birthdays within the next month.
Even if you only remember or bother about half of those people, I'd say it's likely you've got a pretext to catch up with a friend for at least the next four weekends in a row.
Have fun calling around.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 8:57 PM on August 10, 2008

This is not advice, but a commiseration.

Because I have had friends that did that too -- they would be there if I called them individually and sobbed that I'd just been dumped, but when it came to a collective getting-the-gang-together-for-a-fun-thing kind of thing, it was as if they were all ignoring me.

So I know what you mean, and I also think it totally sucks.

The only thing I could think to do was get really selective with my friends. With a couple, ones whom I really valued, I took them aside and had a heart-to-heart with them about how I felt, and how them blowing me off made me feel. It wasn't an ultimatum "stop doing that and shape up," just letting them know that "okay, you'll do what you do, but at least now you know that it hurts." With other friends, I just...stopped trying. If they contacted me and invited me to something, I'd say sure and go gladly if I was free, but I stopped trying to contact them.

I lost some friends that way, or at least they faded. But...that told me that we weren't really all that tight to begin with, so...it didn't matter.

Which I understand sounds incredibly lonely. But taking control of things like that actually made me feel strong -- just sort of throwing up your hands and inwardly saying "well, fuck you, then," reinforces for yourself that YOU ARE VALUABLE, and you don't have to put up with that kind of bullshit. And THAT core belief, that you are too valuable to put up with that bullshit, is what really helps you. you realize that you're not giving up -- you're setting standards for yourself, that you're not going to waste your energy on people that aren't going to treat you right.

It takes time to find real friends, but they're out there, and it starts when you first start with the premise that you are worth not wasting your time trying to find them.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:58 PM on August 10, 2008 [4 favorites]

"The nice thing about enemies is that you know where they stand. This is not always true of friends." (Tom Clancy)

To have a good friend, you must be a good friend, an impossibility with 100 so-called friends. (Nobody has a 100 friends; a 100 acquaintances is too many.)

Cherish and build strong relationships with a select few. But even more importantly, be your own best friend.
posted by TooSlick at 9:01 PM on August 10, 2008

Just want to echo what TPS said. I think 24 was my last big birthday - after that it gets kind of old, no pun intended. I only have one friend that still makes a big deal over her birthday. She expects a gift, plans a whole big thing, and every year she is really disappointed that nobody cares about birthdays like she does. She was just telling me how awful this year's birthday was because she threw a huge party with six other people who had a similar birthday and most of her friends were out of town so she was lonely at the party.

Celebrating your birthday is just not a big deal. It's not an indicator of friendship, so don't let it freak you out. Birthdays are a lot like New Years Eve. They have a tendency to get all built up and then they don't live up to the expectation.

If it makes you feel any better, only one person besides my SO celebrated my birthday with me last year. Most people were out of town or had plans and one bailed at the last minute like your friend. My birthday was still fun though. A week is not a lot of notice and maybe they all assumed that other people would attend your events (esp with 100 other people on the list, they probably thought you wouldn't notice...). Maybe next year just try a bar meetup, rather than a big celebration or multiple events. Happy birthday!
posted by ml98tu at 9:02 PM on August 10, 2008

Me too, I would ignore/not bother to RSVP to an invitation that went out to 100 people.

Especially if it was an invitation to at least four separate events. I'm 25 and I don't have enough free time to commit an entire weekend to my own brithday, let alone someone else's. You can always say, "Hey just come to one event," but a lot of people will find that awkward. Many would rather miss them all than have to triage and feel guilty about missing some.

Next year, plan a (single!) fun evening with a 5-10 people and you'll likely have a lot more success.
posted by Nelsormensch at 9:05 PM on August 10, 2008 [2 favorites]

Let it go... Life's too short for sadness over a birthday party. Concentrate on building a tight knit group of friends who really care about one another.
posted by bananafish at 9:06 PM on August 10, 2008

I love birthdays and I don't think you have to take the "grow up, no one has birthdays when they're an adult" approach. But I do think you may need to make an effort to let the people who matter to you know that they matter to you and that you would very much like to see them on this day that means a lot to you. That may mean planning a special outing with just a few friends instead of a big invite-everyone-you-know thing, but it may leave you feeling more satisfied and loved.

Don't let it spin into a whole commentary on your life in general. That sort of larger extrapolation isn't going to be useful. If you find yourself continuing to have those sorts of negative thoughts, though, it might be time to talk to someone about it. Think of it as a birthday gift to yourself.
posted by judith at 9:08 PM on August 10, 2008

I'm probably the oldest person to respond to this.

Friendships are strange animals. Over the years (60 now), there are probably only about four that I would consider friends...two of them I married, two of them I have contact with once in a while... the rest of the people in my world come and go, are casual and not significant in the greater aspect of my life.

Nurture the people in your life, carefully and with discrimination, there are many that will cross your path, but only a few that will remain part of your heart...

It will be ok.... people care, people love...look at the number of people that responded to this question...

Were I there, we would have a glass of wine, some laughs...
posted by HuronBob at 9:09 PM on August 10, 2008 [17 favorites]

Gosh, I was writing this huge post but people have already said everything I wanted to say. Look, you still have your birthday money because you didn't go anywhere. Plan a smaller event next week. Learn from your mistakes and don't get discouraged.
posted by theiconoclast31 at 9:11 PM on August 10, 2008

For what it's worth, it sounds like you have a lot of friends. Although the way this one blew you off was very uncool.

