A Thought On Birthday Party Dinner Etiquette


Oh birthday dinners, doesn’t everyone have something to say about those?

Before I go any further, I must clarify that I do in fact love a good birthday party. I love to celebrate peoples’ birthdays and I have always had a penchant for throwing big birthday bashes. I mean, I guess that’s the joy of being in your 20’s. We are allowed to get drunk, have a wild and sometimes extravagant birthday and celebrate the fact that we are still young, don’t need Botox, relatively carefree and party until 5 a.m. just because we can. When you are in your 30’s, it seems that would be a lot less socially acceptable, but I can’t say for sure because I am not there yet.

Anyways, what I don’t love about birthday dinners is this little situation that seems to happen far too often and I think someone should probably just tell it like it is (because I know you all feel the same way about the issue).

One day you find a Facebook invite to a birthday dinner from a girl, (whom you might not know all that well) for Friday night. The birthday girl has picked Pastis or Indochine or something of that nature and price point and it’s going to be so, so much fun. You decide to go, because she might think it rude of you not to go after she made an effort to extend your friendship, when really she just wanted to make sure it looks like she has LOTS of good, close friends. And your friend Jenny, who always likes to get drunk and have fun, is going to go so you figure why not? What do I have to lose?

Well, my answer to that is lots of money. After several hours of dining, ordering a few too many drinks and making the usual conversation about how you all happen to know the birthday girl, where you went to college and then proceeding by playing the name game called Do You Know —? The bill arrives. The presumptuous ones had assumed the birthday girl (i.e. her parents) would be paying for the meal because she had alluded to it and why else would you go to such an expensive restaurant on your poor assistant salary these days? Of course, those people chose to order the lobster or the filet mignon, a few glasses of Veuve, etc.

Then comes that awkward moment when everyone realizes they are in fact supposed to pay for their own meal/drink, in addition to paying for the birthday girl (otherwise it would be rude). It’s typically the people that ordered far more than everyone else that decide it might be best to split the bill equally. Right? Because that just makes things the easiest. Clearly. Or, if they are really great, they will try to pass it off like they only had two glasses of champagne, not five.

Then comes that moment of anger, but you can’t say anything to the birthday girl’s BFF that you don’t know all that well. That wouldn’t look right….

Or, the math genius decides to take on the arduous task of figuring out everyone’s tab down to the penny. Once everyone has supposedly paid and the money counter is totaling the cash and credit card amounts, they announce that you are still $200 short. Everyone stares blankly at each other and then starts offering up more dough because it’s increasingly awkward. Thanks a lot to the asshole who didn’t pay—we all know it was you. They hand the waiter the outrageous check back with a medley of credit cards and cash.

Meanwhile, everyone sits there feeling slightly buzzed, stuffed and perhaps perturbed at the ongoing situation. The birthday girl pretends to be blissfully unaware of the situation, or that her stupid birthday dinner cost you a week or two of groceries. People start checking their cell phones and texting each other from opposite sides of the dinner table about how annoyed they are. You wonder why on earth you decided to come anyways and then decide the best way to get past this stupid experience is to go out and drink some more. As 20 credit cards are once again passed around the table, you sign your appropriate copy and then make a break to leave these people.

“I am never letting that happen again,” you think as you walk out the door. Well, never again until tomorrow night, when the circus happens all over again.

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image – gfoster67