A Call To End Birthday Dinners

Screenshot 2014-07-18 11.38.42Is it just me or is everybody born in the summer? EVERYONE!!! No, but I was. Ester was born this weekend! Or you know, was born this coming weekend very few years ago. I had another in a series of birthday dinners last night and we all decided it’s because people do it more in the winter. Which, according to this hilarious piece, An Open Rant Against Birthday Dinners, means we are all spending way more than we want to taking our friends out to dinner and then resenting them for it. TRUE?

As soon as you overhear some fancy pants ask the server what kind of scotches they have, you can go ahead and mentally double what you expected to spend that night. By now you should know that this is inevitable, and so you’re left with two options when it comes to an ordering strategy: A) order a modest entrée and a beer in the hopes that at least the others around you will be peer pressured into a reasonably conservative meal (not likely); or B) embrace the fact that you will be subsidizing a few $60 bottles of wine that, if you’re lucky, you’ll catch a whiff of on the breath of someone in a goodbye hug, and order like it’s your goddamn last meal on Earth. Neither is ideal, but while option A usually leaves you poor, hungry, and resentful, with option B you’ll leave slightly more poor but at least a little drunk.

I am so happy I’m not sober and paying for everyone’s drinks when we split the bill anymore. I mean, inhale, exhale, let it go who cares, but MAN. I guess now since I can’t leave the house so bonus, I don’t have to deal with paying the bill in a large group of people? That’s one plus side to parenthood I guess. :(

Also this is hilarious:

Theoretically, the point of these things is to celebrate with the person whose birthday it is, and sitting around a huge table (or multiple tables) makes that impossible for 80% of the guests. If your birthday wish is to watch me chew things from afar, I could have saved the $110 and sent you a really beautifully produced Snapchat.

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28 Comments / Post A Comment

HelloTheFuture (#5,275)

I spend a lot of time in Vancouver, and this is one (more) way where Canada puts the US to shame. The server carries a small credit card machine from person to person and it spits out a ticket listing exactly what that person ordered, and then the person is required to swipe the card right there. Sure, the person sitting one seat over can say “hey, I got that,” but it’s a system that holds each diner accountable.

ATF (#4,229)

I don’t know. It all depends on your friend group. I have a close-knit core group of five girlfriends and we do spendy dinners/birthday celebrations for milestone birthdays (30, 35, etc). Everyone makes an effort to attend those and you kind of know in advance it’ll be $100 or so. And we long ago did away with any sort of expectation for gifts. At this point in our lives, having our friends there is more than enough.

For non-milestone birthdays, it’s whatever. Back yard bbqs, drinks and burgers, etc.

But for any of these, if someone can’t afford to attend, they can’t afford to attend. They will be missed but no one is ever made to feel obligated to come. I turned 35 in April and did a co-birthday tasting dinner with another lady of the aforementioned group who was also turning 35. One friend couldn’t make it due to finances/being unemployed. Most of us saw her the following week and bought her drinks and some brunch because we could do that in our lives at this moment. Someday if I can’t, they will get it for me.

But for the bill, the rules are always figure out tax and tip and divide by the table. Then you add that sum to whatever you ordered. You got four expensive cocktails, you pay for the four expensive cocktails, not me. People always gripe about this system because it seems unfair in the abstract but it generally isn’t. The four expensive cocktails add to the bill making the ultimate tip higher than it would’ve been but you are paying a fraction of a percentage in the end. At most you wind up paying a few dollars more than you would otherwise because you have likely also gotten an entree that costs roughly the same as everyone else. And for those that really only get something small compared to the larger order (water and a cheap entree), I sort them out separately. Bill splitting is not hard and it doesn’t need to be.

I, too, am the holder of a summer birthday (well, Spring/Summer – it’s right on the cusp), and this year I did picnic birthday dinner with my friends and my kids, and it was great. Everyone brought some beer or wine and a bit of food, there were no long tables to separate us, so we could circulate and mingle easily, and the average individual cash outlay was modest. Also, you can have sparklers and play with a Frisbee at a picnic , both of which are frowned on by most restaurants.