As to this larger problem. I'm in my mid-thirties, and have seriously stopped caring about friendships for the most part. I talk with folks when I can, but I really get what the other poster said about always being alone in life. For me, it's become something I'm comfortable with, but until I did I was always anxious about my relationships.
posted by xammerboy at 9:12 PM on August 10, 2008

Not snarking here, but "online invitations" are the absolutely easiest things in the entire universe to ignore. I'm sorry that you had such a shitty birthday, but the only advice I can give is more personal contact next time you plan anything at all, birthday or otherwise.
posted by Damn That Television at 9:19 PM on August 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

Do you often plan things like this? I used to have this problem, and I think its because people never really thought of me organising get togethers. Now I do it quite frequently, and people just come to rely on me organising things to do (lunches at work, nights out to watch the football, and going out for dinner for my birthday is something of a tradition).

But the thing is, I know the people I will invite will likely turn up because I invite them to lunch at least a few times a week, social events on weekends a few times, play sport with them etc.

But I meet some new people, think maybe they'd like to come to X pub to watch X game, I invite them, they accept and never turn up. Some people are like that. If that annoys you, cultivate friendships with people you can rely on to turn up. But the way to do that is to organise things you want to go to, invite a few people and see what happens.

You might be pleasantly surprised.
posted by Admira at 9:19 PM on August 10, 2008

Lots of good advice above. But, on a practical note:
- Inviting a ton of people gives the people you invite the impression that they probably aren't that important to your party, since they'll assume that you'll likely have tons of other people at your event. If you invite 6 people, all six will, one, feel like they're special to you, and two, feel an obligation to attend since their absence will be noticeable.
-Having multiple small events worked against you. People go to parties only partly because of the person being honoured. They go to parties largely to see the other people who are invited to the party as well. By spreading it out to three activities instead of one party, you decrease the attractiveness of the event.
- You chose fun activities for small groups of people, rather than an activity that was attractive to a big group. So, unless you had invited individuals who felt confident in small groups of people who may not know each other, you're likely to find that people aren't up to the pressure of showing up solo to honour you.

That being said, lots of people feel the way you do. At least, I did, for many many years. My friends just didn't seem to think i was that important. It was devastating, incredibly upsetting, and seemed petty to talk about (as a lot of the comments above to reflect.) Things got better when i focused on deepening my friendships over time with a small group of people, and lowered my expectations of people outside of this small group. (For example: I have 197 facebook friends, but I only invited 10 people out for my birthday dinner. 8 of them showed, because i put an effort into those friendships. That dinner was way more rewarding than one where i invited 60 people and 14 people showed up. Keep your expectations realistic.)
posted by Kololo at 9:20 PM on August 10, 2008

Nthing those who suggested there was some messy planning here on your part. While I don't doubt that you wanted to do all of those things that day, if I received an invitation for four events sent out to over a hundred people, I'd probably feel overwhelmed/confused about whether it was socially appropriate to just attend one thing, and also assume that my presence was expendable unless we were really close friends. As for your close friend who canceled on you last minute, if the two of you are truly close, you should say something! It's really not awesome to cancel on someone on their birthday last minute with an excuse of previous drunkenness.

b/c the only proper celebration of my birthday had been going to the movies on Saturday evening with two old friends.

But, you know, that does sound like an okay birthday celebration. Last year (my 24th), 3 or 4 friends went to a movie and then to a diner with me. Organizing huge events gets tougher as you get older and people are busier. Unless, you know, you want to plan yourself an actual party, which people are more likely to set time aside for.

Happy birthday, though! I think overall you sound pretty lucky--you had people who spent parts of your birthday weekend with you, even if it wasn't on the actual day, and had people who thought enough to send you birthday wishes. It sounds like you're actually in a pretty good place, friendwise.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:20 PM on August 10, 2008

That sucks. I often find myself in a similar place: having my friends ignore text messages or phone calls when I try to organise social events. It usually leaves me wondering if I've changed at all from the hermit I was five years ago. It's particularly galling when other, more charismatic friends send out a mass text message two hours before something and end up with a couple dozen people coming along. So I get some of how you're feeling.

A lot of what's been written above is sound, but here are a few strategies I use in situations like this:
  • Recognising that I've got people I can hang out with, even if they sometimes blow me off. In your case, four people hung out with you on your birthday! You're doing better than I did this year :)
  • Comparing where you are today with where you were a few years ago. In my case, I've got more people I can spend time with than I once did.
  • Being present in the moment and not thinking about how only a few people showed up; I try to concentrate on the people who are there and celebrate the fact that they're there.
As a side note, here are a few things I've learned about getting a group of people to show up for something:
  • Look at your social circles. Figure out who are the people who always pull a big crowd to their events. Try and get these people on board first. Then, when you call others, you can say, 'John, Susan and I are going out for ice cream this afternoon—do you want to come along?' That way, you ride on the coat-tails of John and Susan's charisma.
  • Co-organise things with others; if you can attract 4 people and so can Fred, you end up with twice as many people.
Also, don't forget to follow up with your hungover friend, sooner rather than later. If you don't make an effort to see her soon (and maybe call her out on bailing by email), it will just fester. Better to move on and get some happy memories with her than to stew on how she let you down.
posted by nz_kyle at 9:27 PM on August 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

Like others have said, once you get past 21, celebrating birthdays beyond you and your S.O. or perhaps your co-workers taking you out for lunch / getting a cake for you is really rare. 30, 40, 50... maybe someone throws you a party, but a weekend of events? No way.

