Birthday Parties for Grownups, Vol. 10, Issue 3

Dear Etiquetteer: My next birthday will be one with a zero at the end, and I know my sweetie will want to have a big party. That's what Sweetie always wants for his birthday.  For me, I'd rather have something low key -- like a yoga retreat far away from everything that distracts me.  Any suggestions on how to kindly say, please don't give me something that you think I want, without hurting his feelings?

Dear Birthday Girl:

The Golden Rule, "Do unto others as you would have others do unto you," just falls the ground in situations like this, doesn't it? Here's your beloved, secure in the knowledge that he knows exactly what a perfect birthday party is and his ability to produce it, but it's exactly the sort of celebration you don't like for you.

Sometimes the truest expression of affection is letting others express their own affection for you in their way, rather than in yours. This falls into the "Virtue is its own reward" department, which Etiquetteer has never considered very fair in the first place. But still ...

The key word here is sometimes, especially since it sounds like you've grinned and borne enough large birthday parties already.  But this yoga retreat plan sounds awfully like you'd be doing it on your own. Are you really contemplating a birthday celebration all by yourself at a retreat? If so, how do you think your beloved would like being excluded?

Etiquetteer suggests that you both widen the scope of your ideal Birthday Ending in Zero Celebration to include your beloved. Say, "Darling, I love you so much that I want you all to myself for my Birthday Ending in Zero. Take me away from all this squalor where we can love the world away!" (Cue Kenny Rogers on the soundtrack in three ... two ... ) And when Sweetie says "But Angel, this is an Important Birthday and we must have all our friends and family around to celebrate YOU!" you have merely to say NO in the firmest possible tone, and be absolutely sure he sleeps on the couch until he understands completely.

And when your beloved's Birthday Ending in Zero comes along, Etiquetteer knows you will organize exactly the sort of party he enjoys in gratitude.