Obviously, this doesn’t work for cold weather birthdays, because then you have to do a *destination* birthday picnic, which gets really pricey.

HelloTheFuture (#5,275)

Also everyone needs to read the hilarious “Happy Birthday, You Bastard” on this very subject. It’s easily available online.

cryptolect (#1,135)

My secret weapon is the phrase, “I can’t make it to your birthday dinner, but I want to take you out just the two of us!” I win because I actually get to see my friend, my friend wins because he/she gets another meal, and everyone else wins because they have one fewer person with whom to divide the birthday boy/girl’s attention at the horrible big restaurant dinner they’ll be attending.

appleaday (#6,367)

@cryptolect This is a great trick.

garli (#4,150)

I always tragically already have plans for birthday dinners. Then if I like the birthday person enough I take them out for happy hour/ wine tasting/ dinner with out a huge group. The best part is you get to spend time with that person, and catch up.

Wouldn’t you would need to “do it” in September to have a June, October to have a July baby, November (which to me is mostly a fall and not yet a winter month) to have an August baby, etc?. Meaghan you just had a summer baby, you know this!

Large birthday dinners are totally lame – you can’t actually talk to everyone there, both the big spenders and the big savers feel guilty about their choices, you fuck up the restaurant dynamic for a few hours, and basically no one wins.

I would always rather do a party over a dinner – for my husband’s recent 30th we had friends over and I got catering from his favor taco joint ON US and had people bring booze to supplement. Everyone controls their financial contribution, can actually talk to each other and mingle, and get sloshed on the cheap.

diplostreetmix (#4,472)

It’s 2014. Pay with everything by credit card, and split all checks.

jennonthego (#5,366)

I’ve found that Tab (http://tabapp.co/) solves any uncomfortable moments with a bunch of people I don’t know if we’re at a birthday dinner. Last year, I went to dinner with 8 people, was broke and paid about $20 where others were paying $80-100 for their meals based on the drinks they ordered, etc.

But for the most part, my friend group goes out with each other, we spend about equal amounts and just split the check. No drama.

protagoras (#7,187)

This is how it should be done: the person who’s celebrating the b-day (since it’s his/her godamn b-day) makes the dinner arrangements and PAYS (yes pays) for the entire dinner him/herself (because it’s his/her godamn b-day!). The absurdity of being invited to a party with the expectation that you pay for it is beyond rude and ass-backwards. P.S. this is how they do it many European countires.

@protagoras It’s true. I studied abroad in Denmark and on a professor’s birthday he brought in celebratory food for the whole class. His name was Morton Warmind and he was as big as Hagrid and clearly descended from Vikings.

corner desk (#7,034)

@protagoras That’s what buys friends and makes parities more memorable for guests. Once I have a higher-paying job (like this September, please God?), I’ll return the favor.

jillcool (#2,123)

I know I live in a different part of the country from most of you but here just about every restaurant will give each person a separate check. In the rare cases where they don’t do that, it’s usually not a problem for us to split it out and the server runs multiple cards.

I’m firmly in the house party as a birthday party camp these days. I think its because so many in my social group have kids and we drag them along. My new house has quickly become a favorite of our group because we have a large family room downstairs and a large backyard for the kids to hang out.

LookUponMyWorks (#2,616)

I am a summer baby, guilty as charged, but I never have huge expensive birthday dinners, because a) I don’t have super fancy tastes that require $30 steaks or $15 cocktails and b) I suffer from very poor planning when it comes to my birthday.

Speaking of babies and birthdays, there’s some anecdata floating around DC about all the babies being more in July. Apparently the number is higher than in previous years. People are speculating that there is a Furlough baby boom happening. :-)

Markovaa (#1,509)

As a summer baby, I would just like to point out that we have put up with YEARS of being ignored on our birthdays. In elementary school, my parents would postpone my birthday party until after labor day because otherwise no one would be able to attend. In middle school and high school, it was generally spent as a low key day with my family. In college, it was always forgotten. “Friends” would get upset if birthday gifts were delayed because of lack of funds, when I hadn’t even gotten a phone call or a text on my birthday. So stop complaining about how suddenly, EVERYONE has a summer birthday.