Facebook has altered this a bit, as people see your birthday listed on the sidebar and will click on it. Perhaps this is delaying the normal course of events.

Plus, as others have said, 100 people? Did you really want to try to organize for 100 people? You would have been much better off asking your 5 closest friends to do a meal with you.

This all has nothing to do with your past troubles either. Like everyone has birthdays, EVERYONE has some shit in this past. I'm not trying to downplay the emotional abuse in your childhood, but seriously, part of growing up is moving beyond this stuff.

So get over it and try to be a better birthday celebrator if you must. Don't just write on a wall, but for your next pal's b-day, organize the dinner. Get to be that person that always remembers even without Facebook.
posted by k8t at 9:47 PM on August 10, 2008

I think that scheduling an entire weekend of events for 100 people resulted in most of your acquaintances ignoring the invitation entirely, and many of your friends being unsure of what to do with it. If I got an evite asking me to sign up a week in advance for one of four or five activities, I'd be baffled. I'd want to know which one was the "big" one, the one that other people I know would be attending, and if I couldn't figure it out, I'd probably skip the whole thing. Unless you were my best friend in the world or we were sleeping together, I wouldn't attend multiple birthday celebrations, and I probably wouldn't go to the trouble of figuring the invitation out.

Next year, do what every other 20-something in a big city does on their birthdays. Announce which bar you'll be at and at what time, and send around an email to your 15-20 closest friends letting them know that you'd love to see them there and that they should feel free to bring anyone else you may have left off of the invitation list. Invite your 1 or 2 very best friends out to dinner before the bar; that way, you ensure that you're not sitting alone waiting for everyone else to arrive. Then, go to the bar and enjoy having all of your drinks bought for you for a few hours. It's a great way to see lots of your friends on your birthday without making people feel obligated to do something out of the ordinary for you.

On my birthday this year, I worked a 16 hour day at my office, and halfway through the day, I slipped and sprained my ankle, which still hasn't fully healed. The high point of the day was eating takeout Indian food with a couple of coworkers in a windowless conference room at 10 pm.
posted by decathecting at 9:49 PM on August 10, 2008 [6 favorites]

One: having a birthday weekend is a little much. Nobody has birthday weekends past the age of 11, and the kids who did have birthday weekends before are probably spoiled. And a hundred-person birthday weekend? For REALZ?!

Second, sending a Facebook invitation is the worst way to get people to show up ever, especially if you're inviting a huge number of people. You send the Facebook invitation for frat parties, DJ parties, and parties where you just need a bunch of bodies on the dance floor and at the beer pong table.

For the people you really like, and want to be there, whether it's a frat party or a special event, you have already brought up the party with them, probably even before you sent out the Facebook invitation. You've talked about it in person, or mentioned it by phone or email if they live far away and you don't get a chance to see them in person. Facebook means nothing without personal follow up for the people you truly give a shit about. I would find it really weird if a friend of mine got offended because I didn't attend their Facebook party if they hadn't mentioned the party otherwise or tried to ensure I come.

I'm sorry your birthday sucks. I have had truly shitty birthdays before, and the feeling that your friends are ignoring you is pretty awful. But in this case, I think you should either lower your expectations a little or change your approach.
posted by Anonymous at 10:06 PM on August 10, 2008

You think that's bad? Try getting people to make good on their intention to show when your birthday is two days before Xmas. Yeah. So, mock-oneupmanship aside, I get the disappointment. After some similar disappointments to yours, I decided by the time I was 21 or so that as long as my best friend (and later, my SO) is celebrating with me on my birthday, everyone else is just icing on the cake.

Don't take it so personally that it makes you bitter about friendships. Mid-twenties are when priorities like this start to get fractured and distracted for a lot of people, and if you think about it, you maybe can recall nights where you had various options of occasions, all of which you kinda meant to visit?

If you want real RSVPs, you either have to have a more formal occasion, throw the best parties in town, or attach yourself to the best party in town. All of these are viable options. They are work, though, and still carry a risk of disappointment.

I've gone the fabulous route, but I'm more likely to keep it small, now, and organize dinner with just a few of my closest friends. (At the bar afterwards you can tell everyone it's your birthday and get perhaps a free shot and some happy drunk stranger-love, too.)
posted by desuetude at 10:16 PM on August 10, 2008

Generally, if you're an adult, huge birthday parties are huge because of naked bribery: the birthday person in question throws a big bash with booze and food. Otherwise, going to see a movie with a couple friends is pretty much par for the course.
posted by lore at 10:22 PM on August 10, 2008

You invited 100 friends... If you're expecting them to treat you the same as you treat them you should be going to, on average, 2 birthday parties a week. Do you? If not, adjust expectations accordingly. If so, then yeah, your birthday does suck and so do your friends. You should get rid of most of them and concentrate on the ones that reciprocate. In fact you should do that anyway.
posted by Ookseer at 10:29 PM on August 10, 2008 [5 favorites]

In my experience, the closest and most tuned-in friendships (those in which the friends are most involved in the significant events in your life, and aware of your feelings or issues about them) are the ones that are cemented by proximity. That means that the friends you work with / that you go to school with / that live in your building or neighborhood (and you see frequently) / that spend their time in the same hang-out spot, etc. Leaving school, moving, changing job, all can leave a person feeling a bit alone and perhaps forsaken and/or confused when they wonder why their friendships seem to be slipping away or becoming more superficial. Perhaps they wonder about themselves, as you seem to be doing.

