Wednesday, December 10, 2008

You're a mean one...

I’m a bit of a Grinch right now. It’s not so much about Christmas, but about birthdays.

A friend’s birthday was this week, and she threw herself a big party, which I felt was a wee bit tacky (this is not a milestone birthday, either). I was aware that she was doing this, but figured it would be a reasonable event. Instead, she booked a reservation at a high-priced bistro as well as dancing at a place with a $20 cover charge and $10 drinks. This was in addition to a small lunch for the day after her birthday, where we would all pitch in for her (this is typically what we do for birthdays in this circle of friends). I went to both the dinner and the lunch, but bowed out of dancing due to the amount of dancing I’m currently doing and the number of finals and projects I need to finish this week (and, quite frankly, the price). The meals alone added up to more than $70, and I got stiffed $25 by the dinner group so I had to swallow that too (I put the meal on my credit card and everyone was supposed to chip in cash, but some one/ones cheaped out and I didn’t realize it until I got home). I don’t know who cheaped out; I don’t even know everyone who was there—otherwise I’d probably speak up to get the money back.

But THEN the friend sent around a Christmas/birthday wish list, to be coordinated with her best friend and her mom so she wouldn’t get duplicates of anything.

UM. ExCUSE me? At this point, I’ve spent more on her birthday than I did on my BOYFRIEND, the most important person in my world right now, and she ALSO expects me to get her a gift? Possibly two, one for Christmas and one for her birthday?! I realize this is a problem for those with close-to-holiday birthdays, but that’s not MY problem. We’ve not previously exchanged gifts for holidays or for my birthday earlier this year, and I don’t like feeling roped into it.

I’m not getting her anything else. As I’ve said, I’ve already spend more on her than I did on Peanut’s birthday, and I wasn’t expecting to. I also don’t really want to take our friendship up to the gift-exchanging level. It’s nothing personal, but I don’t like to exchange gifts except with my very closest friends, all of whom I’ve known for ten years or more. I don’t need the impersonal clutter that comes as acquaintance-friend gifts (smelly lotions and soaps, picture frames, candles...) and I don’t want to buy it for them. I feel like a nice dinner, split evenly, is plenty. After all, that’s time, which is definitely my most valuable resource right now.

But the fact that she included me on the list this year makes me feel like I need to take a stand at some point, with her and with other friends and groups of friends, indicating that I don’t want to buy into the commercialism of society. I don’t want to be given gifts, and I don’t want to be expected to give them. It doesn’t mean I don’t value the relationships—on the contrary, I want to have close enough friendships that wishes like this are respected and pointless traditions done away with.

How do you make this policy known up front without being rude? How do you handle it once you’re this far?

I also feel like this is sort of a girly problem. Peanut and his roommate say “happy birthday” to each other and leave it at that. Peanut asked me whether we should get him a Christmas gift, but he probably won’t get us one...(but what if he does!). Peanut doesn’t exchange gifts with any other friends, only family. Geez, that sounds great!

Perhaps I can make it “a policy”—or say that due to the economy this year, I’m making charitable contributions instead of buying Stuff. And keep it up next year and the year after. Maybe I can claim a religious aversion to commercialism and mostly-meaningless gift exchanges.

I don’t want to be an ungrateful recipient should someone give me something, but I REALLY don’t want to feel obligated to get them something in return this year. Due to the economy, I am feeling really pressured financially, and I don’t want the stress.

Thoughts? Advice?


  1. If you ask Miss Manners, she would tell you that gifts are courtesy not obligations.

    My birthday is immediately after Christmas so I get cheap out on gifts (from my parents), but it is tacky to demand for gifts any given day!

    I'd rather not getting anything. I'm upset when people give me Christmas theme gifts. They are obviously unwanted items they have gotten over the holiday. I'd rather not getting anything, so I'm not obligated to give them gifts on their birthdays.

    It is definitely a girly problem. My guy friends are happy getting a text message.

    I usually just tell my friends, "Don't reward me for doing nothing. Being born is not an achievement!"

  2. I think you should say what you said in your post "Due to the economy, I am feeling really pressured financially." My friends and I buy dinner for each other, which is a nice gift because it also means you spend time together. Plus I only do this for my closest friends (though I do buy gifts for my close friends that life far away). Take that stand. I guarantee that you are not the only one in that group who feel this way.

  3. "put the meal on my credit card and everyone was supposed to chip in cash, but some one/ones cheaped out and I didn’t realize it until I got home). I don’t know who cheaped out"
    This ALWAYS happens in big groups, and it usually isn't just one person cheaping out by $25, but multiple people estimating their share wrong. They forget tax, tip or drinks and poof, you are $$$$ short. How annoying.

    If you haven't previously exchanged gifts, ignore the email. TACKY. I only would send a wish list upon request!

    No advice, but if you suspect you might be attacked with an unwanted gift, you might have to say something!

    Also I recently had a friend throw herself a giant party, but there was free cover, she paid for bottle service (3 bottles) and requested people to donate to a charity for her gift. Still over the top, more than I'd want for myself, but much more... gracious. Unfortunately I couldn't attend

  4. Wait, this list was by EMAIL? She sent out a gimme-gimme email?

    Just respond to the email and say you already spent too much at her party, and you can't afford anymore. If she doesn't understand that, good riddance.

  5. Wow. You're friend isn't just extremely lame, but tacky, tacky, tacky.

  6. I can't get over the wish list WITH COORDINATOR. It's not a freaking wedding. Is her mother on crack too? Because if any relative asked me to coordinate their birthday gift list, I'd be screaming "Crass! Tacky! No way!" at the top of my lungs.


Thanks for commenting!