Second of all, if someone is expecting you to to pick up a large tab to celebrate their birthday, then you have the wrong friends. Most friends of mine have dinners for about 6 people and things tend to split closer to $50/person including alcohol and the birthday kid. Alternatively, you could offer to organize something fun and cheap instead like a pot luck dinner at an out door concert. Basically, don’t wine on someone else’s birthday. If you don’t want to go, DON”T GO. Its not rocket science.

Aunt Scar (#5,377)

@Markovaa My birthday is the 29th of December. Want to talk about ignored? Now add to it that my birthday takes place AFTER my sister’s anniversary (12/20), Christmas, my BIL’s birthday, and it’s a good thing my idea of birthday fun is taking 2 small children out for pizza.

ThatJenn (#916)

I love birthday dinners (excuse to eat out! yay!), but also we never go to places that won’t just split the check automatically (based on what people actually order, not an even split of anything except maybe the honoree’s meal/drinks), and very few of my friends drink, so the things being complained about here are just not an issue. We all know how broke we all are (or how much we are trying to save, for those of us who are not currently broke). It helps.

diplostreetmix (#4,472)

@ThatJenn Why do peopple not understand that the customers hold all the leverage? You can pay how you want!

Ugh, I hate birthdays. I hate trying to plan parties, I hate going to other people’s overpriced dinners, I hate the whole thing. The last few years, my birthdays have coincided with work conferences in vacation spots (a three-year streak of Las Vegas-Anaheim-Orlando!), so I think I’ve hit on a pretty good solution of being out of town, alone, doing whatever the heck I want and bankrolling it myself for my birthday.

Well, and continuing to politely decline to attend everyone else’s. I am seriously where fun goes to die.

A-M (#4,317)

The very best app I found for splitting dinners — because let’s face it we all do get different amounts and as a vegetarian non-drinker I don’t want to pay your share — is Plates. It’s easy, it’s pretty, and it saves room for tax/tip. Plus you can split a meal among everyone. It has saved me a gazillion times. Get it.

A-M (#4,317)

@A-M Or, you know, just avoid the birthday dinners.

Tripleoxer (#5,676)

I can relate to this, because my birthday, my boyfriend’s birthday, my boyfriend’s sister’s birthday, my mom’s birthday, my late stepfather’s birthday, and my college roommate’s birthday are all in the first 3 weeks of July. Then my boyfriend’s parents’ birthdays are both the first 2 weeks of August. So, the summer is a SHITSHOW of birthday dinners and family cookouts. Not even including other more minor friends and family birthdays that also fall in that time period (my cousin’s kid’s birthday is next Sunday, and I’m going to the cookout).

Because of this, I had my birthday dinner at the local dive on half price pizza night. Less than $10 a person.

Well this (and all the comments) makes me feel a lot better about being alone on my birthday this year. I live in a town (moved here a year ago) where I have no friends or family and my husband has to leave for a professional conference that day. I am trying to think of fun things I will do on my own. But it’s kind of nice to have no expectations– I feel like birthdays are always disappointing because the expectations are so high. I can only recall a couple that were truly special.

LookUponMyWorks (#2,616)

@Punk-assBookJockey I’m kinda in the same boat as I moved recently and don’t know too many people. I do have a few separate one-on-one things planned with the friends I do have here. Things I plan on doing on my own – and I suggest you do, too! – include a leisurely, decadent brunch, with a good book and a weekend crossword, going to get a reflexology/foot massage and stopping by my favorite museum. Oh, and getting an eclair or a cream puff to eat on a park bench.

@LookUponMyWorks Great ideas! I was thinking along similar lines with the brunch, massage, and then maybe a movie at the fancy theater where you can get dinner.

jenny0 (#6,933)

The key to birthday dinners is to always bring cash. There’s no way you can or will pay for someone else’s freakin tartar when you brought enough money to cover your cheap salmon, house white wine, and a but of the bday persons meal. This also hoodwinks those “friends”‘who always conveniently forget their money. On multiple occasions. By “accident” (hi, resentment)!

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