But the truth is that a friendship with someone you don't see often is the micro-twin of the long distance romance... a very difficult relationship to sustain with day-to-day intensity and depth. Good friends you see all the time are aware and involved in your life in a way that friends you only see occasionally aren't, and I suspect that a lot of your friends might be people you were close with at school but perhaps don't see very often these days?

At any rate, this doesn't mean anything about you - or them, kiddo; it just means that your social scene is in a state of flux at the moment relative to the fairly recent past, I imagine - which is an entirely natural condition at your age. Shake this one off, babes, and just keep in mind that physical closeness creates a more receptive environment for emotional closeness, and look towards developing new friendships among people you come into contact with often, as well as making it a point to stay in touch as much as possible with old pals... but don't feel betrayed if the ones you see less turn into more casual friendships. It's the same for all of us, and the exceptions are rare and to be cherished.

Happy birthday, Ash! Spoil yourself this week, and don't waste time doubting yourself over this fundamental friendship algebra; go forth, make new friends, see old ones, celebrate yourself and life, and it will all sort itself out.

and wish me happy birthday, fellow Leo! It's my birthday today (the 11th). I'll toast you today. :)
posted by taz at 10:40 PM on August 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

Hi there:

There's a lot of good advice up here. I can REALLY relate to what you're talking about here, in a lot of ways. Actually, your whole story could have been word for word the same story I would have written. I don't really have advice for you ... I just wanted to let you know that I totally understand where you're coming from, and that you should know that there are other people who feel very simliar to the way that you do.
posted by Fareed at 11:04 PM on August 10, 2008

My first thought upon reading the post was that, as others have said, you made your party too complicated. Even if you were a close friend of mine, I doubt I would go to that party; it kind of irritates me just to read the description. If you want people to show up, you have to make them feel like they can just chill out there. Some of them probably wanted to hang out with you, but not in the context you were suggesting.
posted by bingo at 11:21 PM on August 10, 2008

"There comes a time when you should stop expecting other people to make a big deal about your birthday. That time is age 11."

~Dave Barry (probably)
posted by toomuchpete at 11:29 PM on August 10, 2008

If I got an invitation from Ash, who I wasn't really close friends with, and said party was to have 100 people? I can assume I wouldn't know most of them, and when asked how I know Ash, I'd say, "well, I don't really know him that well, we talk on Facebook..." For moderate to very shy people, that's kind of a tall order. Don't forget that people not showing up sometimes has absolutely nothing to do with you. I'm sure some of those 100--the ones who stayed home for other reasons--thought you and the 99 others had a blast.
posted by zardoz at 11:32 PM on August 10, 2008 [2 favorites]

I'm well past 24, and have come to believe that birthday celebrations are for the very young and the very old. I approach my birthday each year with the lowest of expectations, without preparation, and am always pleasantly surprised by the thoughtfulness of one or two of my closest friends. As others have said, nurture a handful of friendships, and moderate your expectations.
posted by Knappster at 11:47 PM on August 10, 2008

Oi, you need to call people, not send internet ecards.
posted by markovich at 12:31 AM on August 11, 2008

Your experience and feelings are more normal than you think. I have had the same revelatory experience for a majority of my life. Call me a curmudgeon, but as you get older (and I'm only a few years older than you), less and less people have the time and/or motivation, and most of those that do are the ones that are more obligated to remember (family, mostly). Two family members and only one person that I know online bothered to say anything to me on my last birthday. It was crappier than the last year, which was pretty damn crappy. Point being, it's best to have low expectations because people that you thought you meant something to will always let you down. Fair weather friends. It seems to be the way things go.

There are two ways to deal with these sorts of friendships: 1) If you generally don't make an effort but expect others to make an effort for your special day, then there's part of the problem. And, theoretically, that's easily rectified: give more of yourself and maybe others will be more inclined to follow suit. Or, 2) if you find that you're the one who is always initiating contact and remembering other people, then maybe it's time to reevaluate your friendships. Who has 100 real friends, anyway? You have to decide if you have the time for those people who can't seem to find the time for you (you know, when their birthday rolls around).

And just because people flake on you or can't take a couple seconds to speak to you now and then, it doesn't mean that you're not a good person, or a worthwhile person, or even a good friend. Sometimes people are flakes or really aren't the friends that you thought they were. It hurts, but it's better to find this out sooner rather than later. Also, I don't think it's totally unacceptable to tell a close friend that their blowing you off hurt your feelings.
posted by Mael Oui at 1:16 AM on August 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

Happy belated birthday.

Here's what I know about friends and birthdays: I don't have a hundred friends, but I could have an active social life if I wanted -- there's maybe around 30 people I would call acquaintances, who I could be friends with if I just went out and spent more time with them in person. Maybe 10 people I would call friends. In the past I lived in a different country and had a whole other set of people I would call friends, who I now have sporadic email contact with. I know absolutely no-one's birthday. Anytime anyone says they have a birthday coming up, it's new information to me.

Most people I know just don't make a big deal of their birthday. I usually throw a party for myself, but it's mostly just because I like throwing parties and getting drunk. Lots of people come because they also like parties and getting drunk, rarely does someone bring a real gift other than a burned CD. I have one friend who just scours his apartment for a gift and brings you some old book he doesn't want anymore or a piece of furniture. Anyway, it helps that there are a few overlapping social groups, so most people know most other people and the people arrive in groups -- that way they feel comfortable and have fun. There's nothing I hate more than going to a party where I only know the host. In fact, usually I chicken out of going to those things at the last minute, because I just know for a fact that I won't have fun. Most people are more shy than you think. If you have a group of friends, then they will feel comfortable showing up to a party at your place because they will already know each other.

Anyway, throwing yourself a party with booze and chips is one version. The other version is that someone calls or sends a text message and says "hey, I'm having a birthday, I'll be in *some bar in the neighborhood*". People tend to go if they have time and inclination, but no-one sees it as a test of friendship and almost no-one brings gifts. Again, it helps that we exist in overlapping social circles so I know that I'll know lots of other people there and not just the host -- otherwise I just plain wouldn't go. I don't have a problem meeting a new person or two, but that last thing I want is to show up and meet a wall of blank faces and then have the same conversation with everyone -- "what do you do?" etc.

And most people I know don't do anything for their birthday. The only people who have ever remembered my birthday unprovoked, besides family, are girlfriends and ex-girlfriends. Because I am a selfish person, I have never remebered an ex-girlfriend's birthday.

So in summary, and as others have said, it sounds like you built up your birthday too much and then structured it weirdly so that no-one felt comfortable going. If you set it up as a series of different events, that means that people had to plan to be on time, which is bad. Typically on a Friday or Saturday night my girlfriend and I have dinner whenever we feel like, sit around for a while doing random things, and then decide whether to go out or not. If someone's just throwing a party or hanging out in a bar, then we know that we can show up whenever we want to and we usually do. It's rare that we've actually pencilled in a certain block of time to do something, and then only with very close friends -- not with 100 others. So I really wouldn't make a big deal of it.
posted by creasy boy at 1:29 AM on August 11, 2008

Happy New Ash3000 Year!!!

My god mother always wishes people a happy new year on their birthday, I'm not sure why, but it always makes me feel happier and more hopeful and expectant of good things regardless of how the actual day turns out. I guess that's why she does it! I'm one of the socially adept kids and generally surrounded by a noisy gaggle of friends who will celebrate anything at the drop of a hat, but I have had a few birthdays just as you describe, where everyone was mia. Sometimes nothing lines up when you want or need it to and it's ok, it's not indicative of how much you are appreciated by others or how rich your life will be in the future. Everyone has crap birthdays, and most people periodically question the quality of their friendships, especially at our age. You have proven that you can get out there and cultivate friendships, so even if this current crew of yours is on the less attentive side (not uncommon for early 20's in my exp they can be so oblivious and self absorbed, like teens), that doesn't mean they don't value you, and it doesn't mean that you won't also find a few friends in the future who are more attentive.

Despite your crappy birthday, you have so much to look forward to. 24 year olds have the world by the nuts my friend, so just forge ahead 'cause there's 364 more days of potential socializing to do in Ash3000 year :)
posted by zarah at 2:08 AM on August 11, 2008 [3 favorites]

To some extent, this was a planning failure rather than a reflection of your personal shortcomings in the friendship arena.

* Online invitations are ignored. Real invitations to real things you really want people to come to are sent by post. They are also not sent a week in advance because people have lives and their calendars fill with all kinds of obligations. it simply doesn't seem like a high proirity event if I get an email 7 days ahead of time.

So, next year, send invites by post 4 weeks in advance and follow up with a phone call to the non-RSVPers about 10 days ahead of the event.

* A full weekend of events? Way, way too much choice. When confronted with too many choices and no obligation, most people will choose... nothing. Next year, invite people to something definite and accessible. Coney Island does not meet that criteria unless everyone lives around there. Improv is not something everyone enjoys. Bars or restaurants would be much better choices in your age group, I imagine.

Do you see what I mean?
posted by DarlingBri at 2:33 AM on August 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

Welcome to adulthood. Birthdays suck. No one cares except your mother, and she doesn't care all that much. Eventually you'll probably settle into some sort of tradition with a couple/few good friends every year, but you need to get over the "it has to happen ON my birthday" idea. People's lives are complex and you just can't expect everyone to arrange, on your sayso, birthday or not, one particular day.

I know there is an apparent prohibition against actually speaking to each other face to face among your generation, but with complicated adult lives, you need to pick up the phone multiple times and negotiate a date. "I want to get together with you, tom, dick and harry on my birthday which is Monday." "Can't do Monday, how about Wednesday" Harry's got a thing on Wednesday, etc. etc. Eventually you'll find a date that works for everyone, one person will drop out at the last minute, and you'll have a nice time.

Furthermore, inasmuch as you invited everyone in Known Space to your "special" day, people probably figured it wasn't that big a deal, because you didn't make it that big a deal, by inviting literally everyone you know. How can you say you didn't want a big party, when you invited enough people to populate a big party? Be selective, make it special and people will treat it like it's special.

So, your next step is to call the 4 or 5 people you really see as close, tell them that your birthday sucked, you feel really bad about it, and you want to try again. Then negotiate a time that everyone can do.

And happy birthday.
posted by nax at 2:39 AM on August 11, 2008

My birthday is Xmas day... I could be wrong but I think that's the lamest birthday hand you could ever be dealt? Every year.

My present is just guaranteed to suck... So
*Lesson 1. Always get yourself a present!

Nobody can/could/will come. Mostly if I get a text it's the merry xmas sent to everyone in their phone. (What a slap in the face, huh?) But -
*Lesson 2. Just take what you can get.

I know when my birthday is coming and I decide what will make that day a 'success'. Fucking bitter disappointments (some not even remotely Xmas related) have taught me -
*Lesson 3. If your birthday sucks it's your own fault. If you are negligent enough to delegate a key role in the success of your birthday then you only have yourself to blame.

But to sum it up-
Plan for the worst with a secure 'plan B'. No need to be an asshole about it or even mention you've got it... or that it's actually called plan A. If they come through - awesome. If not - meh, because you weren't anticipating it in the first place. Sometimes unexpected and awesome things just randomly occur within the execution of plan A. and they seem to make for the most memorable birthdays IMO.

And as I say to all people lamenting a disappointing birthday - If they were all good, any particularly awesome ones would not be as special. :) After this you will surely know a good birthday when you see it! (And knowing that 'people' and expectations aren't really a part of that formular surely helps...)
posted by mu~ha~ha~ha~har at 2:41 AM on August 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

Out of those 100 invitees, how many live in New York City? All of them? I am impressed that 30 people wished you a happy birthday, because that is an unusually high number for someone who isn't still in school with forced birthday recognitions.

You seem to view your friends almost interchangeably (like if 15 people had shown up, even if you didn't know them that well, it would have been a more enjoyable birthday weekend for you). Did you see your birthday as a chance for your good friends to get together and have a fantastic time, or as validation that X number of people still care about you?

My last birthday, at 22, was my boyfriend and I going out to dinner. And some people called me! Some of my family members called me! That was exciting enough for my life, and I don't think that you can expect much more than that.

Anyways, plan of action: write down a list of maybe 10 people that a: you hang out with semi-regularity and b: you would genuinely consider your friends. Then pick one of the more gregarious of the bunch and tell him or her that you think it would be cool to do X (X being a single event, whether it be go to a movie that is coming out in a few weeks, or a potluck dinner party, or a picnic, or whatever). Bounce the idea off of them and see if they'd be into it. Don't use them as a social planner, but as someone that could help this event gain momentum.

Be flexible, and enjoy it more for the benefit of meeting new people and continuing relationships with old friends, rather than as a personal yardstick of how much people care about you. And no Facebook this time! Calling or emailing with a specific invitation for them will make the success rate skyrocket.
posted by amicamentis at 3:13 AM on August 11, 2008

I haven't read everything above, but here is my two cents:

Friends will sometimes do insensitive things, mostly because they did not realize it would hurt you. In your case if your friend didn't know she was the only one going then she could not have known that to ditch you would leave you alone; also, do you really want to spend time with a hungover friend, on your birthday?

So, your birthday sucked and it hurt, for that you can be angry and sad. However you do have a decent circle of friends still there, and if you can forgive them (in your head) for this then you'll see you can still go out and have fun.

Good luck, and happy birthday!
posted by Vindaloo at 5:49 AM on August 11, 2008

Other people have touched on many of the points I would have made (100 people, online invitations, multiple events, etc) but I wanted to add that birthday invitations are particularly fraught with peril because of the strong tendency amongst people in your age group to invite people to birthday events that really mean 'pay your own way, and while you're at it, pay mine, too'. Instead of 'hosting' an event, people arrange to become hosted by all of their friends.

Whether that was the intent of your invitation or not, that's something that people are cautious about when it comes to accepting birthday invitations. They might be fine to go hang out and watch improv with you, but not if it means they're going to have to pick up your two drink minimum as well as theirs.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:20 AM on August 11, 2008 [2 favorites]

I always respond to online invitations, but I'm not sure I would have known how to respond to a 4-in-1 invitation. What if I only wanted to do the third item?

My real advice is that birthdays often suck. This is one of those times when managing your expectations is really the best defense.
posted by 26.2 at 8:45 AM on August 11, 2008

NYC in August, you might as invite your cat.

Everyone is booked solid with parties, trips, etc.

I sympathize, I have a birthday VERY close to Christmas.

Have a re-do, this time invite 15 friends to a dinner in Sept (NOT Labor Day Weekend) then go bar hopping.

I always do this a month after my birthday. No one really cares that it's late. WOO PARTY!

Pick a place that is fun and affordable for everyone.

posted by sondrialiac at 9:10 AM on August 11, 2008

Youre not 12 anymore. Adults dont want to spend a whole weekend celebrating someone's birthday. I would go to this. Have a small get together or dinner.

100 friends? Sounds like you have too many "internet friends" and not enough real world friends.
posted by damn dirty ape at 9:41 AM on August 11, 2008

This happened to me on my 40th birthday - I was recently divorce, I felt that my friends didn't really come through for me on my "special day," I let it get to me and felt that it confirmed every bad thing that I thought was going on at the time - fell into a huge depression and did some stupid, stupid, stupid things. What did I learn from this?

You'll always be alone - once you accept this, things will begin to fall into place.

This is absolutely true. A lot of people think this is a depressing thing to think, but how can it be, since it is an underlying fact of our lives? Friends are wonderful - they are the icing on the cake, the bbq sauce on the ribs, and the cream in your coffee. Expecting them to be more than this is where problems start. Learn to enjoy your cake and drink your coffee black, and you will find that you appreciate your friends even more for what they add to your already satisfying life.

Now, away from the philosophy and on to party planning - you didn't get a good response from your invitations for 2 reasons: you had too many things planned and you invited too many people. If you sent out an invite to 100 people, pretty much every person is going to look at that list and figure that even if they can't make it, there are plenty of other people going so there's no pressure. Likewise with the events - they figure if they can't make it to one event they might go to another - and then they bail. Make more specific plans and invite only those people you really want to attend and you will have more successful parties.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 9:44 AM on August 11, 2008

I think part of this is simply coming to terms with the idea that your birthday is really not the most important thing for the vast majority of people you know, whether or not they find time to show up or not. As someone said above, if all 100 people you invited to multiple events did the same thing every time one of them had a birthday, you would be going to several parties a week. For working adults, that is unsustainable -- people have limited free time and sometimes will just want to be with their significant other, or by themselves, or running errands, or whatever.. Once you are out of college, people simply cannot guarantee that they will show up at any party they are invited to.

I think you need to recalibrate your expectations of adult friendship usually consists of. If you are expecting to receive presents and be showered with attention in your late 20s by your peers in the same way you were by your parents when you were 12, you are going to be very unhappy but with no real reason to be depressed. You are not the centre of your friend's lives, you never will be, and this is in no way a reflection on the quality of your friendship or how they feel about you.
posted by modernnomad at 9:54 AM on August 11, 2008

From my perspective, having 100 people that you'd conceivably want to spend your birthday with, having 30 people send you Facebook birthday wishes, and having four people hang out with you in the course of a weekend sounds like a level of popularity I couldn't ever hope to achieve. I don't think there's ever been a time in my life where I've known ten people who lived in the same town and could all sit together non-awkwardly around a dinner table. (Which is not to say I don't relate to you, because being stood up by friends feels like shit no matter how many people you know.)

You don't say too much about who these hundred people are or how close to how many of them you feel. Friendship is kind of a nebulous thing that has a different meaning for everyone and every friendship. I've found that it helps to think about what I define as an "acquaintance," "friend," "close friend," etc., and how many of each I need to be socially happy. You might find that having a hundred casual friends doesn't mean a thing, but you need at least three closer friends to not feel quite so alone in the world.

Unfortunately, even the people who become your closest friends can drop you or drift away, or you learn too late that they're less than reliable. It doesn't reflect on you as a person, it's just the way people are. Some friendships last for decades, some are kind of revolving-door, and you can't always tell at the outset.

I agree with the above comments that in the future your gatherings should be smaller and more personal (even an email to ten people saying "I would really love it if you came" beats a Facebook invite), and I definitely agree that your birthday is still salvageable. (And yes, I am another Xmas baby, which means I'm hundreds of miles away from at least half my friends and any celebratory drinking has to be done with whatever's in my parents' kitchen.) Instead of king for a day (or weekend), be duke for a week. And once you get old enough to throw your own birthday parties, celebrating becomes something you have to take into your hands, more of "I'm going to eat a dozen Krispy Kremes in one sitting because it's my birthday and I feel like it" instead of "I expect everyone to come hang out with me and tell me I'm awesome because it's my birthday." You can still feel that sense of entitlement to an extent, but you'll have more success if you can satisfy it on your own.
posted by Metroid Baby at 9:55 AM on August 11, 2008

Nthing that you have 100 acquaintances, not friends. Jeez, we're not even inviting close to 100 non-family-members to our wedding. And many of them won't come, even though it's arguably the most important day of our lives. It doesn't mean anything. Nothing nothing nothing. Needing people to like you - and further, to express that in a specific way - is the worst kind of suffering you can create for yourself. It's an endless abyss that no matter how many Facebook greetings and movie nights and birthday presents you throw into it, it can never ever be filled.
posted by desjardins at 10:28 AM on August 11, 2008

I´ll be frank -- your question annoys me, and has put me in a snarky, grouchy mood.

My birthday is near a major holiday for my family, and family members that I visit at that time generally don´t even remember it´s my birthday half the time, let alone do something special just because I want to do it to ¨celebrate my birthday¨. This isn´t that big a deal to me though, it´s just another day, and the best celebration of having lived another year is living my life, and I´m glad to be alive and to have family to visit.

It annoys me when people that I´ve known for over a year make a big deal out of their own birthdays, especially if they grouse to me about how so-and-so didn´t even get them anything/remember their birthday, or that not enough people showed up. These folks never seem to realize that they´ve known me for over a year, and have surely had a birthday within this time, and that they have never given me any sort of acknowledgment, let alone a present. These are usually the sort of people who would be very bent out of shape if I didn´t do something for their birthday, whether coming to a party, taking them out for dinner, or giving them a present. Often they expect everyone around them to defer to them and treat them in an extra-special way, because it´s their birthday and they are oh so special.

100 people?! How many of these people did you go see on their birthday? 30 people wished you a happy birthday -- I think that´s pretty good, right there. You celebrated by seeing something you liked at a favorite spot?! That´s a hell of a lot better than the birthday I spent driving, or the birthday I spent in various airports waiting for delayed flights, or the birthday I was in a car wreck. Right now, today, there are people having their birthday who are in the hospital, or in jail, or who don´t have anyone to tell about it besides their cat -- so quit getting upset that not everyone you know wanted to have a big thing about how you are so wunnerful on your special day all weekend.

/snark off
[Sniff] [Sad, downcast, slightly jealous look] I wish that I had 30 people wish me a happy birthday.
posted by yohko at 11:03 AM on August 11, 2008 [2 favorites]

Looking at your profile, you put a lot of energy into your own issues, but none into helping rest the community. If this is mirrored in your real life interactions, you need to rethink how you relate and communicate.
posted by spec80 at 11:47 AM on August 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

Nthing the "I wish that I had 30 people wish me a happy birthday"!

One thing (and I truly say this with love; one of my most social friends made a similar complaint about the lack of attention from all his friends on a birthday I'd spent with him!) but your four friends who did take the time out to celebrate with you might be a touch peeved to hear that their efforts to celebrate with you are still clouded by the OMG NOBODY LURRVES ME ON MY BIRTHDAY!
posted by grippycat at 12:23 PM on August 11, 2008

How to rebound? First up, ignore the past. The only relevant questions are where do you want to be, and how do you get there?

More specifically, you can break this down into what I've heard described as an ABCD analysis, although it's such a common acronym that it's difficult to google.

Basically, this amounts to four questions:

A: Where are you now?
B: Where do you want to be?
C: What do you have to do to get there?
D: What do others have to do?

Skipping over the issues of inviting 100 friends to multiple events, I'll suggest some more abstract answers for consideration:

A: You have a perception that you don't have many true friends.

B: You want more real friends.

C: Be a good friend in return, cultivate the promising ones, organise quality time, maybe keep up at least a low level of regular contact with as many people as possible & respond to invitations etc to keep your field as wide as you can manage comfortably without over-stretching yourself.

D: Generally, they have to reciprocate to a reasonable extent. Don't throw good money after bad but spend your time & energies where you get the best returns.
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:10 PM on August 11, 2008 [3 favorites]

You didn't go about organizing it the right way. Realize that this is a planning problem, not an indication that nobody likes you or that you're worthless.

Here is how you organize an event like a birthday get-together:

1) Make it a personal invitation. Invite them when you're on the phone with them, or with a personal email.
2) Make sure you're inviting only real friends, not acquaintances or Facebook 'friends'
3) Invite to something specific
4) Invite early. People are busy!
5) Send a reminder

On the other hand, the way you did it isn't as effective:

1) Mass invitations are easy to ignore. A mass invitation indicates you don't value the person that much. And when they see lots of other people on that list, they'll think that those other people will spend time with you instead, so it's OK if they decline.
2) Just because someone's your Facebook friend or an acquaintance doesn't make them a real friend. Spend more time cultivating fewer and deeper friendships with the people you like best.
3) People won't know what to do with an invitation to just spend the day or for multiple activities. People don't like ambiguity and don't like to think. Your invitation was ambiguous and requires thinking. Instead, invite them to a specific activity at a specific time and place.
4) A week in advance isn't enough time. People are busy and plan things weeks ahead of time.
5) Did you send a reminder the day before? People are disorganized and forget.

For my birthday last year, I didn't have 30 people wishing me happy birthday on Facebook. Maybe I had three. But I did have a great dinner with about 12 friends, not because my friends like me more than yours like you, but mainly by following these steps.
posted by lsemel at 8:25 PM on August 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

i don't believe that you'll always be alone - and this comes from a person who has been profoundly disappointed in people time after time and has at times wondered whether she has any friends at all and whether you can ever count on another human being.

what i finally came up with is that i have been investing my feelings in a wrong kind of people, i.e. those who don't really care, can't be bothered, are fundamentally selfish, lazy or non-adventurous. those people can make fun acquaintances but nothing more should be expected of them. age might have something to do with it - at 24, most people are quite careless and insouciant.

and then you have the kind of people who do make an effort in life and in friendships. surround yourself with those people, not only they make good friends who will celebrate your birthdays with you but generally they are inspirations, they push you up and forward, they're non-static, they are in a constant state of development and enrichment.

finally, try to be the latter category yourself, in regards to your friendships. put effort in them, try to move away from the superficiality of relationships. don't worry, the good friends will show up.
posted by barrakuda at 12:54 AM on August 12, 2008

As a followup to my comment way up there: Those articles are basically citing the same report (with different quotes), but having watched people in online relationships for ten years and watching younger generations roaming campuses, I completely agree with the assessment. The deeper psychological papers are more scholarly, though.

I believe the concept applies to Ash3000 up there if only for the 30/100 whiny complaint, and to anyone else who wanders by this thread later on--pay attention to the disposability of online interactions. That's not friendship.
posted by Ky at 7:33 AM on August 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

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